Supporting parental rights in education

by Jessica Garvin

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona for an in-depth look at parent choice in regard to education with Secretary of Education Ryan Walters, several organizational leaders and a few of my House and Senate colleagues. This trip was organized by EKCO, or “Every Kid Counts Oklahoma”, a not-for-profit whose focus is improving outcomes for Oklahoma students.

I’ve always said that there are many issues in our state divided between urban and rural, rather than Democrat or Republican legislators. In my opinion, education is a prime example of that divide. Looking at schools in Senate District 43, we have many that are highly sought out by parents. Additionally, every single school leader I speak with about parent choice says there are no borders when it comes to open transfers from one school to another in rural Oklahoma. We’re incredibly blessed to have superintendents, school boards and principals who understand that parents know what is best for their children and what environment is most beneficial for learning for their student. 

The stigma surrounding Republicans is that you cannot be both “pro-choice” when it comes to education and support public education at the same time. I believe, however, that I’m just one example of a Republican who supports both equally. Rural schools are sometimes the backbone of a town’s economy. They’re often the largest employer in a community and provide resources to students and families that are unavailable elsewhere in our small towns. Because of this, I’ll always support, protect, and defend our public school systems. However, I also understand that not every child thrives in a public school setting and because of that, I’ll always support, protect, and defend a parent’s right to choose the best setting for their child.

While I was in Arizona, we toured several public charter schools that provide specialized programs in addition to a regular K-12 education. One institution gave high school students the opportunity to obtain certifications in areas of computer coding that guarantees them internships and jobs straight out of high school. Another public charter was created to serve children with autism and other special needs, surrounding them with teachers who focus on the individual student. The beauty of it was that parents were able to enroll their student in one of these charters if they better met the goals of their child. The state even has transportation grants that assist parents in getting their child to the school of their choice.

We met a woman who has one child in a specialized charter school, one in a private school, and another in a traditional public school. She is the epitome of parent choice. Each of her children had their individual needs met, and although she was driving over an hour to get one child to the public school of their choice, she was able to choose. It’s my prayer that school leaders in our district would say that I’m a huge proponent of public education. I’m a product of public ed, my parents are, my husband is, and my children will be proud graduates of Marlow High School someday. I meet monthly with school leadership across SD43 to discuss education policy, answer questions, and try to help connect our schools to resources when they are available.

All of that said, I’ll continue to support a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children, whether that is public, private, charter or homeschool education. However, I’ll always do this with a passion to advocate for what most parents have decided is the best choice for over 90% of students in our district. I learned so much about how we can do both while I was in Arizona—advocate for parents and students, while still providing quality education in our public schools in Oklahoma.

If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. Please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5522.



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