Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Pro-Education Candidates...

Dear Legislative Candidates,

I have written a Study Guide for you as you prepare to meet the public as a pro-education candidate.
 And then, after you work through the Study Guide, I have an essay test for you. My former students will tell you how much l love essay tests, and how very closely I read them.

Are you ready??

Study Guide for Pro-Education Candidates

First, thank you for taking this exciting, scary step –  running for public office. I can’t imagine the extra stress such a decision will create for you and your family, and I am deeply appreciative. Second, you have a lot to learn in a short amount of time about the state of Oklahoma education. But I can help!

I offer this study guide and ‘exam’ as one way to prepare for questions from voters about your depth of knowledge about public education issues, and your commitment to #oklaed.

1.       Get to know the pro-education groups who have already been working hard for the students of our state: VOICE, a community outreach on several issues touching the lives of Oklahomans; Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, a dynamic Facebook group dedicated to public education; EFFORT-SOS, another FB group; Oklahoma Education Voters, a FB page that highlights education issues; local Parent Legislative Action Committees (PLAC). Search these sites for clues about what the citizens of our state have already identified as vital issues. Be ready to discuss.

2.     OEV (a page I help organize) surveyed members on their top education issues two years ago, and coded the answers to arrive at our top issues. We then contacted local candidates and asked them to respond…here are our issues from two years ago…nothing much has changed: School Funding, High Stakes Testing, State Politics of Interference, Respect for and Support of Public Education. Be ready to show how you support public education in Oklahoma on all these issues. VOICE has also created a list of issues its members feel strongly about.

3.       Learn as much as you can about how schools in Oklahoma are funded…what the sources of funding are, and what restrictions are placed on what funds. Research the recent downturn in funding, and be ready to discuss. Visit with policy makers and school administrators and be ready to offer ideas that could bring relief to our schools before it’s too late. Steel yourself for lots of vigorous cross-examinations.

4.       Acquaint yourself on the issue of testing and assessment…both federally-mandated tests and state-mandated testing. Know what tests our students take, the purpose of the testing, and how the results are used. Be able to discuss which are high-stakes and why. Learn how test scores are used in teacher evaluation, school grades, and decisions about student placement. Solidify your own position on this issue and be ready to articulate.

5.       Reach out to the public schools in your district. Visit. Volunteer. Talk to students and teachers and parents. Talk to the site and district administrators. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Treat this as a learning opportunity. Always be certain to seek out the real stakeholders, those who can share stories of the ramifications of current policies.

6.       Vouchers, expanding charter schools, forced consolidation, teacher evaluation, teacher recruitment and retention, and deregulation were hot topics this session…voters will expect you to be ready to discuss any and all at a moment’s notice, with facts.

Essay Test for Pro-education Candidates

Please answer the following questions as completely and thoroughly as possible. Use your own paper. Your answers will be scored for original thinking, clarity, insight. Points will be deducted for any whiff of clichés or policy-maker-speak.

As a state legislator, you will be called upon to represent all citizens…the powerful and the vulnerable.  Convince me you’re worthy of my support, my vote.

Part 1

1.       What is your involvement in public education in Oklahoma? What are your accomplishments?
2.       When did your commitment to public education begin? How have you displayed that commitment? How does your work with public education inform your views?  What bills have you advocated for or against in the past? Please provide evidence.
3.       If you have children, where do/did they go to school? What did you learn as a parent that will inform your work as a legislator?
4.       List five references who can vouch for your connection and commitment to education over time. What will each say about your work in #oklaed?
5.       List three sources that have helped you research your positions on education issues. Explain what you have learned from each.
6.       What is your definition of adequate support for our schools? Detail the components of that support.
7.       What are your suggestions for adequate funding for all schools?  How do you intend to bring that adequate support to the schools? How do you plan to assure equity of funding and resources for all Oklahoma public schools? Be specific.
8.       What are you willing to do to assure a highly qualified teacher for every student? How will you contribute to a sustainable overhaul of teacher recruitment and retention. List five suggestions for teacher preparation colleges in our state.
9.       What will you do to end the status quo of test-and-punish in #oklaed? What other failed reform efforts can you list? Why have they been detrimental? Which will be your first priority?
10.   How will you work with other legislators to create a new climate of cooperation among all stakeholders
11.   How many school districts and schools are in your District? Name five principals you’ve visited with, 10 teachers, 10 students, 10 parents. What did you learn? How will that inform your work at the Capitol?
12.   List your legislative agenda if you are elected…what, specifically, will you be prioritizing for #oklaed?
Part 2
Social justice issues are deeply connected to education issues. Please explain your positions on these issues, and your plans to address them as they affect #oklaed:
·         Child poverty
·         Child food insecurity
·         Child homelessness
·         Health, dental, vision insurance for all families
·         Living wage for working parents
·         Affordable mental health care for families
·         Access to hospitals and health clinics for all families
·   Access to free public libraries with adequate technology

(I am having a devil of a time adding one more item in my list, so I'll do it will you address the physical and mental and emotional safety of all LGBT students in public schools?)

Make certain your answers are detailed and complete. As a 39-year veteran in the classroom, I have a built-in BS detector, and I love to read essay answers closely. Expect that I will write all over your paper in preparation for our discussion of your grade.

There will be two deadlines for your answers. If you have a primary, your answers are due in my inbox by no later than two weeks before your primary, June 28. If you do not have a primary opponent, you have until two weeks before November 8. IF you wait until the last minute, I cannot promise to either read your work or take you seriously as a candidate.  Don’t wait until the last minute to complete this test…your future, our kids’ futures depend on your answers.

Don’t TELL me how much you care. SHOW me.


  1. I know this is targeted towards legislative candidates in Oklahoma, bur please don't forget the important role our federal lawmakers also play!

    Former teacher Mike Workman of Tulsa is the 2016 Oklahoma Democratic Party nominee for the US Senate.

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