Imagine for a moment an organization that claims to stand “for the children” engaging in fist-pumping glee over its effort to deny some of those children the chance to overcome deadly addictions.
Imagine these supposed advocates for learning bitterly opposing a voluntary program to encourage and make possible more learning by children with disabilities. Imagine a group that claims to stand for truth using blatant falsehoods to defeat a sincere effort to help kids who are in low-income or minority families.
The Oklahoma Education Association union did this when the full House of Representatives failed to vote on Senate Bill 407, which would have raised the cap on the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Program.
The bill would have expanded tax credits available to individuals and corporations making voluntary donations to a scholarship fund granting organization or public schools. The program is generating hundreds of thousands of new dollars for innovative programs in public schools. It also helps kids attend schools that better meet their needs.
In Chickasha public schools, the program has provided funds so students gain firsthand experience in science and technology by participating in the district’s award-winning robotics program.
The program literally saves young lives. Some 80 percent of students attending Oklahoma City’s Mission Academy sober high school are funded by Equal Opportunity Scholarship dollars. Why are they there? They suffer from life-threatening addictions and need the nurturing recovery-oriented focus Mission Academy provides.
Other Equal Opportunity Scholarship funds help children from broken homes or dire poverty make up the severe learning deficiencies that often accompany such conditions. Positive Tomorrows serves homeless students. Yet OEA union leaders slam the door in the face of those kids and then high-five one another.
Then there are students at Crossover Preparatory Academy or Tulsa Hope Academy, both eligible for scholarships, who routinely thrive after struggling in their previous school.
“Thanks be to God!” the mother of one student at Crossover said, noting how her son was now making high grades and performing at grade level. The OEA would condemn such youth to a life of diminished prospects and despair.
The OEA union is supposed to advocate for teachers, not sabotage programs that help public schools and help children learn and, in some cases, literally save their lives. OEA union leaders’ glee is unseemly. Let’s hope kids win despite them in the end.
Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
Published in the Journal Record