Special Election - Senate District 34, January 12th - #OKElections16

Polling Place

Bet you thought you had a few months before you had to start seriously thinking about state elections…

This year, however, there’s something pretty important coming up a bit sooner than primaries. In fact, there’s a significant election happening in about a week. 

January 12th, actually. That’s practically TODAY. 

See, this past August, the Senator for District 34 – the Owasso area – resigned. Seems he’s gotten himself into some trouble with the I.R.S., and maybe done a tiny bit of embezzling or whatever. Doesn’t matter.

What matters is that he’d only served one year of his four year term. I don’t mean to go all mathy on you, but that means there are three years left on this one – and the position must be filled before the Legislature gets back to official business in February.

Scramble file campaign run-off and holy cow it’s here – special elections for District 34 on January 12th. 

But, Blue - I don’t LIVE in District 34! I can’t vote there!

Inconvenient, sure – but that doesn’t mean #oklaed just sits back and hopes for happy things while we finish off the leftover pie and wonder if we should get another gym membership. You wanna make a statement before this session even starts? Maybe get a few incumbents’ attention before they go back to those voucher bills? Those state tests? That rewrite of the ‘Kill AP’ bill Fisher and Brecheen promised us?

McLainThe Republican candidate is David McClain, a Baptist minister and small business owner. I sent his campaign a short questionnaire (the same one I sent to his opponent), but as of this writing haven’t heard back. 

To be fair, it was a very short time frame and these have to be hectic times for both men. And, while you and I both know I’m totes adorbs and the voice of edu-reason during #OKElections16, not everyone might have the word on this just yet. In short, I don’t want to suggest he ‘blew me off’ so much as he probably saw little reason to mess with it. 

Based on his website and coverage in the Tulsa World, though, David McLain is a small-government, lower-all-the-taxes, free-market conservative. His campaign theme is “Hey! You kids get off my lawn!” 

OK, I’m kidding about that last part. But here's just a small taste from the Tulsa World, November 4th, 2015:

McLain, 45, is a Baptist pastor and owns several businesses. He flavored his responses with references to free markets, regulation, taxes and his faith.

“I have a servant’s heart,” McLain said during his introductory remarks. “I am the constitutional conservative in this race.”

The three {Republican candidates} agreed on standard Republican doctrine but shaded some points differently.

On tax policy and the state’s deepening revenue decline, for instance, McLain favored eliminating the income tax altogether…

All three denounced same-sex marriage, but Feary said “there is nothing we can do about it at the state Capitol with the way things are now.”

Williams and McLain were more pointed in their responses.

“I don’t care what people do in private … as long as it’s not in my face,” said Williams. “Making (same-sex marriage) legal is putting it in my face. This all started in the ’60s, and then we legalized abortion. When that happened, the country took a nose dive.”

“I believe marriage should be between the Lord, one woman, one man and their pastor,” said McLain.

“There is going to come a time in our lives when we have to take a stand against homosexuality. … I believe the state should get out of the way and let the Lord ordain what he ordains, one man and one woman.”

That’s all good. Most of our students aren’t going to gay marry in high school. On the other hand, this is clearly a candidate set on representing a very specific sliver of the student population. I’ll avoid speculating as to his opinions on welfare moms or bilingual families. 

McLain Quote

His opponent is J.J. Dossett, a history teacher at Owasso High School who’s been in public education for seven years. He’s also been a member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard since 2002. He served one tour of duty in Iraq and another in Afghanistan.

From the Tulsa World, September 9, 2015: 

Dossett and his wife, Ashley, are the loving parents of two children and attend First Church in Owasso. In addition to working as an educator, the lifelong resident of Owasso has served as a football and basketball coach for his hometown public school for seven years. He graduated from Owasso High School in 2002 and from Oklahoma State University in 2006.

Citing a need for a voice for educators, veterans and the working class at the Oklahoma State Capitol, Dossett announced he will continue his work in the classroom while campaigning.

“Oklahoma is facing a crisis in education at this time with not enough teachers to fill spots in our classrooms,” said the candidate. “I will not abandon my students during the time it takes to campaign for this office, therefore I will continue to teach and be an active part in their lives. I will dedicate all the free time I have after work to visit with the voters across District 34 and share with them my vision to improve their lives.”

Dossett made it clear that he would represent the voice of his home area at the State Capitol and be a leader across party lines to find the right solutions for issues facing our state.

“The hardship placed on our students and educators is something I have witnessed firsthand and the blame goes back to career politicians looking out for their own interests,” said Dossett. “I will work to reduce needless testing on our students, provide local control for parents to have more of a say in how their school functions and I will champion the need for a better educational experience for these young Oklahomans who I have seen struggle with ridiculous, meaningless mandates place upon them by politicians.”

I particularly liked this bit:

Dossett indicated he will review every piece of legislation thoroughly and vote for what is best for Senate District 34 and the citizens of Oklahoma.

“We cannot continue to allow politicians to waste the taxpayer dollars at the Capitol and intrude in our personal lives,” said Dossett. “I will be a vocal champion for the working Oklahoman and support policies that provide better job opportunities, oppose any attack reducing a quality of life for our teachers, retirees, and working-class families and be a voice for those often forgotten and left behind by politicians. I will also fight against any intrusive policies from our government that seek to take away our freedoms guaranteed to us.”

So yeah – sounds like some underlying "Oklahoma values" in there. It’s not a huge shock that the military guy likes guns and personal liberty, is it? 

DossettIn hopes of getting a better idea what Mr. Dossett is about, I sent him the same questionnaire as Rev. McLain. He DID respond.

1. What – if anything – are you willing to do to reverse the massive cuts to public education in Oklahoma in recent years?

On a basic level, I am willing to run for the Senate, as a teacher, to serve public education in the OK Legislature. I have thrown myself into the ring on behalf of all public school teachers. 

Like most teachers, I’m tired of the same results after each election. As a Senator, I will personally review every existing tax incentive and will not support the ones that have no record of creating jobs or revenue. I will not support any more cuts to education funding and will fight to regain proper funding. And I will explore legislation to place mandatory expiration dates on all mandates so they must be reviewed before they can be renewed. 

I have graduated from, and now teach in, a town with a strong public school system. My father is a graduate of this school and was a principal here for 30 years. My mother taught Special Ed in our district for 30 years. I have seen how our schools have helped build strong families and businesses in our district. I want to take that message to the Capitol. 

2. Do you support Educational Savings Accounts (vouchers)?

I DO NOT support Educational Savings Accounts or vouchers.

3. What’s your take on state and/or federal testing of students? What do those scores reflect, and how should they be used? 

Currently, the one thing testing and test-scores accurately measure is student affluence. Summative assessment is important, but test scores should only be used to provide benchmark data and drive instruction. The minimal amount of testing should be used to achieve this. High-stakes testing needs to go away.

4. How can we recruit more teachers in Oklahoma? Does this need conflict with a desire for teacher quality / accountability? 

There are many layers to this answer. To sum it up as concisely as possible, we, as a State, must bring dignity back to the teaching profession. Oklahoma has to reverse the current culture of pushing the best and brightest career-minded educators away, and instead, attract the best and brightest to come invest here. 

The war on teachers, the embarrassing salaries, the lack of support for content-specific professional development, and the use of junk-science statistics to ramrod educational policies, have all taken their toll. Salaries are the natural starting point, but better salaries will have to be paired with a legitimate culture of support from our State government – no more double talk. 

Accountability methods must be centered on producing teacher growth and must be trustworthy. Using test scores or questionable evaluation models creates distrust and completely dismantles the collaborative atmosphere schools must have to achieve.

5. Now that ESSA is (apparently) giving more autonomy back to the states in terms of how they handle public education, what should Oklahoma’s priorities be? 

The ESSA is a massive document. Oklahoma should trust in its education community to dissect and analyze the ESSA, drive the discussion, and spearhead legislation and policy. If not, special interests, partisan politics, and lobbyists will have the power to drive the ESSA’s implementation. 

As a Senator, I will be in position make decisions of ESSA’s application based on firsthand experience in the field. Special interest groups will not sway me. 

6. In 25 words or less, what makes an effective educator?

One who is committed to the career, highly educated, passionate about student achievement, and has a strong, but nurturing disposition. 

7. In 25 words or less, why should #OklaEd support you and District 34 voters get out and vote for you on January 12th? 

I am the only candidate with legitimate experience in education. If #OklaEd expects different results, it is going to have to elect experienced, education-minded officials. 

I don’t know about you, but I got a bit of an edu-tingly feeling from that one. 

Dossett Campaigning

So – what can YOU do about it?

Well, if you happen to be a registered voter in the Owasso area, get your butts out and vote on January 12th. Duh.

But everyone reading this can forward it to their teacher friends – in or out of Owasso. Talk about this election, and it’s potential, and the initiative we could take NOW in shaping #OKElections16. 

I get that we’re overworked, and traditionally #OklaEd has been pretty good at rallies and signs, but horrible at sustained political action. If you’re more afraid someone’s going to take your guns than you are that our public school system is going to be intentionally undercut, demeaned, and dismantled, then the principalities and powers in OKC have won the propaganda war. If you’re more worried about your local schools turning your kids gay, Muslim, or both, than you are concerned that those same schools will run out of resources trying to prepare ALL of the next generation to do a better job than we are, then we’ve lost – no matter what your cool sign said. 

A campaign on this level gets a HUGE boost from you giving a few hours of your time to make phone calls or take a short drive to Owasso to knock on doors. They need your $25, $50, and $100 help – NOW. I know money is tight right after the holidays, but you wanna know ‘tight’ come NEXT December? Leave current leadership in place. 

“Sorry honey – the turnip doll is all we could afford this year because the state doesn’t want you to be a Socialist.” 

Go to the campaign site, follow @dossettfor34 on Twitter, and ask what you can do THIS WEEK to help. Or, don’t, and stay home mumbling to yourself: “Thank you sir - may I have another?”

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JJ Dosset could be the beginning of a new and much needed change in Oklahoma 's education life. Hope for both kids and teachers!

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