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We will never be a top-ten state if Governor Kevin Stitt is reelected. The children of Oklahoma will face the consequences of his actions for generations to come. It will negatively impact tomorrow’s workforce.
For the past four years, Governor Stitt has talked a good game. He promised Oklahomans that we would lead the nation for K-12 education.
As a former elementary and middle school teacher, I am disappointed when I was initially optimistic about his commitment to education.
Instead, the state remains 46th in the nation for per-pupil funding and saw a continued decline in its national academic performance for both Reading and Math.
Due to the lack of funding allocated to the state’s public education system, Oklahoma continues to have a less educated workforce that stymies its business potential.
Because of the weak investment in education, tomorrow’s workforce looks grim. Instead of homegrown Oklahomans, I see a future with less innovation and fewer economic opportunities.
Moreover, our already high crime rate is undeniably a bi-product of a disinvestment in education. Further eroding that funding or failing to invest and seek meaningful reforms will only lead to higher poverty, more crime and a continued swell of our state’s prison population.
This is more than about test scores that force us to be confronted by the uncomfortable truth that our children are actively being failed by a lack of action to address the critical learning loss that is crippling achievement. It’s about the dire situation we can predict will cripple the Oklahoma economy in 10-15 years when the children of today fail to acquire the skills to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. And when companies flee the state because they can’t attract the talent needed, our young adult population cannot find the jobs they need to support their families, a perfect storm of poverty, hopelessness and frustration will drag communities across Oklahoma down with it.
Unfortunately, rather than accepting his own responsibility in the crisis our state finds itself in, Kevin Stitt continues to blame others. His ire has fallen on everyone from teachers to school district leaders to Oklahomans with political views that differ from his own.
Now, as Election Day nears, his blame shifts to State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
During the height of the pandemic, she encouraged schools to shift to online learning — a smart decision to keep students, teachers, staff and families safe when scientists were still studying the virus.
Though Stitt refused to take proactive, data-informed action during the pandemic, he claims the state’s low test scores are the result of Hofimester’s failures. Never mind the fact that academic performance was faltering well before the pandemic disrupted education as we know it.
Moreover, Stitt has been complicit in allowing book bans and other distractions to take our focus off of addressing the critical issues we have needed to address with urgency to address the pandemic learning loss that is the true challenge of our generation.
And any worthy leader knows playing the blame game won’t solve the growing crisis our students and society face.
Today, Oklahoma 4th-graders are 6 points below the national average in math and 8 points in reading; far from being a top 10 state as Stitt promised.
According to a 2022 report, the scores for Black and Brown students are much worse.
In reading, “Black students had an average score that was 22 points lower than that for White students. Hispanic students had an average score that was 20 points lower than that for White students.” In math, “Black students had an average score that was 35 points lower than that for White students. Hispanic students had an average score that was 14 points lower than that for White students.”
These disparities have grown under Kevin Stitt’s watch, with no clear and explicit plan to remedy these inexcusable disparities, as if he’s completely asleep at the switch.
Decades of oversized classrooms and low teacher pay remain the untreated disease that plagues Oklahomans and their future. The 2018 teachers’ walkout didn’t raise pay nearly enough, especially as the country grapples with record inflation.
Tomorrow’s workforce looks grim when we continue to be one of the least educated states in the nation.
If we don’t fix this growing crisis immediately, the consequences will last for generations.
We deserve better than politicians who would rather choose to give tax breaks to large corporations than allocate state dollars back to our schools.
That’s why I urge all to vote for Joy Hofmeister to be the next governor of Oklahoma on November 8th.
Do not sit this one out. A no vote is a vote that could get Stitt reelected.
There is far too much at stake.