#11FF & Getting Involved (Updated)
You meet the best people on the Twitters and Facebooking.
If you're #11FF and weren't included, please let me know. I assure you it's not intentional - it's old age and perpetual confusion.
Festivities aside, I know enough of you across the state - and beyond - that I HAVE to believe in the possibilities.
None of us can single-handedly change everything we'd like in Oklahoma's leadership or edu-slation, or that of whatever other state or country you call home. Other than a vigorous sign-carrying from time to time, far too many of us don't get politically involved. We don't pay attention to the legislation that affects us or the individuals who (supposedly) represent us at the State Capitol.
I get it - it's time-consuming, confusing, and depressing. We're busy with our own classrooms and our own problems, and that other stuff seems so far away. It's not like we can DO anything about it, right?
But there are something like 45,000 teachers in Oklahoma. (The percentages are likely comparable in whatever state you happen to be.) Assuming many of us are married, or have adult children, or siblings in other professions, or even, like, friends - that should mean an easy 100,000+ voters willing to support public education.
Know how many people voted in the last statewide election? Just over 800,000. Maybe we can't run the show or get everything we'd like, but we could MATTER. Greatly.
And yet, a recent campaign run (and won) by an educator in Oklahoma discovered that less than half of the teachers with whom they spoke were even registered to vote.
This isn't to criticize anyone, and it's not about guilt or shaming (well, maybe a tiny bit of shaming - but then we'll move on). It's about starting where we are. I'm talking about Oklahoma, but if you're somewhere else, the general ideas still apply. I'm THAT wise and ubiquitous.
Voting in Oklahoma for Busy People
March 1st was, as you were probably aware, the date of the Presidential Primary in Oklahoma. That's a whole other descent into madness we won't worry about here.
Statewide Primaries are on Tuesday, June 28th. This is when we begin the process of choosing who'll be setting state edu-policy for the next 2 - 4 years. As in national elections, this is when you help choose your party's nominee for each office serving the district in which you live. Sometimes there will be multiple candidates from the same party running for an office; sometimes not.
Any state primary in which no candidate receives a majority of the vote will result in a Primary Runoff election on August 23rd. Only the top two candidates for each disputed office will be on these ballots.
Statewide elections are on the same date - November 8, 2016 - as national elections, including this year's Presidential elections. That means turnout will be higher than in off-years, and besides... well, I think we can safely say that this year is going to be weird no matter what transpires between now and then.
Members of the State House of Representatives are elected every two years - just like at the national level, every single one of them are up for re-election (or not) every time. State Senators are elected every four years, meaning half are up for re-election (or not) each time.
The window for filing to run for state office is April 13th - 15th. An impressive number of teachers are getting involved by simply running themselves - it's fewer contract days and WAY more money, so consider this. It's a legitimate option.
You have until June 3rd to make sure you're registered to vote in Statewide Primaries. Here's why they matter:
Democrats / Independents
We really do have Democrats here. Some even hold office. Most are strong supporters of public education. They have limited impact, however, unless there are MORE of them up there. So, if those are your leanings, you need to get involved and vote these folks in. I realize national politics seems a bit futile for you lefties in these parts, but you can have a huge impact closer to home.
Keep in mind that an Oklahoma Democrat isn't necessarily the same creature as a California Democrat or a Massachusetts Democrat. Many of our 'lefties' have strong approval ratings from the NRA, conservative social values, or other traits which would count as ‘ultra-conservative' in other parts of the country.
The State Democratic Party is allowing Independents to vote in Democratic primaries this year. So no excuses for you, either.
As to Republicans, the state has quite a range. Primaries are probably even MORE important on this side of the proverbial aisle. They’re unlikely to vote as if they 'feel the Bern' across the range of all possible issues, but some are much nicer to public education than others. Get involved. Figure out who's been voting for what.
If you care about other issues deeply, that's great - look at their records on those ALSO, but be realistic about what state legislators CAN and CANNOT actually do. Several of our entrenched legislators spend most of their time in office writing bills which appeal to the paranoid and ignorant, but which can’t realistically pass and wouldn’t survive constitutional challenges if they did.
But for better or worse, the North won the Civil War and the 14th Amendment is a thing. All we accomplish by passing laws in clear violation of national socio-political realities are expensive lawsuits - which we always lose - and national mockery. A vote for a return to the 19th century is a wasted vote. Sorry.
Other information on Oklahoma Elections can be found on the Oklahoma State Election Board site.
How Can You Stay Informed Without Becoming Bogged Down In The Inanity?
The Tulsa World is good about covering issues impacting education in Oklahoma, usually in ways supportive of public ed (unlike their counterpart in OKC). It’s not expensive to subscribe, and you get both paper and online access.
Oklahoma State Legislature - If you know what you’re looking for, this is the official site of the OK State Legislature. You can read both proposed and current legislation, look up the voting record of your elected representatives, etc.
OpenStates.org - A bit easier to navigate when researching bills and voting records from the past several years. You can search by bill number, legislator, general topic, etc.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute - This group doesn’t focus exclusively on education issues, but they’re amazing when it comes to making sense of all the complex budget talk we’ve been hearing this year. They also make nice charts and graphs to share with your slower friends so they’ll understand.
Oklahoma Education Journal - A relatively new, mostly news-ish site which is off to a very promising start. Short pieces, easy to understand, no fluff.
If you’re on Facebook, groups like Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education post regular articles and updates and engage in discussions related to public ed.
If you’re on Twitter, search the hashtags #OklaEd or #OKElections16. There are also weekly #OklaEd Twitter chats every Sunday evening from 8:00 – 9:00 on a variety of topics, often including political issues.
There are a number of rather vocal bloggers who advocate for public education.
OKEducationTruths - Rick Cobb has been around for a very long time in blogger years and can be relied upon to consistently explain and analyze events impacting you and your kids.
A View From The Edge - Rob Miller is another veteran blogger, sometimes a bit kinder than myself and usually amusing. Required reading.
Fourth Generation Teacher - Written by Claudia Swisher, retired educator and active advocate at the Capitol and around the state. Good stuff, especially when she’s annoyed.
Blue Cereal Education - That's where you are now, silly. You’re welcome to enjoy the full range of my wit and brilliance, but at the moment I refer you to #OKElections16 where I have candidate profiles, updates issues, etc.
At this level, with typical voter turnout, your voice matters in state elections.
You shape who gets in, starting with primaries. You shape what they write and how they vote by what you say and do NOW.
We don't have to win 30-40 seats to matter. A few key seats, or a half-dozen wins ANYWHERE educators haven't been a factor before will get the attention of every member of the legislature. It will add to the influence of those who already support us and give pause to those who don't when they're deciding what to inflict next.
Let the ones you support KNOW that you support them - and why. Let the ones you don't KNOW you don't - and why. Be clear, informed, and professional when you call, email, or meet with them.
Some won't care, b/c they answer only to their fiscal overlords. But even all that out-of-state money can only buy so many votes - at some point they need YOURS as well, or it's all for naught. Their masters do not show mercy to losers.
Even I, in all my wit and wisdom, lack the power and influence to force involvement. Most of us do.
But we can each do our part, large or small. Cliched as it sounds, that's all we can do. Collectively, though...
My little part is to offer token thanks for your involvement - not for WHO or WHAT you vote for, but for getting more involved, and getting OTHER EDUCATORS more involved in the electoral process.
Presenting the Brand New, Classroom-Ready, TLE-Proof, BCE #11FF Pedagogy Protection 5"x7" High Quality Magnetized Magnet:
How It Works
Administration observing you? New teachers sitting in on your classroom? Parents concerned about a lesson you taught or a strategy you used, or even a grade you gave their little boo-boo?
Just point to the magnet and nod - slowly, but confidently. You pass, all 4's, discussion over, thanks for coming.
Two Ways To Get It
(1) Push any Blue Cereal post or content page related to #OKElections16 (although in my vanity I'll accept anything from the page you decide to share) by Tweeting it or sharing on Facebook. Make sure you tag me or use #11FF so I'll see it.
(2) Enlighten others about #OKElections16 - The resources on this website AND in general. Talk to your co-workers, meet with your department, and calmly, rationally explain some of the issues impacting #OklaEd this year and EVERY legislative session. Encourage them to GET INVOLVED.
Better yet, ask your building principal for 5 minutes at the next faculty meeting to encourage co-workers to get informed and start voting in state primaries this June. Suggest their spouses or other family members run for office themselves - I'll help raise the $200 filing fee if need be.
As long as you're not telling people who to vote for, there's not even gray area in encouraging teachers to learn more and do more about the issues which impact them and their students.
And if it's YOU - if you haven't been engaged in the political workings of your state - then GET INVOLVED yourself. That counts, too.
It takes verve to do this, and some of you will start uncomfortable conversations different than those you'd intended. THAT'S OK - you got this. It's even OK if you don't know every detail about every bill or every legislator.
This isn't about what we already know and have already done - it's about what we're willing to learn and how much we're willing to do.
Then, let me know. Email or DM me with your story (short or long - I'm curious, but I know you're busy). I'll send you a couple of the BCE Magnets as token thanks and acknowledgement that you're awesome and Totally Forever #11FF. If you'd like extras for co-workers who responded supportively, I'll send more - up to a dozen at a time if you believe it's merited.
I trust you - you're now #11FF. You tell me what's appropriate.