Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Small: Bathroom bill a symptom of school-funding system

Bathroom bill a symptom of school-funding system
By Jonathan Small

Oklahoma parents often ask why, in conservative states like Oklahoma, do they nonetheless face left-wing woke agendas in public schools?

The answer lies in the fact that Oklahoma’s funding system gives taxpayer money to schools regardless of academic performance or parental satisfaction. That makes school boards and administrators largely indifferent to the actual needs of their communities, because either way they get paid—and often get increased funding.

That’s why some Oklahoma schools mandated that boys could use the girls’ bathrooms, regardless of parental concerns, as happened in Stillwater.

One defense put forth by Stillwater administrators was that they had been allowing boys in the girls’ bathrooms for years. That was yet another sign that even Oklahoma schools have been inciting identity politics. But most parents never supported that bathroom policy, and objections increased with the number of students who exploited the policy in Stillwater.

Fortunately, numerous policymakers stepped up and sided with families this year, including Gov. Kevin Stitt; Secretary of Education Ryan Walters; Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor; state Reps. John Talley, Kevin West, and Danny Williams; and state Sen. David Bullard. All pushed back against out-of-control school bureaucracies ranging from local school boards to Democrat State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, whose agency told schools they were required to allow boys in girls’ restrooms.

The legislation codifies common sense and acknowledges reality: Boys and girls are different. There are valid reasons to keep the sexes separated in settings that involve some level of undressing, particularly given the many documented instances where transgender-bathroom policies have facilitated abuse of women—even rape.

The legislation also protects students who suffer from gender dysphoria by requiring that schools provide access to single-stall facilities when a child is not comfortable using the bathroom that aligns with his or her sex.

The main argument put forth by opponents was that bad things already happen in school restrooms. State Rep. Regina Goodwin even declared, “The rape is happening right now in today’s schools. They go unreported, right there in Tulsa.”

But the proper answer to student rape is not to shrug it off and open the door for further abuses. Instead, policymakers should address the existing problem and eliminate it.

Unfortunately, many school officials still feel free to impose left-wing agendas in the classroom, even in the most conservative Oklahoma communities. If Oklahoma funded students, not systems, that dynamic would change. Parents would be empowered, and school officials could not afford to ignore them.

The bathroom bill is a win for parents, but they deserve more. The ability to tell school officials they will lose students and funding when they anger local families is much more impactful than telling them parents will contact their lawmakers.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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