BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Such was the case for Frank, Tony and Sam Dorsa who in 1953 invented the Froffle in the basement of their parents’ San Jose, CA home. The Froffle was a convenient and delicious breakfast food whose popularity was about to explode.
Unfortunately, it was missing a slick advertising slogan to take its popularity beyond the borders of the Golden State. The Dorsa Brothers’ solution came from their customers who liked the eggy flavor of the frozen waffles more than they liked the name and affectionately called them EGGOs. In 1955, the brothers relented by formally dropping the portmanteau of FROzen waFFLES in favor of EGGOs.
Today, the world is familiar with the phrase “Leggo My Eggo” which has taken the product to a level that “Don’t Filch My Froffle” would have never attained.
Oklahomans also have affection for their public schools. They know and expect their public schools to be accountable. That accountability starts with locally elected school boards, locally accountable budgets and locally hired teachers and administrators who care about the success of local students and work hard to make our children succeed at every level.
What Oklahoma’s public schools do not have is a catchy slogan or theme such as “Leggo My Public School.” Such a theme is needed now more than ever.
In 2015, the state Legislature enacted legislation that undermined public schools and local control by capping funding to public education, allowing tax credits for private schools and creating a path for charter schools with no local accountability to be established anywhere in the state. In 2016, public education experienced less harm, but mainly because not much was addressed except the $1.3 billion budget hole.
As legislation is crafted for the 2017 session, public education will again be in the crosshairs. According to a Dec. 3 article in the Oklahoman, “school choice” in the form of school vouchers will likely be on this year’s legislative agenda and the fact that the “stars are lining up” to use public education dollars for private and religious schools is no accident.
Paragraph II(A)(3) of the platform of the Oklahoma GOP says, “We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts [ESAs], vouchers, and tuition tax credits.”
Since Gov. Mary Fallin served as co-chair of the 2016 national GOP platform and Katie Altshuler, Gov. Fallin’s Policy Director, actually helped draft the section dealing with education, it is no surprise that the national platform contains identical language supporting vouchers and “funding mechanisms” that remove money from public education to give to private schools.
These partisan goals are compounded by President-elect Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education. Ms. DeVos could best be described as Janet Barresi on steroids. Like Barresi, DeVos has never worked as an educator. Like Barresi, DeVos is independently wealthy. DeVos’ wealth is derived from the Amway Corp., and she and her husband have spent literally millions of dollars promoting policy that diverts public education funds to private and charter schools.
DeVos bankrolled the dark money group American Federation for Children [AFC], which works in concert with the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], another anti-public education political entity that is active in Oklahoma politics. Not only will DeVos be pushing pro-voucher policy on a federal level, earlier this year, according to the Oklahoman, she used AFC to spend nearly $170,000 in Oklahoma campaigns, often in opposition to public school teachers who were also running.
As a result, a pro-voucher legislator is quoted in the article as saying that, “Last year we were a couple of votes short in the Senate but I think that we picked those seats up this year.”
Republicans in the state Senate now hold a 42-6 majority. Republicans in the state House hold a 75-26 majority. That means that either 19 of the 42 Republican Senators or 25 of the 75 Republican Representatives will have to stand strong with the Democrats to oppose vouchers.
Otherwise Oklahoma’s education jingle may soon be: “Spend your public education dollars at a private school near you.” I like “Don’t Filch My Froffle” much better.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House