From 2008 until 2014, I spent huge chunks of time reading, studying, writing, lobbying and posting to social media about issues surrounding government - particularly public education and Common Core.
Last year, as readers of this blog well remember, Oklahoma legislators were persuaded to STOP Common Core. Following this seeming victory, a large group of educationally-associated organizations (whom you might have thought would have the students/parents best interest in mind) spent tens of thousands of dollars to convince the Governor to veto the bill. Fortunately, the Governor signed the bill, only to have several members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education sue to reinstate Common Core based upon an incorrect interpretation of the Oklahoma Constitution. After the bill was found to be Constitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the next challenge became how to stop individual schools from using Common Core anyway.
As it turned out, there was no real enforcement mechanism in the original law to stop Common Core in Oklahoma (HB3399), as I have subsequently found is the case with many, many laws written by Oklahoma legislators. This meant that the only way to make schools comply became a convoluted process of involving one's district attorney and the local school board - a labored task the vast majority of disgruntled individuals chose not to pursue. As far as ROPE is aware to date, no district attorney filed charges against any school district in Oklahoma for utilizing Common Core though state law prevented them from doing so. So much for state law being the final word on Common Core.
Though all of us involved in the stop Common Core fight in Oklahoma knew there was much more to the process of stopping Common Core (and the persistent federal overreach into public education) than passing a single law, it became almost immediately clear how far we still had to go. By October, I had written a blog detailing Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal In Oklahoma Isn't. Every day there seemed something new on the horizon to thwart our efforts. It became very discouraging to have worked so hard to seemingly accomplish so much only to find a very small dent had been made in the task of restoring local control of education and putting parents back in charge of their children's educations.
During the years we fought Common Core, I often became discouraged. I would complain bitterly when our efforts seemed futile and all of us threatened to quit more than once, but something always drove my personal efforts forward. As a Christian, I believe that impetus was God. I literally felt compelled to continue the fight no matter how discouraged I/we became and I firmly believe I was right because shortly after our 'win', I began feeling pulled away from ROPE and my work there.
Unlike most of my middle-aged counterparts, my husband David and I not only have a 32-year-old married daughter, but 3 kids (13, almost 13 and 10) still at home who are home-educated. Over the last three years I've not only homeschooled the kids while working ROPE issues, I've added poultry farming and working our homestead's very large garden to the schedule. Unfortunately, it got to the point where something had to give. Also unfortunately, this was most often my time with the kids; dropping them off at Mimi's or various friends homes while I traveled to the Capitol or across the state making presentations. Obviously, this was neither an optimal nor a tenable situation.
Last fall, Lynn (Habluetzel, ROPE's Vice-President) and I made the decision that I would sit back this year while she and our friend Ralph Crawford (now running for State Representative!) took over the lobbying efforts at the Capitol. I would still continue to write and research as I could, but for the most part, I would concentrate on home matters.
Since that time, I've been astonished at how busy I've been. I've tried valiantly to set aside time for reading, research and writing, but it's been harder and harder as the months go by. In fact, it makes me feel a bit guilty in retrospect. If I've been THIS busy with home matters since November, how much was my family getting shortchanged by my constant physical and mental absences (yes, I was home, but saying, "Just a minute, Sam" 12 times because I 'needed' to finish a blog didn't count as actual mom availability)?
Now able to look back over several months of 'absence', I can make a number of observations with surety:
- It took HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS to research and piece together information before writing anything of substance about policies, laws or initiatives; I'd wake up scouring my email, Facebook posts and education journals for information and go to bed late into the night writing about what I'd read. It didn't take long to realize that the public education establishment and Federal government are BOMBARDING the public with more and more and more programming, laws, initiatives and policies so hard and so fast that NO ONE CAN KEEP UP. I'm certain it's meant to be this way because it's easy for government to do anything they want when no one can keep watch. This was part of the reason we'd be disheartened so often - we simply COULDN'T KEEP UP with every law and every initiative and every program being churned out by the government and the state education establishment.
- Public Education (in any state) has so much concurrent jurisdiction that there is no way for any school to rise above the reporting required for so many different policies, procedures; regulations and laws. The education of children has long since past being the real reason public schools operate. Now, public schools exist to be arms of the state, recording data on children in order to justify yet another expensive program to cure every ill only destined to fail because the real issue stifling public education and sucking away parental rights and local control - concurrent jurisdiction - was never even considered in the equation.
- The federal government has ZERO Constitutional authority in state education, yet elected officials and State Department of Education employees either have no clue what the Constitution says, have no backbone to stand against their edicts and/or don't care about the Constitution because they just want whatever money comes with "fill-in-the-blank" program in order to make it sound as though they have the right to force kids to take tests and tell parents they're in charge of their child's education.
- IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO YOU VOTE FOR, THE STATUS QUO WILL ALWAYS BE THE STATUS QUO. This was a tough one for me and I didn't figure this out until just last year. It doesn't matter for whom you vote, the bureaucracy/staff set up by the predecessor of the office will, many times, still be in place, virtually ensuring the change for which you voted will never come. Here it's important to remember that, many, MANY employees of the state are brought in by department heads or appointed by elected officials. Regular voting taxpayers have absolutely no say in their hiring, yet these people persist in their jobs carrying forward the ideals and programs of elected officials past. Oklahoma's State Longitudinal Database is run by such an individual though our new superintendent is well aware of our concerns.
- It matters not how much you study, how many other researchers or individuals agree, or how much other work has proven you right, statists will always believe they know better than 'the people' how best to run their lives and govern in that direction. If you have the unmitigated gall to object to that philosophy, you'll be called a "tin foil hat", marginalized, ridiculed and/or ignored. The only way to affect real change is to bring hundreds of people to the Capitol with you dressed in big ugly green shirts and even then the results are iffy.
- Parents, for the most part, seem to care less what is happening to their kids. Parents have jobs, they have lives, they are single mothers and dads just scraping by - whatever the reason - by and large, parents let their schools get away with murder without uttering even the slightest whimper. When you try and bring their attention to all the bad stuff happening in public education today, it's NOT IN MY SCHOOL, it's always somewhere else. Even if they do get it and try to do something about it, the layers and layers of bureaucracy tie them up to the point that many finally either just throw up their hands and pull their kids out or give up and take it.
- Without a large majority of parents willing to educate themselves on the state and central government Constitutions, their parental rights and options outside of public school, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. One or two people can't 'fix it' for everyone else. It takes a long sustained effort by many to create real change in the system and if people aren't interested in affecting their government, NOTHING WILL BE EFFECTED.
- You can't turn back time - the time I have with my kids can't be 'refunded' at an ATM - and who wants to leave middle schoolers without CONSTANT supervision anyway?
- My kids will only be receptive to my leadership for a short amount of time and then I've lost the ability to affect their lives in truly meaningful ways.
- I didn't realize how much time I actually devoted to ROPE until I started devoting more time to the kids, house and farm. Looking back, I have no idea (other than the hand of God) how I was actually able to keep my home, or farm, or ANYTHING together while working simultaneously.
- You can't 'fix it' for everyone else. There need to be MANY others willing to put in just as much time on a coordinated effort in order to create real change in the system.