Public education needs community advocacy to help meet the needs of children
Advocacy has a simple definition. It is the act or process of supporting a cause. There are many organizations, including the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, that focus on advocacy as a way to advance the cause of public education by sharing both the good stories and the needs of the greater school district in our state. Collectively, our voices are powerful with policy makers, community leaders, influencers and partners.
School districts themselves take an active role in advocacy and this is done in a variety of ways, including direct lobbying on Capitol Hill. Oklahoma City Public Schools recently hosted a breakfast with local legislators and community leaders to share their priorities and directly ask for help in promoting positive legislation for public education and defeating harmful bills. . The District Leaders also introduced Jason Dunnington and Matt Latham as their lobbyists who will work on their behalf in the upcoming session. They are both long-time advocates of public education and familiar with the legislative arena.
Advocacy for public education dates back to our nation’s earliest years. In the early years, many children were excluded because of their race or ethnic origin, gender, geographic location and social class. Once a more formal system was developed, advocates spoke of the need to invest in universal education, free for students and funded by states. From the middle of the 20th century, there was a new push to provide equitable education for all students. After World War II, public schools took on the additional role of providing services to meet children’s other social needs, such as food insecurity. Today’s public schools are also meeting the socio-emotional and trauma support needs of our children. The COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years has only increased these needs in school districts around the world.
It is well known and documented that there has been a plethora of good and bad reforms over the years. We now have a fairly decentralized system, with authority split between local, state and federal levels. There continue to be discussions and a very difficult situation ensues with the search and the realization of a common mission. Although quite complicated, it is not rocket science. We don’t have to agree on everything, but agreeing that all students have the right to a quality education is not difficult at all. How to achieve this can be debated, but it is imperative to focus on this shared mission.
As we begin a new year and look ahead to the upcoming legislative session, it is imperative that we all support the need for the highest quality public education system for all of our children, speak up and make our voice heard.
Mary Mélon-Tully is president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma Public Education Needs Community Advocacy