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 will highlight classroom teachers who are running for office this year.
John Waldron is running for the Senate in District No. 39. We sent each candidate a list of questions, and below are Waldon’s answers.
How long have you been a classroom teacher and in what capacities?
I have been a classroom teacher since 1993. I taught high school social studies in the District of Columbia until 1999. I moved here at that time to teach social studies at Booker T. Washington High School. I am still there today.
What has motivated your decision to run for office? What is your goal?
Last year, I brought a new teacher, Emily Durbin, to the legislature to lobby for public education. She explained to Rep. Dan Kirby that it was hard to get by on her salary. He replied: “Well, you knew that going in, didn’t you?” I became convinced that the mentality in OKC would not change unless people took a stand. I announced my candidacy a few months later. My goal is to help change the direction of politics, and of political attitudes towards public education and other public services.
What do you want to accomplish?
I would like to accomplish a few short-term and long-term goals:
- restore respect for public education
- promote a fair and responsible tax and budgeting policy
- provide for other public services such as health care
What are your positions on school vouchers/ESA and deregulation of districts?
I opposed the latest voucher bill. It would have taken even more money out of cash-starved public schools. I oppose deregulation because it further undermines the teaching profession by removing salary requirements and other protections. We already face a growing teacher shortage. Will we improve the situation by making teaching conditions worse? Every school needs high-quality teachers, and we cannot attract them without incentives.
What would you do to reverse the teacher shortage?
As for the teacher shortage, you get what you pay for. Oklahoma produces high-quality teachers who go on to work in neighboring states that pay higher salaries – on average $3200 more. Teachers need a raise. We also need to stop the assault on the profession. There are too many bills targeting teacher rights, imposing new burdens and testing requirements, and blaming teachers for the failings of an underfunded school system. We should instead recognize that new teachers are one of the state’s most important resources, and find ways to encourage them to remain in Oklahoma.
What do you see as the most pressing issue in #oklaed that needs to be addressed?
The most pressing issue is the budget. A budget is an expression of our values as a state. Does a budget which trims hundreds of millions from our schools, and forces districts to go to a four-day week, reflect our values? Fundamentally it is a problem of revenues. We must collect the revenues to responsibly finance a budget that cares for the education of our children and the provision of public services on which we all depend. If we can do that, we will see long-term and sustainable economic growth in our state, and free ourselves from this boom-and-bust cycle in which we find ourselves.
How can fellow educators help your campaign?
Fellow educators can spread my social media, sign up to volunteer and make contributions. Together we can become a force the legislature must respect.
UPDATE: Read the story behind Waldon’s campaign at Blue Cereal Education.