Albert Einstein famously said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If that’s true, Oklahoma’s education system is on the brink of insanity.
For decades, Oklahoma leaders have been complacent with an out-of-date system that traps students into their zip code assigned school. As a result, Oklahoma ranks near the bottom in student performance, test scores, and grade averages on a national level.
It’s not for lack of funding. We’ve invested billions of dollars into education since I came into office in 2019. And while funding education is a responsibility of government, pumping money into failing systems is simply not working.
To be sure, we have taken positive steps in education over the last four years. We’ve signed laws like removing zip code barriers for public school parents who want to send their child to another school district, modernized our funding formula, and provided our best and brightest teachers a pathway to make up to $100,000 in the classroom, but as the data shows, more change is needed.
Quality Counts’ 2021 report card ranked Oklahoma 49th on education opportunities and performance. We suffered some of the largest learning losses in the nation in the wake of the pandemic. In fact, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported an eight-point drop in Oklahoma’s 4th grade reading and a seven point drop in 8th grade reading compared to a nationwide average decline of three points since 2019.
These rankings are not reflective of Oklahoma students who are every bit as capable as students in New York and Virginia and Tennessee. These rankings are reflective of our broken system. (RELATED: JOHN STOSSEL: Students Are Defending Freedom)
And parents have had enough. They spoke at the ballot box last November when I was handily elected after running on a platform of empowering parents and providing more options for their child’s education. I heard them loud and clear again yesterday at the Oklahoma State Capital when hundreds drove from across the state to join our Parent Power Rally.
Right now, the future of our state’s education is in our hands. Are we going to keep funding systems or are we going to start funding students? Not every kid learns the same. Each child deserves the option to choose a school that best fits their unique needs, regardless of their economic status or background.
More states are expanding choice, like Iowa where Governor Kim Reynolds signed the Students First Act earlier this year. That’s because giving parents options leads to better outcomes. It’s not a coincidence that Florida, which is consistently ranked top in the nation in education, also leads the pack in education freedom.
As governor, I will not allow Oklahoma to be left behind. Because our greatest asset isn’t our oil and gas, or our football teams, or our aerospace and defense industry.
It’s our kids.
Oklahoma students deserve education freedom now. They can’t wait another year. If the Legislature can deliver, I will be at my desk, pen in hand, ready to sign into law the reform our kids deserve.
Kevin Stitt is the currently serving as the governor of Oklahoma.
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