Parents are frustrated with the lawmaking process, and elected officials don’t understand district-level decision-making.
Those were a few takeaways from a forum Monday hosted by the Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee, which has become a significant grassroots influence in Oklahoma education policy.
These events are important to demystify government and gain understanding of the challenges schools face.
The format took a different approach from traditional public information sessions. It placed an elected lawmaker at a table with a handful of constituents, most of whom were parents or educators.
The more intimate setting provided a better opportunity for in-depth conversations, something that ought to happen more often.
Historically, elected officials have been invited into schools to see firsthand the obstacles. Or, advocates have driven to Oklahoma City during the session to push for specific changes and funding.
Those approaches have merit but tend to be limited to quick questions or staged presentations. The new approach seemed to lead discussions in interesting directions.
Teachers spoke of crowded classrooms and lack of staff. There is an increasing dependence on parents to substitute or to pay for funding gaps, creating lopsided quality among schools.
Parents aren’t happy with that unequal result and want to know how best to advocate for schools.
The forum also gave lawmakers a chance to ask questions and talk about concerns.
Rep. Regina Goodwin questioned administrative costs at Tulsa Public Schools and its use of high-paid consultants. Rep. Meloyde Blancett warned against using school vouchers to mitigate Oklahoma’s high number of children experiencing trauma.
Education remains a priority with Oklahomans. But what emerged at Monday’s forum was a common agreement that the state is only beginning to turn around a decade’s worth of erosion from underfunding.
We applaud the TPLAC for continuing to look for ways to engage the state’s leadership with parents and teachers. It’s an approach that promises longer-term, more authentic relationships and better results.