If you were running for an Oklahoma public office on November 2, 2010, it was a good day to be a Republican. Republican candidate Mary Fallin will become Oklahoma’s first female governor, winning over 60% of the popular vote over her Democratic opponent, Jari Askins. Republican Janet Barresi won the race against Democrat Susan Paddack and independent candidate Richard Cooper with almost 56% of the popular vote.
Barresi will be the first Republican to be elected (rather than appointed) to the office of State Superintendent of Schools in Oklahoma, and will end the 20 year reign of Sandy Garrett when she takes office in January 2011. (Thanks to Wendy Pratt for the clarification, I had earlier posted she will be the first Republican to serve – see comments below for details.) I’m sure there is quite a bit of buzz in the Oklahoma State Department of Education today following this electoral result, amplified to an even louder volume than it’s been in past months. Ever since Garrett announced she would not seek re-election, employees at the SDE have been contemplating their future employment prospects after two decades of departmental political stability at the top. 2011 is going to be an interesting year for education in Oklahoma.
I’m a bit mystified by the quotation in today’s Daily Oklahoman from Heather Sparks, the 2009 Oklahoma teacher of the year. She’s quoted saying:
“It’s a win, win for education [that SQ 744 was defeated.] We have let the public know, really put the giant spotlight on the fact that we are in the bottom five every year. We can do better if we have more resources. It needs to be a priority in our state.” Sparks, who teaches at Taft Middle School, said the lack of resources classrooms face – particularly when it comes to technology – is astounding.
Indeed the low level of funding for education in our Oklahoma public schools IS astounding, and the failure of the Oklahoma legislature to adequately fund public schools is exactly what state question 744 sought to remedy. Since our Oklahoma legislators chose to supplant rather than supplement educational budgets with lottery funds (as discussed in Monday’s podcast) and used federal stimulus dollars this year to replace rather than supplement state education dollars in the budget, financial prospects for our schools in 2011 are going to be extremely bleak.
What kind of plan do the successful opponents of SQ 744 have? None that we’ve heard so far. Janet Barresi, like Barack Obama, will take the helm of an organization facing extremely grim economic challenges. I hope our Oklahoma leaders can come together and work together for the benefit of our children and communities in 2011, and find ways to provide exceptional educational opportunities rather than ones which are just “OK.”
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- Archived Keynote and Co-Presentation with Miguel - 2007