Editor’s Note: OKGrassroots will be releasing a feature series on Education Policy and the recent Election Cycle in Oklahoma. We will take time to explore ideological differences and how those are playing out in – not only the political realm – but the public square as well as we publish information we have collected on the ‘Teacher Caucus’. Not everyone in politics tells the truth. Not all sources are reliable. Do your own homework. Follow the money. OKGrassroots hopes these articles will help people to connect the dots and make informed choices at the ballot box. Decisions are still being made in run-offs around the state./sc
This is the third article in our feature series on OKGrassroots:
#3 What or Who Is The “Teacher Caucus”?
For several weeks around this year’s primary election here in Oklahoma, the news media filed a number of stories about teachers frustrated by budget cuts, and lack of raises – dubbed ‘The Teacher Caucus’ – who were going to take matters into their own hands and run for political office to make changes in education policy at the state capitol (see blog #2).
So, who or what is the “Teacher Caucus” to which the media is referring?
According to a NewsOk Story, “Many Oklahoma educators plan to run for Legislature”, “Angela Clark Little, the mother of two fourth-grade students in Edmond, said a pro-education group she formed, Parents and Educators for Public Education,” is encouraging teachers to run for office as part of its mission.
The article also says that a “separate independent political action committee will be raising money to push education issues.”
Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education (OPEPE) operates a closed Facebook page with 24,484 members. It has seven administrators, Monica Whiteley, Tristy Fryer, Claudia Swisher, Kenny Ward, Ric West, Jamie McGowen Minter and Angela Clark Little. Its current mission is, “… to bring awareness to the truths of the current education reform being forced upon districts, throughout Oklahoma, from state and federal officials. We want to protect and preserve public schools and public education.”
A link was provided at the bottom of a News 9 Story on educators filing for state House and Senate seats, to a PAC created “to support any pro-public education candidates by a group called Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education.”
The link directs to a page called bonfirefunds. There it says OPEPE has formed a PAC called Oklahomans for Public Education (they do have a Facebook page, Oklahomans for Public Education) and they are selling T-shirts to raise funds to support public education candidates because “we’ve seen how important it is to have the right people in office.”
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has a current filing for the PAC Oklahomans for Public Education, but OPE has not yet filed its 2nd Quarter Contributions and Expenditure Report (due 7/31).
According to another page, OPE has a Board comprised of 16 members:
- Tyler Bridges, Assistant Superintendent of Clinton Public Schools,
- Rick Cobb, Superintendent of MidDel Schools (152,000/yr salary),
- Dallas Koehn, Social Studies teacher at Union Intermediate high School in Tulsa, Rob Miller,
- Claudia Swisher, a retired Oklahoma public school teacher,
- Rob Miller, Assistant Superintendent of Sand Springs,
- Jeffery Corbett, Federal Legislative Chair of the Oklahoma PTA,
- Kenny Ward, Principal, Bridge Creek Middle School,
- Clay McDonald, Piedmont High School Assistant Principal and President-Elect of the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals (OASSP), an arm of CCOSA
- Jamie Minter, former 5th grade teacher at John Ross Elementary in Edmond
- Shelly Hickman, is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Stand for Children, Oklahoma (link)
- Tristy Fryer, Education Director at Thrive Kids, her kids are enrolled in Bixby Public Schools
- Roland Smith, Superintendent, Lane Public Schools, Lane, Oklahoma
- Jeanne McGowen, along with Jamie McGowen Minter, is identified as setting up the OPE PAC
- Mindy Dennison, vocal music teacher at Carl Albert High School
- Monica Whiteley
Many of these members have blogs through which they express their thoughts and opinions about public education policy, pass on information about education legislation and call other education activists to action.
- Rick Cobb – Oklahoma Education Truths, Okeducationtruths on Facebook, @okeducation on Twitter
- Dallas Koehn – Blue Cereal Education, Blue Cereal Education on Facebook, @BlueCerealEdu on Twitter
- Claudia Swisher – Fourth Generation Teacher, Claudia Swisher on Facebook, @ClaudiaSwisher on Twitter
- Rob Miller – A View From The Edge, Rob Miller on Facebook, @edgeblogger on Twitter
- Mindy Dennison – THISTEACHERSINGS, Mindy Dennison on Facebook, @MrsDSings on Twitter
This group, along with other public educators, the State Department of Education, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Tweet under the hashtag #oklaed. This press release, “#OklaEd Unites Educators on Twitter” from the Oklahoma State Department of Education explains the #oklaed hashtag.
What is the difference between the personal opinion of a tax-paid employee shared through a blog and those shared on their job?
If the personal opinions of tax-paid employees are not meant to be reflective of their jobs, how are the personal opinion and the job separated in the public square?
What happens when there is crossover between personal opinion and job – who decides when that occurs?
How are parents and students being introduced to other opinions than those provided by the employees of their school and district?
In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, we will take time to explore these ideological differences and how those are playing out in – not only the political realm – but the public square as well as publish information we have collected on the ‘Teacher Caucus’.
For additional information see also:
I live in Bartlesville Oklahoma now, but I grew up in Texas. I was a cofounder of the Associated Conservatives of Texas in the 90's, serve on the Traveling Liberty Bell board, was a co-founder of R3publicans in 2008, Constitutional Liberty Coalition (a multistate effort) and OKGrassroots in 2009. We are working together to restore the republic and proclaim liberty throughout the land! Finding Gems & Sharing Them - my personal blog * R3publicans * OKGrassroots * Constitutional Liberty Coalition