Monday January 10, 2022

Public Education Advocacy

Advocacy has a simple definition. It is the act or process of supporting a cause. There are many organizations, including the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, that focus on advocacy as a way to advance the cause of public education by sharing both the good stories and the needs of our state’s largest school district. Collectively our voices are powerful with policy makers, community leaders, influencers and partners.

School districts themselves take an active role in advocacy and this is done in a variety of ways, including direct lobbying at the Capitol. Oklahoma City Public Schools recently held a legislative breakfast with local legislators and community leaders to share their priorities and ask directly for help in promoting legislation positive for public education and defeating detrimental bills. District leaders also introduced Jason Dunnington and Matt Latham as their lobbyists who will be working on their behalf in the upcoming session. They are both long-time public education advocates and know their way around the legislative arena.

Advocating for public education goes back to the early years of our nation. In the earliest years, many children were excluded based on their race or ethnicity, gender, geographic location and social class. Once a more formal system was developed, advocates spoke out about the need for investing in universally provided education that was free to students and funded by states. Beginning in the mid-20th century, there was a new push to provide an equitable education for all students. After World War II public schools took on the added role of providing services to address children’s other social needs like food insecurity. Today’s public schools also address social-emotional needs and trauma support for our children. The COVID pandemic in the past two years has only added to these needs in school districts everywhere.

It is well -known and documented that there has been a plethora of good and bad reforms over the years. We now have a fairly decentralized system, with authority divided among local, state and federal levels. There continues to be discourse and a very challenging situation ensues with finding and achieving a common mission. While quite complicated, this isn’t rocket science. We don’t have to agree on everything, but agreeing that all students have the right to a high quality education isn’t difficult at all. How we get there can be debated, but focusing on this shared mission is imperative.

As we begin a new year and look to the legislative session ahead, it is imperative that all of us supporting the need for the highest quality public education system for all of our children speak up and make our voices heard.

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