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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The State of Oklahoma Plans to Takeover Up To 10 Schools: What They Will Do and What They Won't

There is a report in the Tulsa World that the Oklahoma State Department of Education will release a list tomorrow of up to 10 schools it will "take operational control"of next year.

My school, Oklahoma Centennial, could very well be on that list.  I know we are on the state "Priority School List" of schools where this could happen.

The state is calling this a "partnership", but when the state partners with a school, we all know who the "senior partner" is going to be.

This takeover, let's be honest and call it what it is, comes out of the waiver Oklahoma was granted by the federal Department of Education to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law that has governed education since the early days of the Bush II administration.

No one really know what this takeover will entail. Joel Robinson, spokeperson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, claims that, "[c]ollective bargaining agreements and school vendor contracts won't be affected by the process." 

Of the latter, I have no doubt. Of the former, I'm not so certain. It could well be that, at the age of 60 and at the top of the district's pay scale, yours truly will have to reapply for his job or try to find a new one. Such was the case for the teachers of US Grant High School when the district "took over" there.

I am not sure what the state would hope to gain from this, no matter who is on the takeover list tomorrow. Just what can the state do for us that we are not already doing and have been doing day in day out?

I know some things that the state WILL NOT do.

The state will not try to help deal with the systemic poverty that blights the lives of our student body.  The number one predictor of students success in America is the economic condition of the students' families.  The state could try to develop "empowerment zones" that have helped areas like Harlem in New York City with economic development, but the state won't do that.

The state will not try to raise the minimum wage of the students' parents and even the students themselves to where they are paid a "living wage" lifting them out of poverty. 

The state will not provide adequate, affordable child care for parents and students who have to care for pre-school children.  This could go far to help with our high absenteeism rates often caused by students having to care for babies and toddlers at home.

The state will not provide adequate treatment opportunities to deal with constant partners to Poverty--Despair and Addiction.

The state will not provide after school programs so that children can engage in constructive activity when the school day ends.

The state will not create alternative placement programs for students who, for various reasons, do not function in a regular school environment, and instead constantly disrupt classes making it impossible for other students to learn. These students drain time and energy from teachers who exhaust themselves managing the few while trying to teach the many.

Instead, I look for the state to replace teachers, staff, and administrators, and then wonder why nothing ever gets changed.  Then they will replace teachers, staff, and adminstrators, and then wonder why nothing ever gets changed, Then they will replace teachers, staff, and adminstrators, and then wonder why..........

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