JJ Burnam

What ideas do you have to better the lives of Oklahoma’s children? 

Every child is special and unique, and each Oklahoma child deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive. My first priority is to secure sustainable, long-term investment in public education. Oklahoma can be a destination for the world’s best teachers, with manageable class sizes, up-to-date text materials, and innovative and effective use of technology. But only if we as a state commit to prioritizing public education funding.

I would like to see less corporate encroachment into education and more empowered teachers, who know what the kids in the school’s community need. I will advocate for programs that expose children to the wonder of reading, the power of coding, and the beauty of the arts.

I will fight for healthcare availability for poor families. Every child needs healthy parents and caregivers, regardless of a family’s socioeconomic situation. We need to accept the federal Medicaid expansion, and stop burdening poor and sick families with unreasonable requirements to qualify for healthcare services.

I would also use my position to denounce federal law that harms children, like the recent effort to restrict access SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that poor families depend on.

What have you done to support children prior to this election? 

Prior to the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout, I was asked to speak on behalf of public school parents at the TCTA Last Call Town Hall in Tulsa. My words influenced the narrative of the walkout when I said: “Funding public education should not be ‘historic.’ Funding public education should be NORMAL!” Another line from my speech became a rallying cry among parents: “Oklahoma Teachers: This parent has your back!” I also spoke at the launch of the OEA March For Education, and again from the OEA stage at the Capitol during the walkout. The walkout is the most profound activist event I’ve witnessed in support of children, and my involvement is the reason I’m running for office.

I have shared my love of reading and storytelling with Pre-K kids at Tulsa Educare’s Kendall Whittier school. I have also volunteered as a Reading Partners tutor to help struggling young readers get caught up to grade-level reading.

I helped found the nonprofit Tulsa Data Science, Inc., whose mission is to use data, for good, for Tulsa. We partnered with the office of Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to analyze factors that contribute to per capita income in Tulsa. Using census bureau data, the team found that the lack of a high school degree was the most significant factor in diminished income potential. This study influenced the Mayor’s strategy for improving Tulsa.

I was elected President-Elect of the Zarrow International School PTA, and was engaged with issues and concerns within the Tulsa Public Schools system.

What will you do to support families in your new role, if elected? 

As a state representative, I will work for legislation to secure sustainable, long-term funding for public education and healthcare services, which are vital to the lives of Oklahoma’s families and children.

I will oppose legislation like HB 2932, which adds a work requirement for SoonerCare, jeopardizing kids whose parents or caregivers could lose medical coverage. Instead, I believe Oklahoma should accept the federal Medicaid expansion which would allow many Oklahoma families to become eligible for healthcare coverage.

I will work to restore the refundability feature of the Earned Income Tax Credit to help working poor families, and to revert tax breaks to the state’s top earners, putting money back into public services. I will also support labor laws that strengthen our middle class.

I will work for changes to our criminal justice system to give people the best chance to turn their lives around and be at home where their children and families need them. Oklahoma has some unnecessarily harsh penalties for non-violent offenses. We should be reviewing those criminal justice laws and recommending appropriate and constructive alternatives.