Recently, Stillwater Board of Education announced that it would not change course on its policy of allowing boys to use the girls’ toilets unless they had “no choice” from teachers. state officials.
They have taken this position despite the countless requests for lesson changes from Stillwater parents and the fact that the few gender-nonconforming students can easily use a one-stall bathroom at school. Stillwater’s board followed the recommendations of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister’s agency and ignored both parents’ wishes and actual legal requirements.
For parents wondering why local school boards — not just in Oklahoma, but nationwide — seem increasingly indifferent to the needs of student families, an answer can be found in the fact that most School board elections are held in the spring, resulting in very low voter turnout.
This has major negative consequences for families, as research from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute has shown. This review covered data from four states, including Oklahoma, and showed that low turnout elections made school boards susceptible to only a relative handful of voters who had little in common, on the economically and racially, with the children served by a district.
In fact, the researchers found that “the majority of voters in a typical school election in each of the four states we examine are ‘unlikely’ to have children.”
Simply put, the spring election means school boards are controlled by people who don’t have kids in the district and don’t care what most parents think.
“The American system of deference to local school boards in making critical decisions about educational governance rests on the assumption that the goals of the voters who elect those boards will be aligned with the educational interests of public school students. “, wrote the researchers. “Our analysis highlights several reasons to doubt the validity of this assumption in many contexts.”
Fortunately, Oklahoma lawmakers are working to address this issue and have advanced Senate Bill 962, by Senate Pro Tempore Speaker Greg Treat, which would move the general election for school board seats to November.
It’s a common sense idea, so naturally the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, United Suburban Schools Association, Organization of Rural OK Schools, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and Oklahoma Association for Career and Technical Education are on board. oppose.
These groups say Oklahomans will be “less informed about school board candidates if they appear on a general election ballot” and that there will be “less meaningful conversation about school board issues.” local education.
Seriously? The current system involves almost no meaningful conversation or voter education. In March 2021, less than 4% of eligible voters participated in a district-wide primary election for Oklahoma City School Board President. Recent “high profile” school board races in Edmond drew about 7% of voters.
In contrast, voter turnout in the November elections is much higher.
Those who oppose school election reform are not fighting for better schools. They are fighting to stop parents from having influence in Oklahoma classrooms.