Duct tape was invented during World War II to waterproof ammunition cases. I don’t think its inventors imagined it being used 75 years later to hold Oklahoma kids’ textbooks together. Yet it is. When the campaign did a survey a few weeks ago on what Oklahomans saw as the state’s top neglected priorities, one math teacher told us, “I am a career math teacher … My math textbooks are 12 years old and held together by duct tape. We do the best we can with what we have, which is very little.”
This teacher isn’t unusual. Nine out of every 10 people who responded to the survey begged for education and the state’s failed budgeting system to be Drew’s top priorities. They will be.
We should apologize to the whole generation of students going through our schools right now. They are not getting the resources they need to succeed. Our current leaders have shortchanged them, leaving teachers and children to find some way to pay the bill. At best, it’s leadership apathy. At worst, it’s neglect. Either way it’s inexcusable.
I never thought today’s schoolchildren would have fewer resources than when Drew and I were in school, or when Drew was a speech and debate teacher at Muskogee High School. I never thought we’d move backward.
Yet, today, 1 out of every 5 Oklahoma school districts operates only four days a week. Class sizes in our biggest towns are the largest they’ve ever been. Compared to the states that border us, we invest $1,500 less per student per year. Our teachers are fleeing to Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas for better paying jobs, $19,000 more in the case of our previous Oklahoma Teacher of the Year from Norman, Shawn Sheehan.
It’s obvious our situation will not get better until we have leaders in office whose priority is this generation and not their own political future. There isn’t a person more committed to uniting all Oklahomans in this cause than Drew.
I’ll keep writing about education in this blog and I hope you’ll share what you learn here and help us speak truth to power. There are many other organizations working to change things, like the Save our State Coalition, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Oklahoma Education Association, and the Oklahoma Policy Institute. They share information to help you have effective discussions with lawmakers and I encourage you to follow them, too.
We can give Oklahoma’s children the 21st century education they deserve. They need it to have a brighter future. It doesn’t require duct tape. It requires bold leadership and that’s my husband, Drew Edmondson.