Greenwood (North Tulsa)

Breakfast with the Senator: Oklahoma State Senator Kevin Matthews on education and more

Oklahoma State Senator Kevin Matthews met with a group of young professionals Friday morning at la Madeleine’s French Bakery & Café on Cherry Street in Tulsa.

Education policy dominated the discussion. “I believe public education is under attack,” Sen. Matthews stated. He theorized that his Republican colleagues don’t support public education because their children are either enrolled in private schools or are being home-schooled. Matthews believes this creates a divide between many Republican congressman and their everyman constituents, whose children generally attend public schools. Sen. Matthews explained, “There is a philosophical difference in how Republicans view education and how Democrats view education.”

He continued discussing Oklahoma education by listing successful public schools, like Booker T. Washington High School and Thomas Edison High School that have produced decades of academic excellence. Booker T. Washington is one of the few magnet schools in Tulsa and has an International Baccalaureate program as well. Its status as a magnet school allows it to use a rigorous selection process in which students are accepted primarily based on their above average standardized testing scores.  He also explained that the A – F School Grading System may be out of date and the system may not be an accurate measurement of a school’s success. Oklahoma public schools were ranked 46th in the nation with a D+ grade in 2016, according to Education Week.

The discussion extended naturally from education to the school-to-prison pipeline. Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates for women in the United States. This is exacerbated by the profit model of privatized of prisons. While president, Obama attempted to curb the use of federal private prisons, but those gains were swiftly eliminated by a memo from current Attorney General Jeff Sessions who was controversially appointed by President Donald Trump. Because of the current administration’s reversal black, brown, and poor Oklahomans will be disproportionately affected.