Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     HB #3399 is sitting on Governor Mary Fallin’s desk.  She has until Saturday June 7th to either sign the bill or veto it.  If the Governor signs the bill, Common Core is scraped and Oklahoma schools would revert to teaching to the pre-2010 standards for math and reading- the No Child Left Behind standards.  Steve Crawford with Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration says if that happens, ‘chaos’ would ensue.  Crawford claims he has 2,500 school administrators across the state calling Fallin encouraging her to veto the bill and keep the Common Core standards.  On the other side of the issue, thousands of opponents to Common Core are writing and calling the Governor urging her to sign the bill.  HB #3399 passed both chambers of the legislature with veto proof margins, but the legislature is not in session so Fallin’s veto couldn’t be overridden immediately. 

     Common Core is a divisive issue, but here are some areas most Oklahomans agree on:

     First, Oklahoma students should be subject to high standards.  It is not unreasonable to expect third graders be able to read and do simple math.  If they can’t then they should be held back for their own good.  As many educators have said, “up until the third grade, you learn to read- after that you read to learn.”  For years schools have just passed students onto the next grade who couldn’t do the work.  That should stop.  Passing a student just because we are more concerned about their self esteem than we are their education is a short sighted approach to education and life.  We all agree that standards need to be set and enforced.  Where we disagree is who sets them and enforces them.  With Common Core, it is the federal government and the federal Department of Education who is setting and enforcing.  The federal Department of Education has a track record of destroying everything it touches. 

     Second, HB # 3399 has broad based support among the people of Oklahoma.  Perhaps not everyone would agree with that statement, but when both chambers of the legislature pass a bill by a wide margin, which usually means the bill is supported by the people.  Lawmakers- in particular the House members- are closer to the people.  House members face voters every two years and are more sensitive to what the people want than the Senate.  It is very clear that Common Core is not popular with most Oklahomans.  The reason is the issue of federal control.  Oklahomans don’t like the federal government to overstep it’s authority in any area.  Common Core takes a great deal of authority and independence away from local school districts. 

     Third, we can always spend more on education.  This year the Oklahoma legislature approved $80 million more for common education than last year.  But Oklahoma’s issue in education is not about money.  Just once, I would like to hear an educator/administrator talk about education without bringing up money.  Why isn’t more done by common education to encourage parents to take equity in their children’s education?  That doesn’t cost money- it costs time and effort.  Why can’t more classes be taught online?  That is more cost effective and efficient.  Let’s get creative and think outside the box when it comes to education in Oklahoma.  When you consider that over 52 cents of every dollar spent on education in Oklahoma goes for non-classroom activity, it’s time we started thinking differently.

     Fourth, the real issue with education in Oklahoma is we are not getting money to the classroom.  Everyone knows that and every year the legislature and educators haggle over money and every year less than half of it gets to classroom.  Why is that?  Oklahoma has more school districts than the state of Texas- an average of seven per county.  The legislature can’t even agree to let school districts share administrators.   The fundamental issue is we can’t get more money to the classroom so long as we are spending so much the education dollar on infrastructure and administration.  Until that is addressed, the legislature is nibbling around the edges and ignoring the elephant in the room.

     HB 3399 is a good bill that basically tells the federal department of Education to take a hike in Oklahoma.  It calls for the Oklahoma Department of Education to establish standards for math and reading in Oklahoma schools.  No one is against standards- we are against an intrusive, overreaching, federal government telling us how to educate our children in Oklahoma.  Call Governor Fallins office at 405.521.2342 and encourage the Governor to sign HB #3399.

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