Angie Wren: Failing to prioritize children will ensure Oklahoma remains a bottom 10 state
Angie Wren is a long time educator in Oklahoma. In a recent op-ed for The Oklahoman, she explains why Governor Stitt’s current policies are not going to move Oklahoma from the bottom of the education heap.
Despite Stitt’s promises to make Oklahoma a Top 10 state, we aren’t ranked anywhere near the top 10 in education or any of the issues that matter most to Oklahoma families. In 2021, we were ranked 49th in education overall by EdWeek and 47th in a chance for success. We also were ranked 48th in spending for K-12 schools by EducationData.org. Oklahoma is also among the worst in the nation in protecting kids from trauma, along with a number of factors that contribute to it. We are also among the worst in the country in heart-disease mortality, incarceration rates, divorce, COVID-19 and cancer death rates and substantiated child abuse cases.
At a time when we should be focused on fully funding education, getting our kids the help they need and addressing a teacher shortage, this administration is mishandling our tax dollars and putting our real needs on the back-burner.
The Stitt administration diverted $10 million in CARES Act funding to private schools, or one-quarter of the governor’s emergency funds for education support in 2020. Now, Stitt has proposed doubling down on that controversial approach by pushing an extreme agenda that would give more of our public tax dollars to private schools. It’s a plan that will further drain resources from the public schools attended by more than 95% of Oklahoma’s kids — and will particularly hurt children in our rural communities who don’t have access to wealthy private schools.
Unfortunately, this type of mismanagement of our tax dollars is part of an ongoing trend. Oklahoma’s state auditor recently told lawmakers that mismanagement by the co-founders of Epic Charter Schools resulted in “the largest amount of reported abuse of taxpayer funds in the history of this state” — and she has no idea why the state’s attorney general, appointed by Stitt, has not brought criminal charges. As a former Epic teacher, I share her concerns about the abuse of taxpayer dollars. After all, Epic Schools, which Stitt championed, even moved Oklahoma tax dollars to a school it operated in Orange County, California. Individuals who have been associated with Epic donated to Stitt’s campaign.