Exposing TPS Special Interest Agenda

Opinion: The small network of elites controlling Tulsa Public Schools for years has been working overtime to try to frame this year’s school board elections as being between “Ryan Walters’ supporters” and those who want to protect “local control.” This generalization is an intentional lie on the part of narrative experts who need Tulsans’ votes (for now) in order to maintain their control of the institutions. Once they have trained enough children in a way of thinking that serves the agenda of the powerful, they will no longer need to come to you for permission to maintain their power in office. Those are the actual stakes of today’s political battles, both locally and nationally.

When I think about the two “sides” vying for control of the Tulsa school board, I am struck by how organized one “side” is, and the other consists of all the other Tulsans of various backgrounds and beliefs. Our “side” doesn’t have ringleaders, catchphrases, funding, or any kind of community organizing to influence public power. The organized, entrenched interests pretend to be victims of some dark conspiracy to hurt our public schools that doesn’t exist, but it makes for a good story to get people to the polls.

My “side” consists of all kinds of people who simply remember when Tulsa Public Schools was stronger before former-Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist. Students learned more, felt more pride in their schools and community, teachers had more autonomy to teach, Tulsans had more local control, the community was mostly agreed on which values to promote, children weren’t so traumatized, and everything cost less. We are united only by desire for high quality public education without rampant politics and deceptive manipulation.

We are all very different in our religious and political beliefs, but that subconscious awareness makes up most of the “style” that prioritizes the information we believe and assemble into a public policy worldview.

That’s who we are. There aren’t any groups of Tulsans united around “Christian nationalism,” “Ryan Walters,” “white rage,” or any number of poll-tested catchphrases invented in an academy far away. No, we are regular people who going about our non-political business who noticed something deeply disturbing is happening in our public schools, and it needs to stop now.

The organized control side has leaders motivated by the prospect of total power, or who are themselves beholden to larger national and international powers (foreign control over Tulsa), or who simply earn a lot of money, stature, and psychological prestige from the status quo. They and their organizations will be named and called out.

Then, the control side has an army of activists who hold public or institutional power to serve the agenda of the powerful. Many of these activists are motivated by a sense of doing good that arises from hating a perceived cause of their own childhood trauma. Stacey Woolley is a public officeholder who has stated this is her reason for serving. Her educational philosophy is not based on a healthy knowledge of what leads to psychological, academic, and public-serving health, but on fighting the perceived systems that cause pain in a world that ought not to have any.

In the course of “doing good,” however, their misguided attempts cause more trauma that needs more fixing until the whole system collapses, which is what will happen to Tulsa Public Schools if we don’t quickly shift the school board to local control by electing truly independent board members. There are two sets of candidates in each of the three TPS elections on 4/2, whose agenda for serving on the board could not be more starkly different. It’s easy to say there are two “sides” to this election choice, but it’s not based on party affiliation or conventional tropes of which kinds of people stand for which kinds of policies. This year, there is a clear difference between those who serve the failing, status quo agenda (pictured on the right) and those (on the left) who are sacrificing their reputation and time to help free Tulsa’s teachers and parents to participate in their own children’s education above the influence of foreign bureaucrats and corporate interests.

The six candidates running for three TPS Board of Education seats now. From left to right, they are Kandee Washington (District 2), Maria Seidler (District 6), Teresa Pena (District 5), Sarah Smith (District 6), Calvin Moniz (District 2), and John Croisant (District 5).

The three candidates on the left are independent thinkers who represent their own values and will listen to many different constituency groups, returning the voice of teachers and parents to the Tulsa school board. They bring local control and pro-education policies back to Tulsa’s schools.

The three candidates on the right are beholden to hidden special interests for their candidacies and “public service.” They have meetings with powerful people who tell them what to do, when, and how to do it. They are reliable YES votes for the status quo of increasing failure and financial corruption at TPS, moving large amounts of money at the expense of our kids, our families, and our values. They do not represent Tulsa and never will, because their public impact and political influence rely on network power.

Tulsa’s schools can be smart, and it’s up to you to accomplish it. The people hold the real power to elect compassionate and independent board members to oversee the superintendent, district budget, and policies. The future of Tulsa Public Schools (and Tulsa at large) will be decided by the actions you take (or don’t take) between now and the end of March.

About the author: Jared Buswell previously ran for the Tulsa School Board and remains active on education issues with the group Reform Tulsa. He is the Board Chairman of Favor International, a Christian Mission Organization serving war affected communities in North Africa. He may be reached by email by clicking here.

Agree or disagree, your opinions are welcome on Tulsa Today.

2 thoughts on “Exposing TPS Special Interest Agenda

  1. Jared

    Rachel, I am elated that your daughter is graduating from TPS with 36 college credits – what an achievement!

    I can relate to the work you’ve accomplished as a family and how thankful you must feel, as I was in a similar situation – as the student. The K-12 public education afforded me by caring teachers and public school supporters provided me opportunities to complete AP courses and enroll in the local university to finish Calculus 3 and Differential Equations – even back in the 90s when these pathways were less common. When I enrolled at Oral Roberts University, they awarded me exactly 36 college credits from work done in high school. I am forever grateful for my parents, administrators, and teachers who were flexible and generous enough to go out of their way to give me an education I didn’t know I needed.

    Though TPS provides a great education for some students, it’s not serving the majority of students well. Rather than being pessimistic or incapable (waiting for “fully funded”), I am certain that TPS can provide a quality education so that more kids can experience the joy of learning yours have. It’s very personal to me to see educational achievement expanded, because I experienced feeling the other side of knowing the truth, while being disturbed that most of my peers were not having the same breakthroughs.

    Conversations with teachers and parents have convinced me that Tulsa’s public schools can be smart. I am advocating for them to have more power to make that better future for all kids.

    I think some of our goals are the same, namely to provide a quality education for all children regardless of their family background or neighborhood, from a professional team of well-paid educators working together to raise more children with success stories like yours. For now, we might still disagree on the current status of TPS, which is a very large institution affecting many people.

    I respect your experience as a TPS parent and have to hold your family’s successful experience into account. Your story is good news to my ears! I want to hear more stories like these. At the same time, I cannot ignore the many parents and teachers who are reporting different experiences that require some form of a solution.

    Thank you for opening this conversation!

  2. Rachel

    This article could not be more out of touch. I am a TPS parent and the majority board members do speak for me, they are working towards a public school system for ALL children. For Mr. Buswell to assert that “Tulsa Schools can be smart” implies that they are not – I can assure you that my children and the schools that they attend are smart. My daughter graduates in just a few short months and will have 36 college credits completed as well. My son is a freshman and currently has a 4.15. He completed 4 high school credit classes while in middle school and will take his first AP test as a Freshman for college credit. My youngest had a very successful elementary experience and is just starting his middle school journey. My kids have had amazing educators and administrators that care about them, not just their academic needs but also their….wait for it…..their social-emotional needs. And I am here for it. Our kids should absolutely be learning how to interact with others in this world, that is part of educating the whole child.

    Mr. Buswell and his friends may not like the decisions at the school board, but the voters in D1 clearly told him what they want for public education in Tulsa. Maybe he can find a new group of friends that are not gun toting extremist who have nothing better to do with their time than wreck havoc on systems they have no skin in.

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