Across the nation, fully funding public schools is the only way to ensure all students get the education they deserve, regardless of ZIP code.
After serving four terms as Oklahoma’s attorney general, gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson knows the stakes are desperately high for public school students and educators nationwide and in his state.
“Our future depends on the education of our children, and I support that with every fiber of my being,” Edmondson has said in media reports. “Above all, teachers say they feel a lack of respect for their profession, which I believe is a result of the deliberate indifference to the plight of our schools over the last eight years (in Oklahoma). We can change that.”
Edmondson’s policy proposals include a series of pay increases for teachers, as well as a raise for state employees and education support professionals (ESP). He has voiced his support for the right of teachers to negotiate with the state for better public education funding, and for administrative accountability.
“While our schools need real investments, our bureaucracy can be streamlined so we can put more money back into the classrooms,” he says.
1. A Dedicated Public Servant
Born and raised in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Edmondson attended public high school before earning a scholarship to attend Northeastern State College in Tahlequah. After enlisting in the United States Navy, he returned home where he served in the state legislature and worked in the Muskogee County District Attorney’s Office. He was eventually elected district attorney, a position he held for nearly a decade.
2. Supporting Schools and Educators
“Our teachers need more than one pay raise in 10 years,” Edmondson says. “Our state needs to compensate them fairly for the hard work they do for our kids and our state.”
In addition to fair compensation for educators, Edmondson‘s education policies are student-centered as well as a unifying call to fund public school resources.
“Our kids are our future, and right now we’re failing them,” Edmonson says. “If we want to grow our businesses and attract new ones, we must have the entrepreneurs and skilled workers to support them. How can we ask companies to invest in Oklahoma if we refuse to invest in Oklahomans?”
Edmondson says smaller class sizes, updated textbooks, and universal Pre-K are also in need of funding.
“Oklahoma’s children deserve a world-class education,” he adds. “That starts with Pre-K. While our schools need real investments, our bureaucracy can be streamlined so we can put more money back into the classrooms.”
3. Meeting Teachers, ESPs and other Stakeholders
Throughout July and August, Edmondson conducted education listening meetings across the state to hear directly from those involved in Oklahoma’s public school system. He met with teachers, Education Support Professionals, retired teachers, early-childhood educators, parents, and administrators from numerous different school districts across the state. While teacher pay became a dominant issue in the latest legislative session, these meetings were meant to find out what needs to be improved in Oklahoma’s public education system besides increased teacher pay and funding.
According to his campaign, Edmondson asked teachers what they thought needs to be improved at their schools, what is working well, where possible savings exist, and what is the biggest issue affecting educational outcomes.
4. Staunch Supporter of #RedForEd
Edmondson sided with Oklahoma teachers, ESPs, students, parents and community members who are fed up with tattered textbooks, overcrowded classrooms and other issues.
In his gubernatorial campaign, Edmondson has called for multiple pay raises for teachers, smaller class sizes, and universal preK, among other proposals.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin approved raises for teachers and education support professionals, and a $50 million increase in education funding — $150 million less than what is needed. Disappointed with the outcome of a nine-day walkout last April, a record number of educators are now running for state office.
Edmondson supported educators during their walkout as they demanded fairer funding for public education.
The walkout ended when lawmakers approved a historic tax increase—their first in 28 years—to pay for $6,100 average pay raises for teachers and $1,250 raises for ESPs. It was a good first step, but didn’t fix the broader issue of school funding, according to the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA).
“We got here by electing the wrong people to office,” says OEA President Alicia Priest. “We have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box.”
5. College Affordability
Every student should be able to pursue an education without amassing major debt. NEA supports college affordability legislation, federal loan forgiveness programs for public service and increased Pell Grant funding.
As attorney general, Drew helped to establish the Oklahoma Educational Technology Trust in 2001, which grants millions of dollars of technology and professional development to schools across the state.
by John Rosales