By Rob W. Anderson
TAHLEQUAH — Parents concerned about their children’s education have joined forces to speak out with a unified voice in their schools and at the state capitol.
The Cherokee County Parent Legislative Action Committee will hold its first meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Indian Capital Technology Center in Cherokee County.
Parents and community members concerned about public education are invited to attend the meeting to learn more about school funding, current legislation and other issues that may have an impact on the overall quality of the current public education system.
Former Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education member Luke Foster is a legislative liaison for TPS, and first learned about the Tulsa PLAC in 2012 during a vision project meeting sponsored by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration.
“The idea is to articulate some sort of document we can give to the legislators to sort of earmark the things we hold important,” he said. “Georgia had a similar document. We wanted to make our own very true to Oklahoma, and they’re still in the process of putting that document together as an official statement. When I was at these meetings, the superintendents were all telling me the legislators are listening to PLAC way more than they’re listening to them or board members. They are the ones who are sort of pushing for the change.”
School administrators around the county are working to get the word out about the Cherokee County PLAC. Thursday’s meeting offers an opportunity for parents and community members to hear from state legislators, county educators and other like officials on legislative bills and other issues affecting public education. Participants will also learn about the purpose of the county PLAC group, and how people can get involved with communicating concerns to state lawmakers.
“We have good legislators here who listen to us and understand our educational needs, but if we want to have a bigger voice statewide, it’s good to have a PLAC group here. They get a lot of the attention,” said Foster. “I think it’s a good thing, and I hope we get a lot of people involved.”
Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, is expected to attend the meeting, and invitations have been extended to Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, and Rep. William Fourkiller, D-Stilwell.
Foster said those who plan to attend the meeting need not worry about being forced into long-term commitments or responsibility. The idea is to generate awareness about the PLAC movement, and a source of contact with those who participate on individual levels by helping promote the county’s educational needs and challenges.
“I don’t want them to feel pressured to commit to anything just by coming. We really want to have a database,” Foster said. “We really want to have names of people who we can contact and say, ‘Please let your legislator know by calling or sending them a letter or email that this is a bad idea or this is a good idea.’The more people we have come to the meeting, the bigger our database will be, and of course, the bigger our voice will be. All it takes is a phone call or message given to the secretary — anything that says, ‘Hey, I’m a parent, and you’re messing with my kid’s academic life,’basically.”
For more information on the Cherokee County PLAC, contact the committee through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/CherokeeCountyPLAC.
Rob W. Anderson writes for the Tahlequah Daily Press.