Home > Uncategorized > In Oklahoma Public Education is NOT OK, and at least one Teacher is Abandoning the GOP as a Result

In Oklahoma Public Education is NOT OK, and at least one Teacher is Abandoning the GOP as a Result

October 19, 2018

New York Magazine writer Sarah Jones interviewed Oklahoma public school teacher Emily Ozmet and the article that resulted, “I’m a Teacher in a Red State. The Teachers Strike Turned my Ballot Blue“, explained how a lifelong member of the GOP was finally persuaded that her worldview was wrong. In doing so, the article also underscored how difficult it is to change the long held convictions of educated individuals who work in social services, even when those individuals, like Ms. Ozmet, have experienced the difficulties of living on low wages and struggled in school because of disabilities.  By extension, the article underscores the extraordinary difficulty progressive politicians face in changing the minds of less educated individuals who do NOT work in social services and have NOT experienced living on a minimum wage. In reading sections of the article, I was struck by how doggedly Ms. Ozmet, the GOP teacher, held onto her ideas about trickle down economics and how doggedly some of her faculty colleagues held fast to the notion that kids with disabilities and kids whose parents struggled to keep a roof over their heads could succeed if only they applied themselves. Based on the reading of this article, here’s what is required to “convert” someone raised in a GOP community to be open to considering “bigger government”:

  • Experience as a special education student in an underfunded district
  • Experience as a low-wage worker attempting to make ends meet despite working long hours
  • Experience working with children who are doing their best but still falling short of the unrealistic expectations set for them given their maturity and ability
  • Experience being dismissed and disrespected by the GOP politicians they elected, politicians who hold them in contempt and belittle their ability to understand the political realities of lowering taxes for corporations
  • Ability to analyze complex and opaque budgets that show the true priorities of the GOP politicians they elected
  • Ability to see that how money gets spent is a far more important indicator of what a political party believes than what the politician says

After reading about Ms. Ozmet’s long road to moving from a lifelong supporter of the GOP and their platform, we find that what ultimately got her to remove the scales from her eyes was the realization that the GOP politicians she supported for her entire life were not interested in the future or in the well-being of children. Here’s what eventually undercut her support:

Previously, whenever I heard people say Republicans are out for the rich and don’t care about the poor, I’d think, “No, I’m not rich. I care about the poor and I know so many Republicans who do too.” But I learned a lot of politics is about how you appropriate money, and how you set up various social services.After we talked to our representatives, the teachers would huddle over dinner, break out our computers, and pore over the budget. We were students, breaking down the information in ways we could understand. We learned that money was flowing to private prisons and oil companies; they get money, and social services just don’t. It changed the way that I saw the entire Republican Party. You value what you put your money in.

It would be naive to think that the Democratic party was not beholden to the privatization movement, especially in the South where the Walton’s have had a huge impact on the political landscape. But it would be equally alive to think that the GOP will ever change it’s thinking about “the government” or to suddenly begin thinking that more funding is needed to help those being raised in poverty.

Facts and figures persuaded an Oklahoma teacher who had dyslexia and ADD as a child and worked for $9.50/hour before becoming a teacher. What will it take to persuade a factory worker or rancher who believes his taxes are being squandered by “the government” and who believes “teachers have it a lot easier than I do”? It won’t be easy.

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