It’s the first week of May and sirens are going off in many of our Oklahoma communities. I’m not talking about the tornado sirens. I’m talking about the alarms warning #OKlaED educators about all the legislative lunacy taking place this week. None of it makes sense to me. Maybe, and I highly doubt it, but maybe if some of our legislative leaders read this, maybe they will realize how insanely idiotic some of this sounds to us regular people…..
· For the first time in my educational lifetime a seemingly unlikely group of people have formed a coalition in an effort to make some sense out of our state testing program. As it has been told to me, the Governor, the State Chamber of Commerce, Higher Education, School Board members, Administrators, Teachers, Parents, the State Superintendent, and Oklahoma Business officials have all agreed that EOI tests are useless, time consuming, expensive, and not an accurate portrayal of student skills (for the record, those are my descriptors and not theirs) and want to move to a more valid & less expensive test. In Oklahoma, our college acceptance test is the ACT and as Stephen Crawford likes to say “shouldn’t our HS exit exam align with our college and workforce entrance exam?” You would think this was a “Slam Dunk” for our legislators because the stars have aligned (The Governor, Higher Ed, & Business were enough), but NO the House of Representative leadership is taking a page from Charlton Heston – “you can pry your ACT test from my cold, dead hands”. It doesn’t make any sense to me why they would draw this line in the sand. If it is because of Common Core, then they are uninformed. If it is because they think it will water down our graduation requirements, then they are woefully uninformed. If they say they want to wait until Oklahoma adopts its educational standards, then they just don’t understand the purpose for education: ACT assesses skills necessary for college success & WorkKeys assesses skills necessary for workforce success. Both of these are what common education is tasked with accomplishing regardless of the name we call our educational standards.
· Information coming out of the Speakers office will remove parent input in the retention/promotion of 3rd grade students. Yep, you read that right… if the Speaker has his way, he will end the Parent Committee. Educational stakeholders wanted to strengthen the RSA bill by making parent input a permanent part of the law. Legislators were willing to extend parent involvement for 5 years, however they wanted to include students who scored Limited Knowledge AND add in more services for students in 1st and 2nd grade. Great idea – right up to the point where the bill gets in conference, and then the Speaker decided to keep the language adding in all the educational stuff while removing the parent committee from the bill. So if the Speaker gets his way, all the Representative and Senators who voted to override the Governor’s veto last spring will have to flip flop and will now vote to make the parents of children irrelevant into the educational decisions of their children.
· Educators thought we had an agreement with proponents of charter school expansion allowing for school boards to sponsor charter schools wherever and whenever local communities felt there was a need for charter schools. This agreement was quickly challenged by some members of the legislature who wanted to bypass educators altogether to allow city councils to sponsor a charter school. This makes as much sense as allowing cigarette and fast food companies to sponsor hospitals.
· We passed laws which prohibit the use of tobacco on school property 24/7 365 days out of the year. We already had a law which prohibited tobacco use on school property, but apparently we needed a new law. Additionally, they passed laws allowing for schools to allow trained school employees to carry loaded guns on school property even though Federal laws says you can’t. We had an Attorney General send us a letter saying he will stand behind schools who violate multiple US Supreme Court rulings regarding Religion and schools. It seems to me we pass a bunch of laws that have no effect on improving education yet ignore and prevent the laws that will.
As we rush headfirst into the final days of the legislative session, I feel my frustrations growing as an educator. We seem hell bent on passing legislation that makes no sense to educators, or at least this educator. Which brings me to another issue: If the legislative session is officially over by May 31st by law, then why do legislators get to declare “Sine Die” or adjourn early? Can you imagine the outcry if the public schools just declared school over after testing even though there were nearly 2 weeks of school left? But then again, with the legislative track record recently with education policy, I say they can’t adjourn fast enough.