Tuesday, November 24, 2020

'Parent Voice Oklahoma' launches at state capitol protest over school closures

'Parent Voice Oklahoma' Launches in Wake of School Closures

OKLAHOMA CITY – Parents from across the state today held a rally to protest school closures and a lack of parent involvement in education decisions. Now, many of those parents have organized to launch a new group: Parent Voice Oklahoma. The group exists to elevate the role of parents in regard to educational decisions at the school, district and state level.

Parent Voice Oklahoma starts with chapters in Owasso, Deer Creek, and Stillwater. Parents from Heritage Academy, a new Epic Charter School program that emphasizes bilingual learning and Hispanic culture and heritage, have also launched a chapter.

Dana Walsh, who attended today’s rally at the State Capitol, said she got involved with Parent Voice Oklahoma because she feels parents are being ignored by local school districts.

“We are tired of not being listened to,” said Walsh, an Owasso parent. “Our school boards are making decisions that impact the health and wellbeing of our kids as well as our ability as parents to work. It is clear they are listening to unions, to politicians, and to the media, but they aren’t listening to parents. Enough is enough.”

One of the initiatives being pushed by Parent Voice Oklahoma is a petition to create a recall process for school board members who fail in their duty to represent the interests of students and parents.

“I signed the petition because the bars are open in my town, the restaurants are open, but the schools are closed,” said Derek Lereviere from Deer Creek. “What does that say about our priorities? We have to put kids and families first."   

Robert Ruiz is the executive director of ChoiceMatters, an Oklahoma City-based non-profit that helps parents organize and advocate for their interests. He said that, while school closures are a catalyst for parent action, the real problem is the top-down nature of the public school system bureaucracy.

“We currently have a public school system where a few voices at the very top are making decisions about everything from curricula to personnel to school closures,” said Ruiz. “It’s very hard for parents to get inside that bubble and to impact policy. We need to turn that system on its head, so parents are the guiding force when we develop our education priorities. The system is funded with their tax dollars and exists to educate their kids. It makes no sense to exclude them from governance. That’s what Parent Voice Oklahoma is all about.”

For more information on Parent Voice Oklahoma, go to parentvoiceok.org.


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