Oklahoma has surpassed Louisiana to become the incarceration capitol of the world earlier this year. Studies have shown that suspending students out of school leads to negative educational outcome and a higher likelihood of entering the criminal justice system.
Recently, I have seen a shift in the discussion about education in our community. More and more, we are beginning to have some real conversations about equity and the actual challenges: Decades of inequitable systems have deeply segregated our community. When I see school leaders boldly acknowledging these disparities to our community and committing themselves to the thorny and laborious path toward equity, I am inspired. Though the decision made over this past year by the Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education around whether to eradicate the name of a warrior for slavery from a public school was fraught with struggle, ultimately, the board did the right thing and listened to the voices of those most impacted.
While teachers and school administrators across the state speculate and correlate low test scores to the flocking of ‘good’ teachers to neighboring states for better pay, their theories do not negate the fact that black students tested 18 points lower than their white counterparts. This continuation of lagging test scores in Oklahoma reveals clearly: There exists a disconnect between Oklahoma teachers and their black students. 80 percent of Oklahoma teachers are white.
My heart knows that investing in our children is an investment in the future. I’m excited about Destination Excellence, about the vision of where we can be, and about the opportunity to fight every day as a member of our Board of Education to bring that vision to reality. The commitment to each other to affect progress, make change, and foster success resonates deeply with my own convictions.
In an interview the other day, Florida’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, Ron DeSantis, threw two shots. First he called Andrew Gillum—his Black Democratic challenger —“articulate.” Then he followed up with, “The last thing we need to do is monkey this up,” referencing Gillum’s style of governing and its potential to interfere with Florida’s current progress.
Black Americans have lost two generations of educational progress since Brown v Board of Education.
The word on the street is: Tulsa Public Schools’ newest addition, the public Montessori at Emerson Elementary in north Tulsa, will inevitably become gentrified. A community mostly composed of lower-income black and brown families have good reason to be concerned if TPS isn’t serious about hiring teachers of color and if it doesn’t put equity policies into place that ensure a Montessori choice is an option for low-income students of color.