I said this to two people today when they reported reading some hateful falsehoods on a story posted online about our district. I typically follow my own advice, but when one of my board members takes the time to forward a message stream to me, I tend to look at them.
Luckily, I am able to correct some misinformation contained in the posts. No one expects all Oklahomans to be school finance experts. I am also not an expert, but I do have enough information that I hope to provide some clarity to people who have expressed strong definitive positions on issues, but might not have the facts to support those positions.
I’ll get to the point.
The posts stem from an article about the brand new middle school being built in Putnam City to replace the aging (I’d say it’s the oldest building in the district, since it served as PCHS for a while) Capps Middle School. The new building is absolutely beautiful and offers an educational environment that will enhance the middle school model, providing our children with a world-class opportunity to learn in the most effective environment.
One commenter said, “Its [sic] almost as if they have no limits and no budgets for these taxpayer funded [sic] projects.” Well, that is not true. I don’t know if this person is in the construction trades and therefore would know more than I about the cost of materials, etc., but this building is being built according to a budget approved by the taxpayers in our district. Our school board approves all major expenditures of this type, and they are not inclined to be wasteful with money. I can attest to this firsthand.
Another person wrote, “So why are they whining about tight school budgets?” We continue to advocate for increased funding because we still do not have enough money to hire the number of teachers we need. Across our state and nation, there is a teacher shortage. This drives up class sizes which can drive down the quality of individual instruction. We cannot use bond money for teacher salaries.
I repeat, we cannot use bond money (which builds buildings, provides buses, etc.) for teacher salaries.
That is against state law.
Another commenter posted, “Yeah let’s raise our taxes so we can fund and build their schools!!! Smdh” I am not certain what “Smdh” means, but from context clues I am guessing it is not a positive thing. The most concerning part of this sentence is “their schools.” If you live in Putnam City, these are your schools. What happens in that building has an effect on your neighborhood. How it looks affects your property value. So even if you don’t have children in school anymore, why would you not want the local kids to have the best school possible?
In this same stream, there is a little back and forth about how good teaching can happen in any building, and that our kids don’t need much more than metal buildings and masonry block. I do understand why people would say that, but let me draw a parallel.
For the most part, what was considered good medicine 50 years ago is still true. Today we could visit doctors who are more seasoned and get techniques and treatments from decades ago which are still effective. Why do you think your mom gives you a teaspoon of baking soda when you have a stomach ache? It’s an old wives’ tale, but it actually works.
But, because of advances in science, we can actually offer better medicine — more effective, fewer side effects, etc. Sure the old stuff works, but don’t we owe it to our health to use the more advanced treatments? Shouldn’t we take in the new information we’ve gained from science and apply that to our lives?
Well, education is really no different. We can teach the same way we taught 50 years ago, and our students would learn for sure. But we’ve done a lot of research on how people learn, and even more importantly, on how the brain works. That brain science is being figured into curriculum decisions, behavior plans, and yes, even this building that looks so cutting edge. Don’t we owe it to our students to use the more effective techniques? Shouldn’t we take in the new information we’ve gained from science and apply it to their lives?