Sunday July 1, 2018

Check politicians’ voting records for accountability

Holding candidates and elected officials accountable for campaign promises is critical. There were 98 teachers that ran in the recent state primary election cycle. Fifty four of them are still in the running, whether involved in a runoff or going straight through to the general election in November. We can assume that all of these candidates are pro-education candidates, but what does that really mean? If they’ve never held office, one would think they would vote for all pro-public education bills that come through the Legislature and against legislation that is anti-education. It sounds so simple, but it can be quite complicated when constituent concerns are filling a legislator’s email inbox and the phone is ringing with people voicing a plethora of opinions. Remember that everyone who went to school sees themselves as an expert and views for the path forward are as forked as what Alice faced in Wonderland.

Before the general election, a look at an incumbent’s past voting record provides powerful information as to their real view on education and is where true accountability is possible. Campaign promises can be easily forgotten by both the candidate and the public, but there are many resources to find where votes were cast. Those who voted against the bill to fund teacher pay raises is certainly one to check, but there are many bills that would help decipher a legislator’s support, or lack of, public education.

As already mentioned, there are many roads to improving public education. Finding and focusing on the areas where there is agreement will move us forward. Using data to make informed decisions is a necessity. There are many places to go with this, some policy related and some not. Here are a few to start with:

We have a statewide teacher shortage. This is a fact. The teacher pay raise and shutting down of the potential referendum to stop it is a great start, but we have a lot of backfilling to do. We can all do our part by believing and acting on the fact that teachers are professionals and should be paid and treated as such.

Funding cuts over the past decades have resulted in serious issues for our schools. This is a fact. Many schools are doing without or working with greatly reduced special programs like art and music as well as school counselors, nurses and other professionals. Not to mention reduced budgets for supplies, field trips and countless other areas. This continuous reduction of funding hurts our kids. We want them to grow into innovative adults. We must be innovative leaders and find solutions to put funding back into our schools.

Our students are not all provided equitable access to education. This is a fact, especially in an urban district like Oklahoma City Public Schools. Equal is not the same as equitable and resources must be provided to guarantee opportunities for every student.

Despite the pressures, education advocates must hold their candidates accountable. Be an educated voter. Know what you stand for and elect candidates that keep their promises and consistently walk the walk. Certainly we all agree on this fact. We must have high standards for our schools. Our future depends on it.

Read Mary Mélon’s original NewsOK editorial.

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