Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher
OKLAHOMA CITY – From an editor’s notebook, a conservative educator runs for superintendent of public instruction, local public school teachers are returning to work after the end of their strike/walkout, and here and there across the nation, pro-life students have a “walk out” of their own.
Linda Murphy, who nearly won the state superintendent’s job in 1994 against a popular Democratic incumbent, on Friday (April 13) entered the race for the Republican nomination for the post.
In a press release sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, Murphy said she was running because “I believe Oklahomans want new leadership in education. We have seen the lack of leadership over the last two weeks where the OEA union, which gave money to help elect Joy Hofmeister in 2014, took over leadership in our state capitol.”
Sketching her motivations further, Murphy said “public schools can provide excellence in education when we allow teachers to teach without forcing experimental programs into the classroom. That includes the nationalized testing, which has been implemented as part of Hofmeister’s new plan. Student testing should be academic and align with the curriculum used by the teacher. Local schools should be allowed to make decisions about their schools, students, methods and materials.”
Murphy expressed concern about the state of special educations, an area where she is certified.
She also said, “There is no ‘one-size’ fits all solution that can be mandated that will improve education.” And, she added, “Oklahoma’s public-school funding should be directed to the classrooms. These changes will provide an environment where students love learning and teachers love teaching.”
Murphy, a multi-issue conservative, garnered 49.5 percent support in 1994, running against Democratic incumbent Sandy Garrett. That was the only really close race of Garrett’s long service in the post.
Murphy was an education advisor to Frank Keating, and served as a deputy Commissioner of Labor for workforce education and training for the late Brenda Reneau.
The Oklahoma City Public School District has combined an announcement that classroom instruction will renew on Monday (April 16) with a call for direct political action aimed at the November general election.
Late Friday (April 13), in a press release sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, Beth Harrison asked reporters to help get the word to parents “that we will begin adding one hour to the end of every school day until May 31. Additional details on how that will impact bus schedules, meals, athletics, and after-school programs will be shared with our families later this weekend.” (Emphasis in the original note)
The additional hour and additional days of school were necessitated by lost instruction time during the nine-day teacher strike.
Harrison, chief communications officer for the tax-financed Oklahoma City District, included with her note to reporters the link to an email sent to teachers and other district employees.
In that missive, city school officials said, “The OKCPS Board of Education and administration have worked tirelessly to support our teachers since we brought the idea of a board resolution to OKC-AFT in March. We have rallied partners, coordinated donations and nearly 20,000 meal deliveries, and even laid out the welcome mat to teachers from across the state.
“We are disappointed that the OKC-AFT has informed us of their flawed survey results via a press release and has put our OKCPS Board and administration in the position of standing alone to share the reality that the best way for our team to fight for our students at this point is from our classrooms, schools, and offices now that the statewide teacher walkout has evolved into a movement for long-term advocacy for public education in Oklahoma.”
The AFT is the American Federation of Teachers, a constituent union of the AFL-CIO, which is the bargaining agent for public school teachers in the Oklahoma City system.
Paula Lewis, head of the local Board of Education, was quoted in the message to employees, remarking, “Our board’s first responsibility is to improving outcomes for our students. While the fight for funding will continue to be a part of our work, the window for required state assessments is now compressed, and we must provide relief to our partners who have so graciously stepped in to fill the gap for our students and families. We hear that our teachers want to continue to advocate at the Capitol, and we have been waiting for a plan from OKC-AFT to help us send a delegation from our schools each day. We hope that OKC-AFT will partner with us to ensure that OKCPS is represented Monday when lawmakers return.”
The note from the district continued, “As the largest district in the state and the home of our state Capitol, OKCPS is committed to being a leader as this movement grows to include every Oklahoman who values the future of our state and the vital institution of public schools. We will continue to listen to our dedicated teachers who have so fiercely kept the focus on their students as the movement continues to emerge.”
Offering what the note called “words of encouragement” to staff, Rebecca Kaye, the acting superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public Schools, said, “Most of all, do not despair. Don’t you dare feel defeated. You have proven that you are fearless. You have taught your students to stand up for what is right and for what you believe in. You have shown them how to use their voices. They are going to look you in the eye on Monday and see a warrior who fights for them, no matter what.
“Today, I call on all Oklahomans — educators, students, parents, city leaders and community members – to bring the energy, teamwork, resolve, and spirit we have witnessed in the last two weeks into our classrooms, homes, offices and, maybe most importantly, to the ballot box. Every single child needs all of us to fight this hard for his or her education. Every day. Together, we are stronger.”
Elsewhere in America, students supporting the right-to-life for unborn children had a notable protest of their own. According to Life Advocacy Briefing, “students at more than 250 high schools and colleges” walked out of classes on Wednesday (April 11) to protest abortion.
Calvin Freiburger, writing for LifeSite News, reported the national action was “devised by Rocklin High School student Brandon Gillespie of California, with organizational support provided by Students for Life of America (SFLA). Gillespie wanted the event to ‘honor all the lives of the millions of aborted babies every year.’ …
“SFLA reports enthusiastic crowds brandishing a variety of signs, as well as honks of support from passing cars. Several members of the Rocklin community turned out to support Brandon Gillespie as well. ‘We want to make students aware that this is an issue for their generation,’ a Frederick East administrator identified as Kim told SFLA’s Michele Hendrickson, ‘because a lot of their classmates may not even be here because of the abortion movement.’ …”
Freiburger wrote, “Kristan Hawkins shared a photo of a display at Los Alamitos High School, featuring 1,700 baby socks laid out to represent the estimated 1,700 babies lost to abortion daily.”
Life Advocacy Briefing is circulated via email by the Life Advocacy group.
Several pro-life websites, including LifeSite News reported the movement did not receive the same level of administrative support at the 250 schools as was afforded to students advocating for increased gun control measures in recent weeks.
The various websites also reported the activism did not receive, nationwide or in any local markets, news coverage comparable to the anti-gun demonstrations.
NOTE: Journalist and educator Pat McGuigan is founder of CapitolBeatOK.com, an online news service, and publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper. He is a certified teacher in 10 subject areas. The author of three books and editor of seven, McGuigan has taught in charter and private schools. He has been asubstitute teacher or guest lecturer in schools throughout Oklahoma.