Guest column: New schools will not fix Oklahoma's poor education ratings
Oklahoma has a fractured system of 512 public schools, 25 charter schools, about 207 private schools, 23,000 students home schooled and Epic virtual instruction in every county. A mess.
Include the 15 mills that 59 CareerTech schools are taking from many districts and the issues are compounded. Now Gov. Kevin Stitt and state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters are requesting a commitment for funding more schools under the guise of school choice. Really, more schools? Schools cost (teachers, classrooms, gyms, utilities), and how are we to afford the required facilities and teachers with more new schools? The administration should be aware that school choice is often not relevant or feasible in rural areas. According to recent test scores, many students in Tulsa and Oklahoma City can barely read or write. Their parents are often focused on economic survival, not school choice.
A significant number of children are basically illiterate. How are we to provide a charter/private school for them? I would hypothesize that 95% of Oklahomans cannot define a charter school. Not once have I heard the governor or the state superintendent inquire about ways and means (or present a comprehensive plan) to improve the public schools in an attempt to remove Oklahoma from the national rating of No. 45. Is the plan to abandon the present system of public school funding and evolve another process? Do the majority of Oklahomans want their children in charter/private schools? We need to be talking to our legislators ASAP.
I would recommend that the governor concentrate on supporting public schools and do the following:
(1) Initiate an analysis of how we prepare school administrators (leadership and change comes from this group not the school boards).
(2) Think outside the box and overhaul classroom discipline as many teachers leave because of disruptive students and classroom chaos.
(3) Cancel the four-day week.
(4) Develop a school merit program to financially reward an entire staff/faculty for achieving overall excellence.
(5) Consolidate many districts.
There is much more to do, but this is a start. Public education in Oklahoma is rated near the bottom nationally because of the lack of leadership from the state superintendent’s office and the lack of commitment of many parents to their children’s education. Public education must be a top priority. Oklahoma must find a fearless leader for public education to take charge and pioneer a new path to overcome the present sorry state of affairs within our families and schools. Oklahoma must do better.
Gary Greene is a rancher in Tishomingo.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Guest: New schools won't fix Oklahoma's poor education ratings