STILL Waiting…

It’s been 33 days since I last posted.  An impromptu move, plus a combination of other work and life events have forced a hiatus from blogging.  I thought I might check in to see what’s happening for (more like “to”) education this legislative session draws closer to an end.

 

Below, I’ve listed some of the major issues plaguing education in our state.  I’ve also taken the liberty of listing beneath each issue the measures our legislature has taken to address the problem.

 

Teacher shortage:  Oklahoma is currently educating 50,000 MORE students with over a 1000 FEWER teachers.  The shortage is particularly profound in areas like special education and STEM subjects.

Solutions from the legislature:

 

High-Stakes testing:  This year, school was interrupted for several weeks while high schoolers took a barrage of end-of-instruction exams that colleges and career tech centers don’t care about.  Meanwhile, eight-year-olds had panic attacks and were made sick with anxiety over a test that determined their advancement to fourth grade with just a few dozen questions.  We spent millions on all testing combined, including yet another writing exam that won’t count for anything, allowing our students to be mined for data by billion-dollar testing companies.

Solutions from the legislature:

 

Teacher pay:  Educators continue to leave the state in droves for better pay and working conditions in ALL NEIGHBORING STATES.  And any other state in the country save for one.  Not only does it exacerbate the teacher shortage, the pool of candidates is much more shallow, forcing administrators to hire less qualified and effective teachers.  To quote one administrator, “we’re hiring people we wouldn’t have even interviewed ten years ago.”

Solutions from the legislature:

 

Inequitable evaluations:  Since it’s inception, our current evaluation system (TLE), has garnered a lot of frustration from both administrators and teachers.  I won’t go into all the ways in which this system is flawed (that’s a whole post on its own).  But in a nutshell, trying to reduce the effectiveness of something as nuanced as teaching to one arbitrary score is just ludicrous.  Not to mention (and I realize I’m speaking as a non-tested fine arts subject), some things simply CAN’T be quantified.

Solutions from the legislature:

 

Budget cuts:  As our state faces a $1.3 BILLION deficit, education and other state agencies are faced with debilitating cuts.  Hardly a day goes by without one school district or another announcing the measures they must take to absorb the funding gap.  The legislature’s refusal to roll back tax cuts that will cost the state 100’s of millions in the coming years only added fuel to the fire.  Unfortunately, the cuts to education and services like DHS and healthcare affect our most vulnerable citizens the most, especially children.

Solutions from the legislature:

 

This isn’t to say solutions haven’t been offered.  For instance, HB 2957, which would for all intents and purposes eliminate TLE and turn the evaluation process back over to local districts, passed both the House and the Senate unanimously over 2 weeks ago.  It’s been sitting in the House since then awaiting a vote to approve the amendments added by the Senate.  However, it’s useless legislation unless action is taken to get the bill to the governor’s desk.  In this case, just the thought doesn’t count.

 

I have been trying to negotiate all the intrinsic stress of negotiating buying and selling a house in the last few weeks of school, while simultaneously trying to maintain some semblance of actual teaching when students are pulled from my classes on a daily basis for testing.  Our final concert is next week, and I can’t remember a day in the last month when all my students were available for rehearsal.  So, perhaps it’s my own exhaustion speaking here.  But I’m really tired of excuses.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Legislature:  please stop simply addressing these issues and act to fix them.  Or perhaps one of the 80+ public education advocates running for office, including over 25 educators and public school parents, will do so in your place next session.

“It’s not the we don’t care, we just know that the fight ain’t fair.  So we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.”