Note: The damaging legislation that has been proposed this legislative session (and in the past) have made it abundantly clear that Oklahoma needs legislators who understand how public schools work. The best people to fill these shoes are educators themselves. This series highlights classroom teachers who are running for office this year.
Dr. Kelly Meredith is running for the House in District No. 87. We sent each candidate a list of questions, and below are Meredith’s answers.
How long have you been a classroom teacher and in what capacities?
I teach in higher education, and have since I started graduate school in 2008. Since graduating, I have taught as an Adjunct at The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.
What has motivated your decision to run for office?
I have two boys, and my oldest will be starting Pre-K in the fall. I’m tired of complaining and hoping someone in the legislature will fix public education, but it seems that there are several in the legislature pretty determined to dismantle it–including the current representative in my district–and there aren’t enough votes to make sure those efforts don’t work. I decided that I needed to step up and do it myself!
What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish?
My goal is to make sure that public education in Oklahoma is something to be proud of! I want to make sure that our schools are funded enough to really support our children, ensure that they are ready for jobs and for college, and that their needs are met–meaning they are in an environment that supports them not just intellectually, but also their physical, psychological, and social needs.
What are your positions on school vouchers/ESA and deregulation of districts?
I am against ESA–it’s just taking money out of public ed. The deregulation bill scares me–minimum requirements are low enough already!
How would you return funding to school classrooms?
We need to improve revenue (and protect existing sources), and right now that would include no new tax cuts and scaling back on those that have recently been introduced, and accepting federal dollars to support medicaid. Savings through criminal justice reform would enable us to redirect funds that are currently used to incarcerate non-violent offenders at a high rate to programs like education.
What would you do to reverse the teacher shortage?
The way Oklahoma approaches education right now there isn’t much to attract teachers. Improving salaries and benefits, ensuring that classrooms are properly equipped/supplied, and giving educators the support they ask for (rather than requiring more testing and paperwork from them) would be a good start.
What do you see as the most pressing issue in #oklaed that needs to be addressed?
Stop bleeding public ed dry! We’ve already cut funding to the bone, and our children (over 90% of OK children!) rely on public ed to prepare them for jobs and/or higher ed. The ripple effect of education quality through a community cannot be underestimated. When we fail a group of students in providing them with quality education we jeopardize their future, and it’s difficult if not impossible to undo that damage.
How can fellow educators help your campaign?
I think so many Oklahomans don’t know what their legislators are doing with public education (my opponent especially!)–and many legislators say that they never hear from parents and have no accountability for their bills and votes from constituents. Making sure voters know who is doing what, especially when it comes to their home districts, is essential. Making sure they know when a pro-public ed candidate is on their ballot and that they should be looking at records on the issues, not party affiliation, when deciding who to vote for! Our kids are not a party-related issue!
Fundraising is also key–we have to have the money to get information to the voters. Any educators willing to knock on doors and/or make phone calls for me would be great–if voters know that I’ve been vetted by public ed groups and leaders they are more likely to take me seriously up against an incumbent (especially if you help back me up when I talk about his record about public ed!).