Obscure Election Dates Undermine Parents’ Influence

In 2020, parents urged the school board at Deer Creek to provide full-time, in-person instruction to students. However, the board opted to continue with COVID distance learning for many students.

Yet recent reports show officials at Deer Creek schools also allowed charity fundraisers to include events where students lick peanut butter off people’s feet.

Former Deer Creek students told FOX 25 that students could buy their way out of the gross-out events, which meant lower-income students were often targeted and pressured to participate at the “fundraisers,” which have been occurring for years.

The disconnect is not simply the district’s diametrically opposite concern about sanitation and disease in one instance versus another, but the fact that in both cases parents’ wishes were ignored (at least, one presumes most parents don’t want their kids licking feet).

Similar events have taken place in schools across Oklahoma.

In Stillwater, parents urged the district to stop allowing boys to use the girls’ bathrooms, saying transgender-identifying youth should instead be given access to single-stall facilities. Yet Stillwater Superintendent Gay Washington and school board members ignored parents and announced they would not change course unless expressly forced to by lawmakers.

An aunt raising a six-year-old nephew recently reported that the child had been sent to the emergency room twice from bullying-related injuries at Tulsa Public Schools, but school officials have done little to stop the abuse.

https://www.fox23.com/news/woman-says-6-year-old-nephew-has-been-left-with-multiple-injuries-after-being-beaten/article_2f7fe04c-ddc9-11ee-b982-7b14e2293958.html

“I feel like I have to put him in Taekwondo to go to kindergarten to protect himself,” Connie Laney-Golden told FOX 23.

Why do so many school officials seem so indifferent to the needs of the students and families they are supposed to serve?

One reason is that our school board elections are designed to minimize voter participation. They are scheduled on almost random, low-turnout dates with little public notice. That ensures the people put into power answer to only a small — very small — sliver of the public, and parents are often left out.

Oklahoma’s local school board elections on April 5, 2022, drew an average of 4 percent of voters.

State Representative Chris Banning, R-Bixby, and State Senator Ally Seifried, R-Claremore, have authored House Bill 3563 and Senate Bill 244, respectively, which move school board elections to the general and primary elections already taking place in June and November of even-numbered years.

http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb3563&Session=2400

That would guarantee greater public input into schools. The November 2022 elections, which included statewide races such as governor, drew 50.35 percent of voters, while the November 2020 elections, when the presidential race topped the ballot, attracted 69.34 percent of voters.

The school board selects the superintendent and oversees the school system, so school officials pay attention to those who select the school board. It’s time to ensure that more voters — including parents — are part of that group.

NOTES: Jonathan Small’s analysis first appeared online, here: It has been re-posted with permission.

https://ocpathink.org/post/analysis/obscure-election-dates-undermine-parents-influence

Mr. Small is the president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), working from offices near the State Capitol. His articles appear regularly here at CapitolBeatOK.com, CityNewsOKC.com, and in that newspaper’s regular print editions.