Listen to this article here
Published 07/04/2019 | Reading: 3 minutes 52 seconds
EDITORIAL | By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder & editor-in-chief
Epic Charter Schools is undoubtedly hungry for more teachers because thousands of Oklahoma parents are thirsty for better academic outcomes for their children.
They may face criticism for their teacher recruitment practices, but let’s not forget that Oklahoma currently ranks 45th in the nation for public education.
Needless-to-say, the Sooner State isn’t collectively focused on its educational needs.
Moreover, as a result, in the decades of low teacher pay, a shortage continues even after last year’s teacher pay raise. The TulsaWorld reported that Oklahoma approved 3,038 emergency teaching certifications for the 2018-19 school year, “representing a 54% increase over the previous school year’s 1,975.”
One only knows the type of teachers pooled into that 54%: high-quality teachers, low-quality teachers, some with high moral characters and others who are not so great in the ethical behavior department.
Oklahoma teachers are unquestionably fleeing to the nearest state for better teacher pay and improved working conditions.
Some of those educators are targeted and recruited to work for the Epic Charter School organization because the virtual institute offers its first-year teachers between $60,000 and $90,000 a year.
What teacher, especially a low-paid or first-year teacher, wouldn’t want that?
After all, Oklahoma was ranked 49th in the nation for teacher pay in 2018; however, and since then, the meager teacher pay increase bumped the state into the 34th spot. But not in the top ten like new Oklahoman, Republican governor, Kevin Stitt promises.
why school choice is important; it’s about the kids
Teacher unions and anti-charter advocates across the state may blame, and even point their fingers at, virtual public charter schools, at brick and mortar public charter schools and public partnership schools as the reason for why public schools aren’t adequately funded by the state, but here’s another perspective to consider.
Those with means, who were mostly white, fled inner city schools for the suburban school districts during the late ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and they took their tax dollars with them.
Today, affluent suburban schools to all appearances seem to be well funded and resourced and some of these suburban districts have the funding to provide Chromebooks for every student.
Courtesy of The 74
Hence, these anti-school choice critics should be pointing their fingers at themselves for failing the thousands of students left behind, forgotten, and ignored, who were and still are mostly black and brown. They should be ashamed of themselves for not giving the inner city schools the needed resources during and after white flight.
Like Rosa Parks and Montgomery’s blacks boycotted the public transportation system in their city for 380 days to receive equal treatment, Oklahomans are going to have to get intentional about pressuring state legislators on what their teachers and students need and demand those needs without compromise. That may mean boycotting the system for longer than two weeks.
The idea of more equitable resources for academic outcomes and better teacher pay fell apart when the Oklahoma Education Association decided that it spoke for all teachers and people across the state, compromising the lives of Oklahoma children and folding away from the initial demand of a $10,000 teacher pay raise.
Clara Luper and Rosa Parks would have stood their ground until their demands were met.
This past year, Oklahoma congress seemingly threw another bone to its Oklahoma teachers, giving them an additional $1,200 pay raise.
While some folks applauded, I sat in objection of the praise.
This despicable act of unfriendliness towards Oklahoma educators reminded me of a passage in a book of a formerly enslaved person. Frederick Douglass described the time when he and the other enslaved children on a plantation ate the scraps of their master’s leftovers from an animal trough.
At the sight of reading that Mr. Douglass and other human beings, in his famed narrative, ate from the same place of pigs and dogs made me want to vomit.
Had good Americans compromised with the institution of slavery, Brown v. Board of Education, or Jim Crow, I wouldn’t have been allotted the resources or the opportunity to build the intellectual capacity that allows for me to write and communicate my opinions in this editorial.
Recently a Tulsa School Board member stated in a Facebook comment, in response to whom I will presume — an anti-charter school advocate, that charter approvals should be subject to the highest scrutiny.
Furthermore, this TPS school board member, Brian Hosmer, went on to state “I’ve been on the board for just a few months, but I can report I’ve not voted on a single charter application.”
He, also, failed to mention that TPS hadn’t had any new charter proposals until 24 hours later, which seemed to pander to the anti-charter person he was conversing with.
His words gave me pause because Mr. Hosmer clearly doesn’t have black people problems. He doesn’t have to worry about sending his, own, kids or grandkids to a school where a sizeable portion of 9th graders are reading and doing math at an elementary level — seemingly handcuffed on the school-to-prison pipeline because no one values or cares to employ a black ill-educated person from north Tulsa.
The issue of educational choice is more significant than a simple response on a Facebook post from an elected official who sits on a school board.
why school choice is important; it’s about the kids
Now, I’m not condoning the actions of any institution that doesn’t perform its duties with the greatest integrity.
However, public school elected officials shouldn’t be picking sides on the charter school debate; they should be eradicating it, so all kids have equitable opportunities and equal access to learning environments that will make them successful.
Courtesy of Ball Bearings Magazine
Currently, the reality is that public education in Oklahoma continues to fail the majority of black, brown, and rural children.
We are dealing with the lives of children who live in a state where 1 in 5 of them has an incarcerated parent, and a state thank ranks number 1 in the nation for incarcerated men and women.
When the data shows that black people are disproportionately represented in Oklahoma prisons, as a former educator and black Oklahoman, I just had to respond in a public way.
May he or she, who hasn’t failed a black or brown child, cast the first stone at Epic Charter Schools.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World.