Parent Voice Oklahoma successfully upends status quo in local School Board races
Published: February 23rd, 2021
Candidates affiliated with the group Parent Voice Oklahoma (PVO) found success in last night’s local school board elections, with two PVO-endorsed candidates finishing in first place and another automatically going on to an April run-off.
PVO was launched in November of 2020, when it held a rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol calling for schools to reopen for in-person instruction. Since then, the organization has worked to field candidates that are committed to empowering parents and ensuring their voices are heard.
In the February 9 school board elections, Margaret Best of Edmond and Marshall Baker of Stillwater, both supported by PVO, finished first in their respective elections and will now be in April run-off elections.
In Deer Creek, Derek Lariviere, who helped organize the November PVO rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol, will automatically be placed in an April run-off.
As explained in a post-election press release from Parent Voice Oklahoma, “In districts where PVO worked to field candidates, turnout also increased dramatically. In Edmond, the last competitive election for school board had 1098 votes cast. In 2021, that number rose to 2248.”
The PVO press release, sent to CapitolBeatOK.com, The City Sentinel newspaper and other news organizations, continued, “Even in school districts like Owasso, where PVO-backed candidate Kristin Vivar missed a runoff by 15 votes, grassroots organization helped increase turnout from 1223 votes cast in the last election cycle to 1868 this year.
“Parent Voice Oklahoma has also worked with state lawmakers to support significant education reform legislation. That includes Senate Bill 210, which allows a member of a school district board of education to be removed from office by a recall petition; House Bill 2241, which would fund schools based on an accurate and real-time student count; and Senate Bill 783, which allows for a more open transfer policy between school districts.”
Robert Ruiz is the executive director of ChoiceMatters, an Oklahoma City based non-profit that has helped to support PVO. He says parents in Oklahoma are realizing that organization, electoral success and sustained activism are the ways to create meaningful change in schools.
“Parents are generally not invited to the table when it comes to major decisions about public education,” said Ruiz.
“Our educational bureaucracy is entrenched and uninterested in sharing power unless it has to. As I tell our parents, ‘power respects power.’ What we saw [in the election] is parents organizing, entering the political fray, and refusing to be denied power over their children’s education. Parent Voice Oklahoma deserves a lot of credit for igniting that spark and potentially helping Oklahoma change course when it comes to big decisions about public education.”
For more information on Parent Voice Oklahoma, go to parentvoiceok.org.