To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Observercast

Throwaways

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BY SHARON MARTIN

We throw things away in Oklahoma.

I worked for a principal once who would check kids out of school if they had missed too many days. They weren’t going to graduate anyway – too many absences – so he’d send them to get their GED, though I know of none who did. They were throwaways in the name of Annual Yearly Progress. No one considered what these students might have learned if they had stayed in class, even if only part time.

We throw away those who learn differently. As a former alternative education teacher, I know that many alternative ed students are gifted. Most are hands-on learners. Some have special needs. One of my hyper seniors was able to do his work after I brought in a rocking chair to satisfy his need to move.

Who needs alternative education anyway? Why don’t you ask another of my former students who now teaches math in Oklahoma? Ask the electrician, the pipeline welder, the soldier, and the sailor who graduated from the program.

We throw away teachers. We demand they cure all the ills of society, from absent parents to chronic hunger. They must teach the child to read who has never held a book in his hands, and he must be on pace with the child who has her own library. If all our students aren’t above average, the folks who don’t understand statistics cry foul.

Politicians preach merit pay. They promise teachers that if they will spend two or more years of their life becoming National Board Certified they will be rewarded. Almost 3,000 teachers in Oklahoma took the challenge; the Legislature, with the blessings of our state superintendent, reneged on their promise to them. Master teachers are throwaways, too.

We throw away adult learners. One of my students who got her GED in the spring told me, “I didn’t drop out. My dad checked me out.” She came back on her own initiative because she and her husband have four children to support, one who is autistic. She is now a certified caregiver for those with special needs.

The Legislature threw away its ability to fund adult education and other programs when it promised $22 million for private school vouchers. They sent a message, loud and clear, that scholarships for the haves are more important than giving second chances to the have-nots.

In Oklahoma, those who have enough are keepers; the rest of us are throwaways.

Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer

4 COMMENTS

  1. Sharon…your metaphor of the ‘throw away’ society is true, which makes it even more horrifying. We HAVE thrown away so many people with this kind of thinking, and more on the way…third graders who MUST read at level, on one test, one day…they’ll be the next.

    Your last paragraph is the message we need to repeat: the Legislature threw away its ability to oversee the SDE, and to make certain its intent was followed.

    • Twenty-two million is a conservative estimate for the cost of vouchers in the new fiscal year. The cap for tax credits for SB969 is $5 million, but the cost could be as much as $94.9 million for the tax year 2012, according to the Senate’s Fiscal Impact Statement. This includes the hiring of two auditors whose combined salaries would cover the cost of at least five teachers. The way I understand it, only $3.5 million will actually be used to pay for education; the rest will be given as credits for donations to foundations and other programs that promote vouchers.

      The true cost of the Lindsey Nicole Henry (HB3393) vouchers is unknown. According to Rep. Jason Nelson (R-OKC), based on the results in Florida, as few as one percent of Oklahoma’s eligible students may take advantage of the vouchers. There are more than 95,000 students on IEPs in Oklahoma. At an estimated cost of $5,000-$6,000/voucher, that would cost another $5 million that would come directly from school funds.

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.