The Edmond Sun

November 30, 2012

Education lobbying group may expand to metro area

Tulsa-based committee helps parents get involved with children’s’ education

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — A Tulsa-based parents group founded to influence Oklahoma’s public education legislation may be expanding to the Edmond and Oklahoma City areas.

Mellisa Abdo, president of the Tulsa-area Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC), was invited to speak to Oklahoma City area superintendents, administrators and parents Wednesday at the Edmond Public Schools administrative offices.

Tulsa PLAC has as its goal to increase awareness of parents and the community concerning legislative issues impacting public education in Oklahoma, Abdo said.

 “Edmond was interested in contributing to an initial organizational structure of a local Parent Legislative Action Committee because I believe that there is value in having our parents and community members informed and active in representing their schools,” said Edmond Superintendent David Goin.

Spearheaded by Putnam City Superintendent Paul Hurst, administrators from local Oklahoma school districts interested in learning more about PLAC were asked to invite three to five patrons who would like to learn more about and possibly fulfill the goal of increasing parent and community awareness of legislative issues impacting public education.

Abdo had spoken at an Oklahoma Association of School Administrators area meeting earlier this year and representatives discussed the benefits of organizing a similar group in the Oklahoma City region.

The Parent Legislative Action Committee was established by a small group of parents including Abdo, whose children attend Jenks Public Schools, and Michelle Jones, whose children attend Union Public Schools.

Since that time, the nonpartisan group has grown to include parents from several Tulsa-area schools including Sapulpa, Sand Springs, Union, Owasso and Broken Arrow.

In addition to monthly meetings where parents learn about legislation pertaining to public education, the committee provides a way for parents to become more informed and involved with issues that directly impact their child’s experience in the classroom, Abdo said.

The group meets at different area school districts and visits the Capitol during the legislative session to lobby in favor of or opposition to specific education bills.

“We have found if a person is attending a meeting for the first time, they are more likely to come to one held in their district,” Abdo said.

Abdo told attendees PLAC members’ goal is to educate parents and legislators on how laws affect public education and to work closely with school administrators and other educational experts in order to understand how the educational system can be improved.

“My children are a product of public education by choice, not by default,” Abdo said.

The Oklahoma Legislature has cut public education funding every year since the 2007-08 school year, but children enrolled in public schools have increased every year, Jones said.

“It is important for the parents to know they have a voice in their child’s education,” said Edmond School Board President Jamie Underwood. “Not only do they have the right to contact their local administration team, but it is also important for them to be informed as to the decisions being made by their state representatives. The PLAC group is organized in the Tulsa area and I think it is important that the Oklahoma City area residents are informed so we can join forces with Tulsa-area schools to make a greater impact.”

Underwood said the meeting is the first step in the organization process and through local parent groups working with the administrative team parents can become more informed as to what is happening with the state of education in Oklahoma.

“We will be working with our local PTAs during the PAC meetings as we begin informing our parents and organizing,” Underwood said.

She added for more information, parents should check the district website and with the local PTAs in their schools.

“Our legislators cannot keep making unfunded mandates for the districts to follow, and parents need to open dialogue to let officials know this is important for their child’s education,” Underwood said.

Abdo told the audience, “Local control is most effectively carried out as the work of parents, teachers, school boards, administrators and their communities working together to determine and implement effective solutions.”