‘I feel like it’s been a win already’: Education advocates tout progress ahead of primaries (KFOR)

By Lorne Fultonberg

OKLAHOMA CITY – The polls were still hours from closing, but Angela Little couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.

“I feel like it’s been a win already,” she said, standing behind one of 63 candidates she has endorsed in the state’s primary elections. “It speaks to how passionate we are about this cause. I’m hoping the heart we have will win over the money that other people have.”

Little is the co-founder of Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, a group that started on Facebook. Now, there are more than 20,000 members committed to supporting candidates who are supportive of public education.

Some are teachers, many are first-time candidates.

Of the 63 candidates, 39 are Democrats, 23 are Republicans and one is an independent.

But all, like Republican state senate candidate Adam Pugh, are concerned about the state’s schools.

“This is something I believe in, this is something I care about, this is something I’m willing to fight for,” said Pugh, who has two daughters. “I’m running to go down to the Capitol and be part of that solution step instead of sitting back and pointing out all the problems.”

It’s about more than schools to Pugh, who sees education as a linchpin that holds Oklahoma together.

“It’s not just education for education’s sake,” he said. “There’s also an effect on the economy. It’s a way to attract residents and attract businesses and attract investment in your community.”

The education campaign has attracted attention from political scientists across the state who say they haven’t seen a similar movement in decades.

“It says we’re in trouble [in Oklahoma],” said Dr. Richard Johnson, who chairs the political science department at Oklahoma City University. “I think everyone is upset about education.”

But at the same time, Johnson is hesitant to say the movement alone will bring real change.

“I think it’s caught peoples’ attention but that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be follow through,” he said. “Everybody who gets elected to the legislature has a learning curve. And everybody who comes to the legislature probably thinks they’re going to change the world.”

Other analysts though, like Gene Perry from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, say the candidates have already made an impact, even if they lose, because fending off a challenge from a teacher means the eventual nominee will have to pay attention to education to hold on to his or her seat.

Angela Little already sees the positives too.

“I’ve seen people cross party lines for the good of the cause and that’s huge for me,” she said. “That’s a big shift, especially here in Oklahoma.”


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