Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Quality Education for Every Child

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! Across Oklahoma, schools are about to start for the year, and children are preparing for another year of learning.

The annual battles over the future of public education are beginning to take shape. No battle we fight at the State Capitol is more important than the one over educating our children.

The one institution committed to that goal is public education, which – by law – must provide a quality education for every child. For me, the battles over public education are all based on the premise of lifting up every child and truly leaving no child behind.

I will always oppose any proposal that would inject an “only the strong or wealthy survive” mentality into public education. I call that “social Darwinism,” and it has no place in discussions about the institution created to educate everyone. In fact, the “only the strong survive” mentality is inconsistent with the purpose of public schools.

A few weeks ago, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett called for a longer school year and longer school days. Her proposal is to add an hour to each school day and five days to the annual school year.

The average length of the school year in the United States is 180 days of instruction; technically, that is what Oklahoma requires, but students only have to be in the classroom for 175 days. That compares poorly to other countries that have school years of 220 to 240 days.

I look forward to studying this proposal before the 2008 session of the Legislature convenes in February. It certainly deserves serious consideration because it will impact the future of almost every child in our state.

Sadly, though, some prefer to use our children’s future as a political football. Because the position of state Superintendent is an elected post, some took her proposal as a chance to take political shots at the superintendent rather than engage in a serious discussion of her proposal, questioning why education is not better under her leadership.

The opponents of public education suggest the institution should be “perfect.” The reality is public education’s opponents know that no institution created by man will ever be perfect. They use that premise to undermine the institution, to the detriment of us all.

We do, however, have a responsibility to constantly improve public education. There will, no doubt, be disagreements on the best way to make public education better. The cornerstone I always use in those debates is my unshakable belief that public education must serve all the students, every child from every background.

We have what I believe to be a sacred responsibility to make public schools the best they can be for every child, period. If one child is left behind, our entire future is diminished and our children deserve better than that.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

1 comment:

Jon said...

I think the length of the school year and school day isn't addressing the problem in our schools. I think we don't hold the schools and teachers accountable for teaching our students. You in the legislature have given them pay raises across the board whether they deserve it or not. Where is the incentive for them to inprove if you give them more money without demanding better performance.

Why is it that you in the legislature are so concerned about bringing up the teacher pay to the reginal average and yet you don't demand that test scores be improved?