When I started advocating for public education in a big way, I was still teaching and was concerned that my positions not reflect poorly on my school and district. I often ran my blogs by my principal and superintendent, reminding them if they didn’t like what I said, I could retire ‘tomorrow’. Because I was near the end of my long career, I felt very little pressure in being honest.
For a few years, I felt alone…that loudmouth in the wilderness. The crazy old lady who was screaming about the Superindentist and ALEC and Jeb Bush and Chiefs for Change. But a funny thing happened…I found my people. I found my army. I wasn’t alone any more. Others’ voices with their unique points of view joined. It was no longer one of those 'emailers', as one legislator said when I introduced myself to him. Now I was surrounded by principals, superintendents, teachers, and parents. We came from different political parties, or no party. We came from very different backgrounds, and we formed an army to protect our kids and our schools.
I am a member of the OPE board who helped form the infamous or helpful (depends on whether your favorites got apples) list of education-friendly candidates. I can tell you, conversation was lively as we looked at candidates’ stances on our issues, and their advocacy history over the past few years. There are other criteria as well, but that last one…showing up for #oklaed before candidate filing period…was key for me. I wanted to know candidates had advocated for public education and public schools before they decided to run for office, and that they had reached out to educators and legislators. They’d gone to the Capitol, engaged their legislators in conversation. That was the most important criteria for me.
I needed our list to be non-partisan. I needed to recognize Republicans and Democrats and Independents for their support. Our list does that. One day when I was at the Capitol last session, wearing my I-Heart-Public-Education, a Republican legislator came up to me and asked me to remember we had friends on both sides of the aisle. I assured him I watched voting records and I knew who supported #oklaed, and thanked him for that support.
Is our list perfect? No. Any candidate who wanted to be considered could easily contact any of us and make his or her case. We shared the criteria with several and if they responded, we looked it all over. This list is one group’s attempt to start the conversation. We expect voters to do their research and use our list as one piece of information in that research.
That brings me to the recent events surrounding the race for SD 41. There is a run off, if you haven’t heard. Adam Pugh missed winning his primary outright by 8 votes, and is in a run-off with his closest rival, Paul Blair. Pugh is an apple; Blair is not.
Blair has taken a destructive path in his campaign which baffles me. This is his opportunity to make his case to the voters of Edmond. To tell them where he stands on the important issues in the campaign…to tell us how he views public education and our issues.
Instead, he’s chosen to attack OPE, and the administrator of Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, Angela Little. He called a bogus press conference at the State Capitol to use FaceBook screen shots to prove…gasp…Angela has an opinion on the race. And a stance. And is working for Pugh. This former football player (who has started exactly two more NFL games in his short career with my beloved Bears than I have) used the press conference to attack a private citizen, a mother, a woman with an opinion. He attacked a young mother for working to elect legislators who would have her handsome sons’ best interest in mind every time he voted. He attacked a private citizen doing her civic duty: studying the issues, reading about the candidates, and making her choice.
The attacks didn’t end there…Daily
Disappointment Oklahoman printed an opinion piece that Blair’s campaign misrepresented as an investigative piece. When I pointed that out on their campaign page, my remarks were deleted…wish I’d’ve thought to screen shot. Maybe Blair’s campaign can give me some lessons.
But there's more. Now we’ve seen flyers being distributed, again naming Angela and using her picture to prove…again, that a private citizen has an opinion and is willing to campaign for her own candidates.
Since when is it fair game for a candidate to attack private citizens who disagree? I thought it was my civic duty to study issues and candidates and make choices. I thought it was my civic duty to advocate, to explain my choices if I’ve made them public. I thought it was my civic right to campaign for my choices. I know Angela thought that. I know she didn’t expect to be vilified and mocked, to have her picture plastered on oversized posters at the Capitol, where she has tirelessly advocated for the students of Oklahoma.
If Blair wants to earn votes, let him lay out his campaign promises. Let him share his position on private school vouchers and school funding. Let him tell his voters what he stands FOR. And let him stop the vile attacks on a mother who is volunteering her time to all the students in our state.
Others have written in support of Angela, including Rick Cobb and BlueCerealEducation, but I had to add my voice. That crazy old lady voice. Rob Reck likens her to a momma bear. That’s exactly how I feel about her. She’s my children’s age. She could be my other daughter. Don’t mess with my girl.
If Blair cannot campaign on his own merits, he doesn’t deserve the votes of the people of Edmond.
I’m going to use an image that Rob Miller often uses to remind us in #oklaed that what we do matters, and we do have that army I mentioned before. Angela, we are here for you, just as you’re here for all our students.