SUPPORTING SCHOOLS: State superintendent candidate speaks at local public education rally

·3 min read

Sep. 23—An enthusiastic crowd turned out Thursday, Sept. 22, for a public education rally in Tahlequah, featuring state superintendent candidate Jena Nelson as a guest speaker.

The rally was hosted by the Tahlequah Education Association, with the support of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Adam Graham, Jena Nelson's campaign manager, said the event was put together to help the community rally around education. He said education is the most important issue on the November ballot.

"We just want the folks of Tahlequah to meet Jena and to get to know her and know that education is not a Republican or Democratic issue to us," said Graham.

Graham said the education advocates are focusing on smaller communities because rural schools are being impacted the most by the upcoming election, due to the possibility that federal funding may be rejected.

An event attendee and Tahlequah Middle School STEM teacher Kym Tinsley said having a rally like this one in Tahlequah helps shine a spotlight on education.

"[It helps] to bring awareness to the candidates who are out there who are pro-education, and help us through these times we are going through," said Tinsley.

She said she hopes the rally encourages people to vote in upcoming election.

"We have four million people in Oklahoma. There are three million people who are eligible to vote, two million are registered to vote, and only one million get out and vote," said Tinsley. "So we want to increase those numbers of voters within the state of Oklahoma, and hopefully vote for candidates who are pro-education."

Cathy Cott, another attendee, said she tries to go to events like the rally, to urge others to become registered voters.

"We have a lot of problems and I have a concern for that," said Cott. "I don't have any grandchildren, and my children are all grown, but I still live here, and I still want our kids to have good schools."

Kelli Tibbetts, Greenwood Elementary school counselor, thinks it's a great for others to show support for education, which is why she considered the rally for all ages.

"There's a lot of struggle in the public education world, so I think it's important for us to band together and come together — all parties, Republican and Democrats — and support the cause, which is making public education better for our students and our teachers," said Tibbetts.

Cott said education rallies push people in the area involved and to help get information out to the community about the election and candidates.

"I think it's to make people more aware of the problems that exist. It opens avenues to solving those problems that may not have been considered before," said Cott.

Cott feels like many people have given up on certain educational opportunities in Oklahoma, due to gerrymandering, unengaged voters, and other problems.

"Our voters are not engaged, so they're not informed, and uninformed voters make poor voters. They just knee-jerk," said Cott