It’s intellectually dishonest for local corporate media outlets here to cover the state’s new A to F ranking of schools without mentioning how much education funding has been cut in Oklahoma in recent years.
It’s difficult to take the new ranking system seriously in the first place, given its inherent flaws, but to even discuss the issue without noting that of all states Oklahoma has cut education funding on a percentage basis the most since 2008 is a fallacy.
As I’ve written before, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown that Oklahoma has cut education funding by 23 percent since 2008. That’s a staggering cut. It’s simply indefensible to implement a new draconian ranking system of schools after such a decrease in funding. It’s also obvious that when considered together, the funding cuts and the A to F system represent the culmination of a right-wing agenda to damage the credibility of public education here. It’s a classic case of “starve the beast” ideology.
School superintendents, teachers, parents and education advocates here have spoken out against the ranking system to no avail yet. University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State researchers have found the system heavily flawed. But still state Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and Gov. Mary Fallin support a system that relies too much on standardized testing and employs a questionable and not widely accepted mathematical model to calculate the grade for each school and district in the state.
It’s also absolutely unproductive to figuratively paint a school or a school district with a giant, red “F.” It serves no purpose, except to advance the conservative agenda of privatizing public education. Barresi and Fallin are Republicans, of course, and the GOP completely dominates state government right now.
Let’s be clear on this point: Education advocates are not claiming there shouldn’t be some testing or that those overall test results shouldn’t be available to parents. Transparency is always crucial when it comes to schools.
The system seems clearly biased on racial and class levels as well. The Oklahoma City School District, which has a diverse group of students when it comes to ethnicity and socio-economic status, received a F. The Edmond School district, with its more homogenized and wealthier student body, received an A-. Why attack inner city schools in this public, demeaning way? Don’t these results seem almost contrived as a “crisis” to precipitate some orchestrated takeover of at least some schools?
Fortunately, there is a new “Education Spring” developing in this country. Jeff Byrant describes it this way:
In a months-long Education Spring, students, parents, teachers and community activists staged boisterous rallies, street demonstrations, school walkouts, test boycotts, and other actions to protest government austerity and top-down “accountability” mandates that damage community schools and diminish students’ opportunities to learn.
It will probably take similar actions here to end the assault on public education. One simple strategy locally, as I mentioned earlier, might be to put pressure on media outlets to note how much education funding has been cut in recent years when they cover the controversial ranking system. There can be no real discussion of any school ranking system without acknowledging the state’s dismal funding of education. To not consider that issue as part of the overall equation when it comes to public education here is simply dishonest.
It’s been easy to expose the flaws in the A to F system, but the larger political issues underpinning the rankings-decreased funding for education and the conservative push for charter and for-profit schools-remain extremely important as well.