Former Educators: “New Normal” Must Mean “New Respect” for Public Ed
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two lawmakers with a background in public education today identified several different requirements that the Oklahoma State Department of Education should guarantee before restarting in-person instruction.
State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, is a former educator and administrator, and State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, is a former public school teacher. Still deeply connected to the education community, these two lawmakers identified seven different needs that must be met before school can resume in the fall.
“2020 is no typical year,” Provenzano said. “When adding COVID-19 to crowded classrooms, hallways, and lunchtime, you begin to understand the challenge of social distancing in a school. Yet we can’t just cancel school indefinitely. We feel that ensuring these seven items is the best way for schools to ensure they are doing what is best for students, parents, teachers, and administrators”
Here are the seven needs that the Democratic legislators identified:
- Guaranteed supply of enough PPE and necessary cleaning supplies for all staff and students.
- Classrooms and school buildings that meet new COVID-19 CDC air ventilation standards.
- Funding for all schools to get computer and internet access in the hands of every child.
- A waiver request from OSDE to the federal government to allow an exemption from federally mandated testing.
- The creation of a COVID-19 sick leave policy that protects teachers and students.
- The development of standard operating procedures for when COVID-19 is transmitted at school.
- Alternative education sites to continue education in the event of a teacher contracting COVID-19.
The lawmakers see these seven items as necessary to ensure the most productive, safe education environment possible.
“Nobody is saying cancel the school year,” Waldron said. “What we are saying is that before we rush students into classrooms, let’s ensure the classrooms are safe, well equipped, and ready to meet the demands of this ongoing pandemic.”
On top of the seven items listed, the House Democrats echoed words from Gov. Kevin Stitt while calling for a stop to education funding threats.
“We have heard repeatedly now that we are in a ‘new normal,’” Provenzano said. “As policymakers from the president down have all spoken about the economic importance of schools being open, as former educators we hope that in this ‘new normal’ we will see a new respect for public education.
“It is unfair to ask administrators to navigate these volatile waters while also dealing with continual threats of education cuts from politicians trying to score political points.”