A Senate review: 02.22.11 - Muskogee Phoenix: Columns

A Senate review: 02.22.11

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Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 4:27 pm

Oklahoma State Senate


February 22, 2011

A Senate Review by Senator Earl Garrison


The third week of session is underway and we’re continuing our work in the various committees. 

Due a procedural change this year, some bills are being double-assigned.  These include those bills that seek to change public policy, but would also have a fiscal impact.  These bills must first be heard in the committee that deals with the public policy and then it is assigned to the Appropriations or Finance Committee.  This ensures that this type of legislation is being thoroughly considered before it comes before the full Senate. 

The deadline for single-assigned Senate bills is Monday, February 28, while those that are double-assigned must be reported out of their first committee by Monday, February 21 and out of their second committee by Thursday, March 3.  We then have until Thursday, March 17 to wrap up floor consideration of all the bills that made it out of committee. 

I had one of my bills approved in committee last week and that was SB 42 which would prohibit the use of children or students in any kind of advertisements for the Oklahoma Education Lottery.

Speaking of education, I know Oklahoma’s public schools have a poor reputation on the national level.  It seems our state ranks low in most national educational categories.  They are even ridiculed by local media, but I’d like to point out that many pundits of our school system have never spent a day in the classroom or worked for a school system.  They have no idea of the many obstacles teachers face in helping students be their best. 

I want to take this opportunity to say that I believe our public schools are doing a great job educating our children.  Our public schools and their attempt to educate each and every citizen, and for free no less, has been one of the hallmarks that has made our Nation great. 

As a former educator, I’d like to encourage those of you who may be skeptical our public schools to think about the obstacles our public schools face.  Pundits point to low test scores and try to blame teachers and school administration, but I know, in most cases, they’re not the problem. 

The problem starts at home.  Unfortunately, we have so many children that come from bad homes where the parents simply don’t care about their child’s success in school.  They have no role models, no guidance as to what is right and wrong, and no encouragement to better themselves.  These parents may suffer from addictions that impair them and some are just plain selfish and are more worried about having a good time in life than to be bothered with their kids.

We also have many children that come from very poor homes and while the parents want to be more involved in their kids lives, it just isn’t possible because of working multiple jobs.  Twenty percent of Oklahoma’s children live in poverty.  These kids come home to an empty house.  There are no adults to make sure they do their homework or to help answer any questions they might have. 

Sadly, we also have parents who are illiterate and aren’t able to help their children.  More than 20% of American adults read at or below the 5th grade level-far below the level needed to earn a living wage.  Children's literacy levels are strongly linked to the educational level of their parents, especially their mothers. Parental income and marital status are both important predictors of success in school, but neither is as significant as having a mother (or primary caregiver) who completed high school.  Also children of parents who are unemployed and have not completed high school are five times more likely to drop out than children of employed parents.

As you can see, our teachers have a lot of obstacles that are hard to overcome.  They can be the most dedicated, well-educated teacher, but if their students don’t have the support system at home, more than likely that child won’t be successful in school.  As a government, we can’t legislate parenting.  But if we want to improve our test scores, it starts at home.  As citizens we have to encourage and help those parents or guardians who may be struggling in some way and help encourage them to be more active in their children’s education. 

To contact me at the Capitol, pleasewrite to Senator Earl Garrison, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 514A, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, or call (405) 521-5533.  You can also email me at garrison@oksenate.gov




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