In November 2010, American voters were angry at a Democratic controlled U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and presidency that had stuffed the square peg of Obamacare down their round collective throat.
The upshot was that virtually any candidate running for public office with an “R” by his or her name, even at the state level, especially in Oklahoma, was elected. The “R” of course, stood for Republican Party. Janet Barresi, the Republican Party’s candidate for state superintendent of public education, was one of those who found herself in office, at least partially due to the Republican sweep.
Other reasons for her election had to do with money invested in the campaign and the fact she articulated an appealing message. She had run successful charter schools – read businesses - and implied she knew how to get Oklahoma school kids on par with their national and international counterparts by managing our state system like a business.
It always makes us nervous when we hear politicians say they want to run government entities like a business. Obviously there are business aspects to it, but by its nature government is not business. As one local school official said, businesses take it for granted that raw materials can be regulated and determined. In common education there is a huge difference in the quality of “raw materials.” Getting to the identical outcome with each is well-nigh impossible, no matter what the quality of education at a particular school.
Charter schools are not a good comparison because students and parents sign agreements specifying things like television viewing time allowed at home and number of volunteer hours parents must work in school activities. If a student or parent doesn’t live up to the agreement, the charter school forces the student out and into a public school which serves as a kind of safety net for their rejects while guaranteeing the quality of the charter school’s raw materials at the expense of common education.
There are many reasons Pontotoc County voters should demand a change at the state schools superintendent office in the next election. As recent stories in this newspaper have indicated, one of the more compelling reasons is our local school systems think a change should be made. A leader must have followers and when the followers stop following, it’s time to look for a new leader.