I’ve always been a firm believer in learning from others. This week, I had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of educators and civil servants who visited the Capitol to lobby for more funding. I learned something new with each conversation.
You shared stories about classroom supply shortfalls – cracked desks and crumbling textbooks. You spoke about second jobs you took just to help support your families. You talked about the amount of money you’ve poured into new crayons, paper, pencils and pens because your students didn’t have the supplies.
But for every sad story I heard of Oklahoma falling short, I listened to 10 more from educators bragging on their students. They spoke of the promising research papers their high schoolers were writing. They boasted about their third graders who were working day-in and day-out to learn to read at grade-level. Some teachers said they’d gladly donate a portion of their salary increase if it meant more individualized attention with their students.
I’d say lawmakers made progress this past week, but let’s be clear – it was the educators. The House and Senate passed bills to fund education. Those bills are not a magic fix, but both are great steps toward funding our future.
We still have lots of work to do in improving our state’s educational system. And based on the conversations I’ve heard over the past week, I’ve become convinced it will take more than just money. Funds are crucial, of course, but teachers have shared other frustrations with the system we should look at closely as we move forward. And I’m relying on you to help me make those changes.
When I was in seminary, I was a substitute teacher to make ends meet, but that experience makes me no expert in the classroom. Our teachers are on the front lines, and they’re the ones who know best. Lawmakers would be wise to talk less and listen more to their concerns. Will we accomplish erasing all of the cuts to education over the years in this session? Probably not. But genuine listening will lead to big changes for the next generation of Oklahomans.
Education is the focus of funding at the moment, and rightly so. However, we have many other areas feeling the pain. Our rural nursing homes and hospitals, our prison system, our mental health system, our intellectually and developmentally disabled population, our roads and bridges program and many other areas also need attention and funding. I believe it is my job to make sure all areas receive what they need. It is also my job to make sure all of these areas, including education, are running efficiently. I have learned working as your representative that you want two things: you want your state government funded, and you want it to run efficiently (without waste). I intend to work toward these goals.
You know how to reach me if you need anything. Just email Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or call 405-557-7327. Thanks, and God bless.