Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Letter to Representative Strohm

Representative Strohm,

My name is Claudia Swisher. I live in Norman and am long-time resident of Oklahoma. I taught for 39 years, 34 in Oklahoma. I retired 'early' because I was so disgusted by the spate of reforms in our state and knew by retiring I could avoid them. Unfortunately my three granddaughter are not so lucky.

I am a voter. 

As a life-long educator in public schools, as a parent and grandparent of public school students, as a citizen of this state who has watched the systematic strangling of public education, I am frustrated with your recent remarks during the debate about HB1522. This was a good bill. It would assure public funding going to private schools was well spent. It would give accountability for private schools receiving vouchers at the public's expense. It would force private schools to prove students were learning.

Even ALEC, the model-legislation source for too many of Oklahoma's bills, included accountability measures in their ESA model legislation. I see that ALEC is one of your contributors, as were Koch Industries, and I am not surprised. I wonder why you part with ALEC on the subject of accountability.

Your remarks about public school being ‘shackled’ under constraints are absolutely true. We are shackled by the deepest cuts to education in the nation. We are shackled by TLE and by A-F. We are shackled by a third-grade flunk law, and 8th grade reading requirements based on an English Language Arts test. We are shackled by high school graduation testing that means nothing to colleges or employers. 

We are shackled, and the Oklahoma Legislature has gleefully shackled us. Deliberately. We are shackled by legislators who have no working knowledge of school finance, assessment, curriculum, but feel great license to interfere in our work.

IF private schools are all the better for their freedom from shackles, then think what public schools could accomplish with the same freedom.  Why are you deliberately creating two unequal education systems for the children of Oklahoma? Why perpetrate systems with different requirements? Why not support public education?

One more statement I heartily disagree with is your contention that private school parents are more 'engaged' in their students' education. I hope Mama Bears all over the state arise and show you the wrongness of that statement. Parents in private schools may or may not be engaged, but they most probably have more time in which to engage. I would guess that few private school parents are working two low-wage jobs in order to make ends meet. I'm guessing few private school parents struggle with transportation to and from work, are unable to attend school events, or are flat-out too tired to go up to the school and sell popcorn during recess. 

Your callous dismissal of public school parents is wrong. It is judgmental. It is smug entitlement pretending to care.

So, now, because of your words and your vote, private schools in Oklahoma who receive taxpayer funding have been given carte blanche. They know we won't be watching. They know there will be no accountability. They know there will be no oversight. 

I ask, with deepest sarcasm, "What could possibly go wrong?"

I am on the record as objecting with every cell in my body, to one penny of my tax contribution to public schools going to a private school in the form of a voucher. One. Penny. 

I am on record that you are on the wrong side of this debate, but the school choice contributors to your campaign must be feeling pleased with their investment. 

You cheated public school students. You insulted public school parents. 

Claudia Swisher

Obviously, I let my anger simmer for awhile. Here is the link to Niky Shobert's letter he received yesterday. He needs to know we are NOT going to ignore his remarks.

We might want to remind Rep. Strohm, who is from the Jenks area, that our new Superintendent of Schools, Joy Hofmeister, is an engaged public school parent...from Jenks.


  1. Rep. Strohm’s exact words were: "I can tell you private school parents are very engaged. I won’t say that they are more engaged than public school parents, but I would say that the parents in private schools are extremely engaged." The Tulsa World subsequently issued a correction for its initial reporting.

    1. Thank you for that still shows his bias toward private schools, as does his remark that private schools reflect the American Dream, to be free of shackles.

      Until he backs off this remark, and backs off his vote against the accountability lawmakers force feed to public schools, I feel very comfortable with my letter.

      Who wants to tell the good Representative, private schools are not free...they are very expensive.

  2. Those false reports aren't fun are they? Welcome to what Oklahoma Public Education deals with everyday via the Oklahoman.

    1. And I doubt that it was even a false report, as much as it was writing fast to get the spirit of the quote. I believe the spirit of the quote was correctly reported. Rep. Strohm has shown his hand...he does not support public schools. And he does not want any accountability for private schools.

  3. Original quote in the TW 2-25-15:
    Strohm, who received substantial support from a school choice group in last year's election, said private schools should not be subject to requirements as public schools because private school parents are "more engaged" and "know what's going on" in their schools.

  4. And the TW correction the next day: A story in Wednesday's Tulsa World incorrectly paraphrased a statement by state Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks. Strohm's full statement was: "I can tell you private school parents are very engaged. I won't say that they are more engaged than public school parents, but I would say that the parents in private schools are extremely engaged. They have a level of interaction that I would say tells us that they're staying involved enough to know whether that school's successful."

    1. Thanks for the quotes, Brett...that one correction does little to change my frustration with the entirety of his message that private schools taking public funds have no responsibility to tax payers, or his ultimate vote. I appreciate the details you've added to the conversation.