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Preparing for the 2021 Oklahoma Legislative Session: A Call to Action

Preparing for the 2021 Oklahoma Legislative Session: A Call to Action

As I write this, Oklahoma legislators are just a few days away from submitting their initial bill requests for the 2021 session. It appears, with everything we have collectively experienced since March 2020, they should have myriad potential legislative ideas to choose from, some pressing and some maybe not so vital. It is a sure bet that education will again be at the forefront of their minds along with elections and issues impacting our general workforce. To add some fuel to the fire, the state budget outlook is, let's just say, far less than ideal. If the past year has taught us anything, it has taught all of us to focus on what is important for strong communities. We have learned the value of small things we once took for granted and have been exposed to inequities we knew existed but never had to confront head on. But I think the most important lesson brought to the collective consciousness is that small actions really do have a mighty impact.

When we start to read legislation in late January and early February, we'll have an even bigger task at hand--taking into account all these lessons and really paying attention to how all the newly proposed bills and rules really impact our daily lives. As educators, you have seen firsthand how once navigable challenges such as student access to school lunches and breakfast have become even more difficult and necessary. Issues that have been put on the back burner of state policy, like student mobility and family engagement, are now critically at the forefront.

I am writing this, my first newsletter article, as a call to action to both legislators and educators. As we navigate the 2021 session, use these lessons learned as your lens for action. Focus on the most important issues of student equity and support. Pull those back-burner issues forward and immediately address things like our worsening teacher shortage and how to adequately measure student progress. The time is ripe for bold action and big ideas. Legislators have heard parent frustrations for months but need to remember they typically hear the worst and very little about how teachers have risen to the challenges or how districts have gone above and beyond to meet students' needs. Educators need to be on the lookout for reactionary policy and address their concerns with their elected officials on every level available. Be ready to advocate for policy changes that support families in meaningful ways outside of education issues. If you did not have the evidence that strong families with economic and social safety nets increase student achievement before March 2020, you probably do now.

No matter what happens during this legislative session, education as we know it is going to be greatly impacted. Now is the time for all of us to decide what it is going to look like.

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