“Please turn to…err, hmm…”

This morning Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hoffmeister, released a memo announcing the state’s suspension of textbook funding for next school year. You may read the first paragraph of the news release below:

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 8, 2016) – The state Legislature’s elimination of all funds designated for school textbooks has forced the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to recommend a one-year delay of textbook selection. Although $33 million was appropriated for textbooks in Fiscal Year 2016, legislators zeroed out the line item for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Ironically, Hoffmeister’s last news release “Applaud[ed] Public Education Achievements in Legislative Session” (that’s from the title of her press release). I’ve quoted part of that release below:
Not least of this session’s accomplishments was a flat budget appropriation for PreK-12 public schools.
“It was imperative that, while our state faced a truly historic budget shortfall, we fund kids first,” said Hofmeister. “It took tremendous effort on the part of legislative leaders and the governor to cushion the impact on Oklahoma schoolchildren. Other agencies received gut-wrenching cuts, and despite significant challenges ahead for public schools, we believe this budget represents the best-case scenario under difficult circumstances.”
Now, I’m about to say something that may seem utterly and totally mad. Please keep in mind, when I began teaching in Oklahoma City, there were literally NO textbooks provided for my courses (I teach English for newcomers to the United States).

Perhaps this is an opportunity for the state to rethink its curriculum. Perhaps, teachers could be hired (since they have deep content knowledge of their subject areas) to develop texts that are truly teachable. Because the money isn’t currently there, perhaps the state could suspend its payment for the development of these texts until the next fiscal year. I’m willing to bet that Oklahoma educators could create a fantastic curriculum (and receive much deserved reimbursement) for the 33 million dollars the state was slated to spend for the 2016 fiscal year.

I say this because I have been in the position myself in which I had to write my own curriculum. In fact, I am currently writing curriculum for my school district (I’m receiving modest reimbursement, which I appreciate, but when you compare my wage to that of the massive textbook companies, the contrast is stark.) Why not pull from the talent the state already has? Why purchase a product that teachers don’t even find useful (in many cases)?

I am not saying that it is okay that the legislature slashed funding for textbooks, I’m really not. They failed Oklahoma children, and those who voted for the budget should not be reelected to office. What I am trying to say is that Oklahoma educators aren’t as dumb as some might think. We love our subject areas, and our students; we also know what works! Why not give us a chance to prove our metal?

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