What ideas do you have to better the lives of Oklahoma’s children?
Public money should not be used to enrich private entities that do not benefit all taxpayers. School voucher programs that take money away from public schools without any oversight into how those dollars are spent is an improper use of tax dollars. Charter school programs that do not have to obey the same rules as public schools is also an improper use of tax money. I do not support school vouchers and I believe charter and regular public schools should be on a level regulatory playing field. The amount of standardized testing in our schools, especially at lower grades, should decrease dramatically. Tests should be used to measure progress and develop plans of action, not to stigmatize students and punish teachers for single day performance. Schools are meant to be places of discovery and growth, not to turn out measured copies of workers that meet a basic criteria. Giving schools the curricular freedom to develop students skills that meet the needs of this century should be our mandate. Opportunities for classes in language, art, literature, history, advanced math, science, and computer programming should not be limited by income or zip code. My guiding principle throughout my educational career has been increasing opportunity and access to all students. In the state legislature, that will continue to be my guide and my mandate. Every student in this state should have access to a transformative educational experience so they can then transform their own communities to thrive in the 21st century and beyond.
What have you done to support children prior to this election?
For the last 18 years, I have worked as a teacher and administrator in public schools in Oklahoma. At Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, I worked with students from low and middle income families, removing barriers to upper level science courses in one of the lowest performing schools in the state. At Centennial Middle School in Broken Arrow, I was Assistant Principal, working daily with young people from all walks of life to develop strong characters, to learn to care for each other as fellow humans, and to take advantage of every opportunity for learning that was in their path. I was Learning Director at East Central High School in Tulsa, inheriting the first class that had to pass End-of-Instruction exams in order to graduate. By the end of my first year, we had increased the number of seniors who had passed all of their necessary EOIs to 95%, up from 50% when I walked through the door. I also took students to the Capitol, advocating for changes in the legislation to allow students to graduate who had failed to clear the arbitrary barriers placed in their way. I continue, to this very day, to work with students from that school, connecting them to the resources they need to achieve the diploma that was wrongly denied them. I then returned to the classroom at Booker T. Washington High School, teaching upper level science courses to a wide variety of students and continuing to advocate for equal educational access.
What will you do to support families in your new role, if elected?
Over the last decade, our legislature, under the guise of helping people, have enacted numerous pieces of legislation that have weakened the public safety net and damaged families and communities across the state. By shifting the tax burden unfairly on to the backs of working families, we have allowed the state legislature to defund the very programs intended to increase opportunity and quality of life for our citizens. Additionally, our punitive approach to criminal justice has cost our state untold amounts of money and destroyed families without reason. We need to shift our focus to rehabilitation and reform, not only providing pathways to education and skills, but creating economic opportunities that pay living wages and life long careers. We need to end our contracts with the private prisons at the earliest opportunity. Profiting from the incarceration of human beings is morally reprehensible. By defunding our district attorneys and police departments, we have created an environment where the only way they can sustain their operations is by creating an ever increasing fine and fee structure. The end result of these short-sighted budget cuts is that more and more people end up in jail, enriching prison corporations, their freedom taken away until they can work off their financial debt at a few cents an hour. We are number one in incarceration in the world. I will work to not only reverse that, but to make us number one in rehabilitating and returning people to productive, full lives.