I can say without doubt that several of my blogger colleagues (like my friends over at My Grandma’s Porch) can provide more insight and valuable resources. I encourage them to leave a comment with additional input, or link to their own post in the comments.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post (Village, We Need You), in which I called upon parents and community members to join the fight for public education. It seems whichever way we turn, public instruction is under attack from misguided and misinformed reformers, many of whom never set foot in a classroom. Teachers are growing weary of being left out of the conversation when it comes to deciding how best to teach our children. We’re fighting for what we know to be right for our students, but gaining little ground (or so it seems). When it comes to legislation regarding education, one thing is very clear to me: parents are still the most powerful voice for change.
This prompted a query via Facebook from a good friend. She’s a parent with young children just starting in public education:
I’m still relatively new to the political side of education. For years, I watched from the sidelines, content to leave the advocacy to the professionals while I kept to the business of running my classroom. Sadly, I’m beginning to feel we have reached a “tipping point” in education reform where we can no longer afford to be apolitical. If we don’t speak up on behalf of our kids, we are accepting via abstention the decisions being made by others.
Here are some ways I encourage parents to become involved:
- Stay informed. Keep up-to-date with legislation concerning education, specifically the bills that address what concerns you most. I find the Oklahoma PTA and OSSBA websites to be helpful resources. You can read the language, see the history, and view the votes for any bill in the current legislative session at the Oklahoma Legislature website. If you’re a numbers person, you might find interesting this website of school profiles, which is provided by the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. Social media is also a great way to connect with other advocates. I recently joined the Facebook group, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education. I follow #oklaed on Twitter and the Oklahoma Central PLAC (Parent Legislative Action Committee) on Facebook.
- Contact your legislators. Tell them your concerns, and how you would like for them to vote on certain issues. Be polite, but firm. When you have questions, expect them to answer, not deflect or assign blame. Be sure to follow up those e-mails with a “thank you” when the vote goes your way. During election years, ask candidates where they stand on the issues that matter to you, and what they plan to do when in office concerning those issues.
- Tell your stories. Tell your kids’ stories, too. Tell anybody who will listen. In the grocery store. At church. Among friends. To your families. At the ballpark. At the dance studio. In vacation Bible school. Make it personal. Because it is.
- Hold legislators accountable with your vote. This is, in my opinion, the most powerful tool for advocacy. If you believe a candidate is not serving in your best interests, then vote for one in the next election that will, regardless of what political party with which he/she affiliates.
Personally, I want to see an end to meaningless high-stakes testing, replacing the End-of-Instruction (EOI) exams with the ACT, and eliminating tests that are not federally mandated. With three young children beginning school in the next few years, I want to see the 3rd grade Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) amended to make permanent the committee that decides retention (or for the RSA to go away completely). I want to see the teacher shortage addressed by providing competitive pay and eliminating unfair and inequitable teacher evaluation systems that rely too heavily on student test scores. I want to keep public tax dollars in public schools. I want to keep corporate charters at bay, and allow local school boards to maintain control in their local districts. You may not entirely agree with me on all of these issues, but I encourage you to inform yourself and form an opinion concerning the issues that matter most to you.
It takes a village, folks. And indeed, we need you, village. In desperate times, sometimes the village has to take up arms to keep the wolves at bay. It’s time to arm ourselves with the information and iron will necessary to fight for our kids, and to entrust power only to those who have their best interests at heart.