As an Oklahoma educator, I have experienced firsthand the challenges teachers face trying to do their best to give our students a quality education. Day in, day out, teachers go to work prepared to do a lot with very little. Despite the progress made over the past few years, limited resources, large class sizes and out-of-date materials leave many Oklahoma schools and teachers still struggling.
I know we can do better.
We’ve been struggling for a while now, and it’s hurting our children and our local economy. And it’s not just schools — our hospitals are closing and roads and bridges are crumbling.
Why are we going year after year without getting the solutions we need? Because our politicians are failing us. They’re focused on themselves and not on the people who put them in office in the first place.
Politicians know they can gerrymander their districts to avoid being held accountable to voters. Gerrymandering is a little trick politicians use to keep themselves in office — it’s when politicians manipulate their voting districts to give themselves an advantage and ensure they get reelected and essentially pick their voters.
However, a coalition of concerned Oklahomans called People Not Politicians has launched a proposal that would end the practice of partisan gerrymandering in our state and allow the voters to hold politicians accountable to the needs of the people. This proposal would establish an independent commission of Oklahoma citizens to draw boundaries for state legislative and congressional districts in a fair, open and transparent manner instead of letting politicians draw their districts behind closed doors.
This proposal would take the power away from self-serving politicians and bring it back to where it belongs — with the people.
As it stands right now, neighborhoods in our communities are split in representation, making it too easy for politicians to ignore their very real and present needs. This happens in both rural and urban parts of our state. This happens in Democrat-majority and Republican-majority states. That’s why this commission is needed — to ensure districts are drawn in a way that fairly serves all voters and guarantees no district map shows favor to any specific party, politician or special interest group.
This is a common-sense step Oklahoma needs to take to hold our politicians accountable to every day Oklahomans. It will ensure that no matter what party is in the majority, their power is always in check by the voters.
Most importantly, this will ensure our politicians can spend time focusing on our state’s real problems. Over the last 30 years, I have seen schools doing what they have to do with less funding. I have also seen teachers leave the state or the profession altogether because of not having what they need in the classroom.
We know the governor is serious about Oklahoma becoming a Top 10 state and we know our state is more than capable of making that happen. But, to do so, we need fair districts designed to support the will of people — not politicians —which can only be done when the people control the process.
We have waited a long time for our legislators to fix our state’s problems, and I am tired of waiting. Now it is time we start to fix them ourselves, and the first step is making sure our state has fair, representative districts that are drawn with accountability and transparency.
Lynda Johnson is a Jenks Public Schools teacher.