BY SHARON MARTIN
Just this past week, Oklahoma Senate Bill 782 was sent to the governor’s desk. According to the bill’s sponsors, SB 782 would allow school districts to adopt a charter model, but it would also allow the community to override the school board. Would this be the whole community or just a few vocal community members?
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, this bill would make charter schools “the most accountable form of public schooling in the state.” More accountable than whole-school scores based on questionable formulas? More accountable than making teachers responsible for a child’s test score whether or not he sleeps in his own bed at night or has any food in the house?
In a study from the pro-charter Center for Research and Education Outcomes at Stanford University, here is how students in charter schools performed compared to public school students:
Reading: 25% did better, 56% did the same, 19% did worse
Math: 29% did better, 40% did the same, 31% did significantly worse [their words]
So, charters are probably not a magic bullet. But, hey, they funnel money away from local school districts and put the state’s education system a step closer to privatization.
That’s the Oklahoma Legislature’s real goal, in case you were wondering.
Here’s what we need instead of hijinks and schemes:
- Smaller class sizes
- More highly qualified teachers [to address the teacher shortage]
- Full-time school counselors and nurses
- Programs for at-risk students and their families
- Fully funded libraries with qualified librarians
- Comfortable and adequate school facilities
- Music and art teachers
- More physical education and more recess time
- Pullout programs to address reading problems, behavior issues, and learning styles
- Hands-on science
- School gardens coupled with nutrition education
- Quality, healthy school lunches
- Longer school year with shorter school days
- Money for supplies, field trips, and programs that enhance education so schools don’t have to hold fundraisers or sell popcorn on Fridays [which leaves out the same students week after week]
- Respect for the real experts: teachers and administrators
Quality, inclusive public education should be the priority of every legislator. It won’t produce instant results, but in a generation, this brave response would make Oklahoma healthier and more prosperous, a beacon instead of fodder for the nightly comedy shows.
Is this too much to ask of those who are supposed to represent our best interest?
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer