The Edmond Sun

Opinion

January 31, 2014

Ignoring the elephant inside the room

OKLA. CITY — In 1940 as Jimmy Durante headed to the door of Coleman’s Restaurant in Calabash, North Carolina, he turned to 28 year old Lucy and with a smile said, “Good Night, Mrs. Calabash.” For the rest of his life, until his death in 1980, every Durante appearance ended with his trademark phrase, “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”

As with most entertainers who rose out of vaudeville, Durante’s style included repetitious skits and catchwords, not only phrases, but also songs and mannerisms. His famous “Ah-cha-cha-cha-cha” and self-references to his own nose as the “Big Schnozzola” always brought the house down.

In addition to his “Inka Dinka Doo” skit, one of Durante’s most popular routines originated in 1935 when he appeared on Broadway in the play, Jumbo. In the play, Durante was working for a cash-strapped circus that had more creditors than customers. When the sheriff appeared to seize the assets of the circus, Durante attempted to save his beloved pachyderm, Jumbo, by removing the animal from the circus grounds. As Durante led Jumbo across the stage, the sheriff asked, “Where are you going with that elephant?” and Jimmy responded with the immortal line, “What elephant?”

The skit was performed repeatedly by Durante for years after the Broadway show had closed and from the first day that the audience laughed at the elephant that Jimmy Durante desperately wanted to be invisible, “the elephant in the room” has been a metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being blatantly ignored or goes unaddressed. Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s K-12 educational system has two elephants in the room, unfair evaluation and a disgraceful lack of funding.

Faced with a debate over how to improve our schools, the dialogue has been hijacked by partisan division and destructive rhetoric.

Forces whose goal is to undermine public education pit parents against teachers and instructors against administrators. Standardized testing mandates rob students of a broad and enriched education. A culture of high stakes testing and antagonistic demoralization robs gifted and talented teachers of their spirit to serve our children.

Eliminating high stakes and non-stop standardized testing will eliminate the need to “teach to the test” and help improve our educational system. The result will be that Oklahoma’s quality teachers would be able to provide a more complete learning experience to their students. Remember, teachers are not afraid of evaluation or accountability. They want the public to know what they do and how well they do it.  Oklahoma’s teachers simply want to be assessed in a way that accurately reflects the job they are doing.

While Oklahoma’s public schools are performing as well or better than schools in other states that are comparably funded, that is like being proud of receiving the highest D in the class. In other words, Oklahoma students are “blowing the socks off” students from other states that are also in the bottom funding tier. That is not good enough for my children and grandchildren and it is not good enough for my neighbor’s children or grandchildren.

State aid funding for Oklahoma’s schools has not recovered from 2008 levels. In fact, the K-12 budget has decreased by $224 million, more than any other state, over the past 5 years while the student enrollment has increased by more than 32,000. A new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities validates the existence of the draconian cuts and focuses on dollars used directly in Oklahoma’s K-12 classrooms. According to the study, an estimated $810 per student is cut each year, mostly affecting teacher salaries and shrunk school budgets.

The elephant does not stop there. OPI also released numbers regarding Oklahoma’s student-teacher ratio.

Class size limits in place since 1990 have been suspended because schools cannot afford to meet them.

There is strong evidence that smaller class sizes promote student achievement — particularly in the early grades and for low income students. Many schools are cutting teaching positions to cope with budget cuts. Statewide, the number of students per teacher has increased from 13.7 in the 2007-08 school year to 16.0 in 2010-11.

Get the facts. Engage in the debate. Be vocal. Hold your elected representatives accountable. Let them know your priorities. Jimmy Durante and Ms. Calabash may both be gone, but the next time you see an elephant in the room, tell it that you want our children’s education properly funded.

REP. DAVID PERRYMAN, D-Chickasha, may be reached at 405-557-7401 or email him at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • RedBlueAmerica: What should the U.S. do about illegal immigrant children?

    The crisis along the southern U.S. border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.
    President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in borrowed money from taxpayers to cover the growing “care, feeding and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups” when our own veterans are not taken care of. Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

    July 17, 2014

  • VA scandal highlights the need to change Pentagon spending priorities

    The ongoing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal raises an important question: When our veterans are being denied access to basic health care, why is the Pentagon squandering billions of dollars on programs that do not benefit our military forces? Is there a link in organization attitudes?

    July 16, 2014

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results