EDITORIAL: Get involved in state policy, stand up for your views
Our View: Higher Education Day shouldn’t be the only day a year students use their voice.
WRITE TO YOUR CONGRESSMAN
Senator John Sparks, D - email@example.com
Representative Emily Virgin, D - firstname.lastname@example.org
Today is Higher Education Day at the Oklahoma Capitol. It’s a day that brings delegations of students, faculty and administrators from institutions across the state to the Capitol to lobby for the importance of education issues.
It would be easy for those involved to view it as a one-time thing — and some might view it as a way to get out of class — but this day is just one example of the impact individual citizens can have.
It’s important to get involved in the democratic process, and that means more than just voting. You need to let the people representing you on the hill know how you feel about timely issues and specific bills. How else can they properly represent your interests?
The first step is simply to stay informed. Consume news from a variety of sources. Pay attention to what your friends post on social media. Listen to what classmates and co-workers are talking or complaining about. And take what you hear seriously.
The controversies or concerns you see on Facebook or overhear in the Starbucks line are serious issues. It’s easy to cast them off as just another debate-of-the-week, but think about the ways they could directly affect you — and the ways you can affect change.
For example, the legislature will consider a bill this session to take control of tuition rates from the Board of Regents and give it to the legislature. That would affect your future tuition rates. But lawmakers have not yet made a strong enough case that this move would be good for students.
We hope our delegation at the Capitol today will push legislators on that issue. But whether they do so, you can go straight to the source and get an answer yourself.
Another important education issue is House Bill 2517, which would tie the amount of funding a school gets from the state to what Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, called an “outcome-based model,” which would include graduation rates, among other factors.
While we understand the impulse to tie funding to results and reward well-performing schools, this model also would punish low-performing schools with a decrease in funding. Surely, the absolute failure of No Child Left Behind has driven home the point that taking money from failing schools is not the way to help them improve.
And it would place a lot of pressure on universities to graduate students in a timely manner, instead of focusing on providing them with an in-depth education, which always should be the primary focus.
It’s not just higher education issues that could benefit from your help. Senate Bill 1433, otherwise known as the “Personhood Act,” would define a “person” status as beginning at conception. That would mean that a zygote, embryo or fetus would have all the legal rights of any other citizen.
Among other negative effects, this bill would criminalize in vitro fertilization, certain kinds of birth control and — in theory — abortion. It would decrease options for infertile couples trying to conceive and take away women’s access to important medical care. That’s not to mention the host of ridiculous implications it entails.
You can join in a rally at the capitol on Feb. 28 to help stop the personhood bill before it goes to a vote in the House.
Of course, you can contact your legislators through phone calls and emails to express your views on these issues. But an even more effective way to express your opinion is in person. Just contact your legislator’s office and schedule an appointment to speak with them at the capitol.
But if meeting with them in person is intimidating, there is still more you can do. Find an event or a group dedicated to the issues you care about. Attend a rally, participate in a lobbying day like Higher Education Day or sign a petition (Change.org is a great place to find petitions on a variety of issues).
All it takes is a little persistence and a willingness to keep an eye out for the important issues and the ways people already are working to create change.