The People Have Spoken, #OklaEd
Well, that didn’t go well.
I’m not even going to talk about the national elections, other than to note we sent back to the U.S. Congress – by wide margins – the exact sorts of people I’m regularly criticized for assuming the majority of Oklahomans support. So… I’ll let you work that out.
But the state elections. I just…
I really thought they’d go better.
Not well. I didn’t expect them to go well. I was no longer hoping for a dozen seats flipped from “entrenched radical ed-hater” to “teacher running for the first time.” I’d resigned myself to the idea that there might not be much to celebrate.
But I thought we’d get something.
I don’t wish to disparage the accomplishments of the handful of winning edu-slators yesterday. Several incumbents historically supportive of public education kept their seats – David Perryman (D) of HD56, John Montgomery (R) in HD62, Jadine Nollan (R) for HD66, Katie Henke (R) in HD71, and Cyndi Munson (D) of Lake Hefner.
New candidate Mickey Dollens (D) took HD93, no doubt through his genuine commitment to the district and his unmatched work ethic. (His opponent’s ability to personally alienate and horrify almost everyone in the district over the past decade probably didn’t hurt, either.) Forrest Bennett (D) won HD92 and Chris Kidd (R) SD31. So… that’s something.
But dozens of others went down in flames. Not even close in most cases. Even candidates like John Waldron and Lloyd Snow were defeated, while far too many other voices passionate for positive change were simply crushed.
SQ779, after polling well for months, was soundly defeated as well. There were good reasons to vote against it, but added to the rest of the night, it rubbed enough rock salt into the wounds of public education to keep our highways clear for another decade, were it ever to snow again – which of course it won’t, but-don’t-say-climate-change-because-Inhofe-once-had-a-snowball.
It sends a pretty strong message. One I think it’s time we embrace. This is a democracy, after all, and when the people issue this sort of mandate, it’s our civic and professional duty to respect it.
So… I quit.
Not the profession, necessarily. I mean, maybe – it depends on what else I can do at 50 years old. I’m reasonably intelligent and gregarious, though, and despite my shifting politics I’m still an angry old straight white guy – that gives me some leverage in Trump’s America, yes?
But it’s time for #OklaEd to get the message. You are not wanted here. The vast majority does not think you’re worth even what you make now, and they certainly don’t think most of your kids deserve any better. Strong percentages say “we could fix education if only these teachers weren’t in the way” or “those damned districts have been given too much without accountability.” And they believe it. To paraphrase their patron saint, “Public education is not the solution to the problem; public education is the problem.”
I know what many of you will say:
“We’ll just regroup and do even better for our kids!”
“It’s not just a job; it’s a calling!”
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”
Like Boxer, you are sure if you only work harder, eventually Animal Farm will prosper. Your convictions about how things should work and what most people must believe become your Napoleon, and no matter how desperately reality tries to get your attention, you remain darned and determined to build that windmill – the better to tilt at, my dear.
That’s noble, in a way, but like Boxer, you’re wrong. Not just “how sad for you” wrong, but “you’ve become part of the problem” wrong. You’re the wife buying her alcoholic husband beer then complaining about how he treats you. You’re the friend doing everyone else’s homework so they won’t get a bad grade, unwittingly condemning them in the long run by enabling their bad choices.
Denial is a powerful sedative – it allows us to tell ourselves all sorts of deluded stories. But it only perpetuates and strengthens the problems we’re trying to avoid.
Oklahoma doesn’t want you here. They don’t like you, and they openly despise many of your kids. If you stay, and keep doing what you’re doing, you’re supporting that – willingly or not. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Don’t get careless in your martyrdom – there are kids in other states who need good teachers. There are other meaningful ways to make a living.
It’s not just about a pay raise – I’d easily support a plan to fund public education and pay young teachers and provide for students that carried a provision denying veteran educators more than a little cost-of-living bump here or there. It’s about a decade of single-party rule with one theme: “You are the problem. If only we could get rid of greedy superintendents and lazy teachers and useless support positions, we could fix it all. But… you know those teachers’ unions and their entitlement mentality…”
We’re largely to blame. We’ve proven year after year that we don’t vote in meaningful numbers, or if we do, we vote our fears instead of our ideals. We jump and bark and pee on their legs every time they dangle “Pay raise! Pay raise! We’ve really got a plan for a Pay Raise! Come get it, boy! That’s a good constituency!”
The party in unmoderated power could have addressed this any damn time they wished over the past decade. And it’s already starting again. Sitting legislators who’ve just watched the state reject all things education by historic margins are setting up that football and asking us to take another run at it because this time they’re totally certain for REALSIES going to hook us up!
Dance, you pathetic monkeys – dance!
The 2017 Oklahoma State Legislature would be foolish to pass actual teacher raises. They’d be crazy not to ram through the voucher bills so long sought after by their out-of-state fiscal overlords, mandate consolidation across the board, and change all the state standards yet again just to prove they can. Elections have consequences. Legislators don’t do things to be nice; they do things because it gets them elected, and re-elected.
Supporting public ed is a losing issue in Oklahoma. Like, WAY losing. “And-your-little-dog-too” losing.
This past February, I wrote what many assumed was a hyperbolic call for all of #OklaEd to simply turn in their keys and go. I wasn’t being hyperbolic, and I’m feeling great internal pressure to stand by it today. If I had the power, I’d set Winter Break as the ideal time to get a real job – or a teaching gig elsewhere. Classroom teachers, para-professionals, administrators, bus drivers, lunch ladies, school secretaries – just sign the pink slip over to the victors and wish them well.
I don’t have that power, so do what you will. If you stay, however, spare us the noble platitudes. I’m all for sacrificing yourself when it serves a purpose, but the only thing you’re accomplishing here and now is to perpetuate the conviction of those in power that they’re on the right course and should keep it up. Anything that doesn’t work, you’ll cover for them whatever the cost to yourself, your family, and your kids.
And it’s wrong.
I realize I’ll be accused of being a “sore loser” – of taking my blog and going home. There’s probably some truth in that, but not enough to put the house up for sale (nice 3-bedroom, Union schools, glorious breakfast nook, if you’re interested). I think I’m being quite reasonable – Obama won’t be strapping himself to the desk in the Oval Office, desperately clutching his favorite pen, yelling that he’s staying “for the children!” He’ll politely pack up a few personal items, and call a cab.
I’ve been too vocal to back down at this point. It may take a few months, but I don’t see any way out of it without selling out everything for which I’ve fought – albeit unsuccessfully – over the past year. I’ll be reworking the website to focus more on general content and teacher issues, washing my hands of state politics once the moving van is loaded.
I appreciate those of you who worked so hard and did so much over the past few years trying to change things in Oklahoma. I’m sorry we accomplished so little to assist you. I wish you better.