LETTERS: Solving problems in Oklahoma’s public schools | Opinion

Shelley Lin

Stillwater High School junior

For the editor:

As a high school student in the Oklahoma public school system, I am writing to you today to tell you that something needs to change. The public school system is failing; children are not getting a high quality education, teachers are being forced out of their jobs due to low salaries, and the state as a whole is underperforming compared to the rest of America. The school system here in Oklahoma needs to be improved for the greater good.

The problems with the existing school system are numerous and affect students, teachers and ordinary citizens alike. Students are not getting the education they deserve, while teachers are underpaid. Moreover, since young people leave high school or college and contribute to the labor force, if they are more educated, the whole economy will be stimulated, which will benefit ordinary citizens.

First, Oklahoma students perform poorly compared to their peers in other states and nations. Several studies have confirmed this fact; only 27% of the class of 2015 are proficient in math, ranking Oklahoma 43rd in the United States. Additionally, Oklahoma City students rank at the 25th percentile in math and the 32nd percentile in reading compared to students worldwide (https://www.ocpathink.org/post/oklahoma-public-schools-worse- than-you-think-1). Clearly, most students in Oklahoman schools are underachieving, which means they are not learning all the skills they need to succeed later in life. They receive a lower quality education than their peers in other countries and states, putting them at a disadvantage for things like college education and job applications.

Second, due to low salaries, there is a general lack of qualified teachers in Oklahoma. Teachers’ salaries in Oklahoma are the third lowest in the entire country, forcing teachers to leave the state or, worse, engage in part-time jobs in addition to teaching. More than 90 school districts even closed public schools on Monday due to a severe shortage of teachers. Additionally, many teachers who can afford to teach are unqualified, further reducing the quality of education for students.

It’s a huge problem, but it can be solved effectively. The main problems with public schools in Oklahoma stem from low funding, so the government must make school funding a priority. Some might argue that the government cannot afford to spend money on public schools, but that is not true; on the contrary, studies have shown that every US state spends more money housing the average inmate than educating the average elementary school student. In addition, school funding can also improve the state’s GDP and economy, which benefits the general public. Since the government does not lack money, it should use it to promote education.

Then, to improve the quality of education, school districts and the government should aim to hire qualified and competent teachers and give them the salary they deserve. More qualifications should be established for teaching, as the low number of qualifications today leads to the hiring of incompetent teachers. By implementing these changes, teachers can give students the best possible education while keeping their jobs.

Thus, steps should be taken as soon as possible to improve the education of children today. As citizens, we need to reach out to school districts and government officials to campaign for change (either through calls, letters, or other methods). We can offer our suggestions and then give them the facts. By lobbying these influential groups, we can increase our chances of success. With time, patience, and determination, we can improve the lives of students, teachers, and citizens of Oklahoma.

In the end, it is young people who will change the world. They are the ones who will come up with groundbreaking innovations and solutions to the world’s problems. This is why education is essential; an education is the best thing a young person can have, because it opens their eyes to ideas, knowledge and possibilities. Oklahoma is underperforming. Students here don’t get the education they deserve, and qualified teachers don’t get the pay and appreciation they deserve. This must change. Thank you very much for your time.

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