Oklahoma Teachers Make Silencing Parents A Priority

As parents have started their move to get more control over their children’s school – school choice, curriculum transparency, mask mandates, and the like – National Director of Research at the American Federation For Children, Corey DeAngelis, has one warning – “Wake up, parents.” His warning, at the moment, is directed at parents in Oklahoma where Oklahoma teachers are beginning to push back.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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As parents have started their move to get more control over their children’s school – school choice, curriculum transparency, mask mandates, and the like – National Director of Research at the American Federation For Children, Corey DeAngelis, has one warning – “Wake up, parents.” His warning, at the moment, is directed at parents in Oklahoma where Oklahoma teachers are beginning to push back.

DeAngelis tweeted out his warning and with an attached image from OCPA that read: A top official at the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, recently decried growing parental involvement in public schools and said the union will work to counter parent voices during this year’s state legislative session.

Ivy Riggs is the OEA’s associate executive director for the Center of Legislative and Political Organizing. She recently was interviewed by the OEA, an interview they posted on their website. In the interview, Riggs lamented the 2021 legislative session. She said, “the only contact legislators were receiving was coming from angry parents who were frustrated with what was happening in schools.”

It got to the point where Riggs began to worry. Then worry more. She is worried now “because what we’re seeing is a lot of screaming and yelling at school board meetings and parents that have never been involved before now want to take over school boards. Legislators are hearing from those parents.” So now, the OEA and Oklahoma teachers have a master plan – silence parents.

To make that happen, Riggs says the OEA, in support of Oklahoma teachers, has received funding from the National Education Association (NEA), the OEA’s national parent, that will fund bringing in educators and support staff to Oklahoma City for the 2022 legislative session. They will pay for hotels and then take these people the next morning to the state capitol to lobby against parents speaking out.

Not only will they cover those costs, but the funding the OEA is getting from the NEA will also cover the cost of bringing in substitute Oklahoma teachers to replace those permanent classroom teachers if they should decide to go to the capitol and lobby legislators for the union. Oklahoma teachers, with the union’s backing, have drawn a line in the sand. Opponents of this line feel, ultimately, it won’t be enough and insist that parents will have their say.

Choice Matters executive director Robert Ruiz is one who feels parents should have their say in how their children are taught. Ruiz works with a number of parents across the state in helping them get their voices heard. He says that groups like the OEA are making a large mistake if they think parents are going to roll over and keep quiet.

“The feeling from parents is that they’ve been excluded from the conversations,” Ruiz said via OCPA. “This just goes to further show that there is an active effort to exclude parents’ voices when ultimately the parent voice should be the most important voice when it comes to their child’s education. Otherwise, you’re really trampling on the rights of these parents because it is an inalienable human right for a parent to be able to decide where and how their child is educated. Those rights in many cases have been taken away from parents, and parents’ voices have been excluded from these conversations, and that’s not okay. Parents are frustrated and they’re tired of it. They’ve said, ‘Enough is enough.’ And they’re going to be engaged.”

Ruiz noted that Oklahoma teachers, more so the teacher’s unions, want parents to stay in their lane which, in the minds of Oklahoma educators, consists of fundraising or parent-teacher conferences. Other than that, they would simply like the parents to shut up. Ruiz says, though, parents definitely will not be shutting up. They now understand how important it is to involve themselves in school policy and other issues that impact their children. “This is what real parent engagement looks like,” Ruiz said. “And it’s absolutely necessary for us to improve outcomes for students.”

Riggs detailed what she thinks parents, with the help of legislation, will be focusing on during the 2022 legislative session. She says she expects “more mandates and prohibitions on LGBTQ students.” She also says that parents are also going to speak out more in preventing critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in schools. Riggs counters by saying CRT is not being taught by Oklahoma teachers.

“I think we’re going to see more attempts at mandating what we can teach with curriculum limitations,” Riggs said. “I think we have a few folks out there who are pushing the envelope of what they are discussing in the classroom, but overall, none of these concerns are legitimate. But where it is happening, legislators are hearing about it. It’s problematic because those legislators believe it’s happening on a wider scale.”

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The battle to silence parents by Oklahoma teachers has begun. At stake is the well-being of children across the state. How much say-so should parents have? Should they be involved in school policy or, like Ruiz noted, should they just “shut up” to appease teachers and unions? It’s all coming to a head, and soon.