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State Senator David Holt thinks education policy should be guided by Maggie Gyllenhaal movies

11:40 AM EDT on September 25, 2012

We want to like State Senator David Holt.

In some aspects, he seems like a cool guy. As the Chief of Staff to Mayor Cornett, Holt came up with the idea to name an alley in Bricktown after the Flaming Lips. Since he thought of that before Wayne Coyne turned into an annoying, overexposed, philandering hipster wannabe, he should get bonus points.

That’s not the only reason why we want to like the State Senator. Earlier this year, Holt published a book called "Big League City: Oklahoma City's Rise to the NBA." In it, he cited the rise of a “snarky blog” called “The Lost Ogle” as an example of Oklahoma City’s post-NBA growth and success. Since he wrote the book way before we became annoying, overexposed, philandering bloggers, he should get bonus points.

But now I’m wondering if we should take the bonus points back. Since Holt’s been elected to the Oklahoma State Senate, he’s made a stark and sudden turn to the Republican whacko dark side.

In April of 2011, he sponsored legislation to name a bridge in Oklahoma after George W. Bush. Yes, that George W. Bush, a Texan, mind you, who is widely considered to be one of the worst Presidents in modern history.

Earlier this year, he stripped a provision out of the “Drug Test Lazy Welfare Folk” legislation that would have required elected officials to also submit to drug testing. Apparently he’s fine with forcing poor people to pass drug tests before they can get a $200 stipend from the government to put food on their tables, but elected officials shouldn’t be held to that same standard. I wonder why he thinks that way? Did we mention he’s a Flaming Lips fan?

Anyway, Senator Holt now has another idea. He wants to pass a bill that will give fed-up parents the ability to take over “low-performing” public schools and force “positive changes.” And he got the idea from watching the movie trailer of an upcoming Maggie Gyllenhaal film.

From a press release he released yesterday:

Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, announced that he would file legislation for the 2013 session that will empower parents to force positive changes in chronically low-performing schools. This so-called “parent trigger” law is depicted in “Won’t Back Down” - a major motion picture opening this Friday, September 28th.

A parent trigger allows parents at chronically low-performing schools to gather signatures and demand positive changes. If 51 percent of parents whose children attend a chronically low-performing school sign a petition, the parents may demand that the district transform the school. Those changes could include new leadership or staff at the school, or a transition into a charter school, which would provide the flexibility the school needs to improve.

“As a rule, I think local control of education is best, and there’s nothing more localized than the parents at a neighborhood school,” Holt said. “The parent trigger model isn’t going to work in every situation, and it’s only an option where everything else has probably already failed. But I think there’s something inspiring about giving parents who care a tool they can use to fundamentally change the failed school that is attempting to educate their children.”

The concept of a parent trigger law is depicted in a new major motion picture – “Won’t Back Down” – to be released this Friday. The movie stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter, Viola Davis, Ving Rhames and Rosie Perez. In the film, the characters played by Gyllenhaal and Davis fight to get the signatures necessary to improve the school their children attend. The movie is expected to be one of the most impactful considerations of modern education challenges since the 2010 documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’”.

Yeah, this is a great idea. Let’s take the massive responsibility to properly educate students out of the hands of those lazy, greedy and evil school teachers and administrators and put parents in control. You know, because parents are much more qualified to make decisions about a kid’s education than the pompous, over-paid, college-educated professionals who teach them.

Actually, this “proposed legislation” is severely flawed. It may look good in a press release or movie that was “inspired” by a true story, but it’s impractical. Here are five reasons why.

1. Uhm, the legislation is inspired by a Maggie Gyllenhaal film.
Unless the movie is “Secretary,” a Maggie Gyllenhall film should not inspire any form of state or federal legislation. Not only is she annoying, but she looks like a sad catfish.

Also, notice how the film is “inspired” by a true story. That means it's still fiction. If this thing passes, I bet Holt’s next move will be to introduce legislation requiring Michelle Pfeiffer to teach math at inner-city high schools and/or empowering rich white families to take control of low-performing large black men and turn them into college football stars.


2. Don’t parents already have the right to force changes?
Isn't that what school board elections are for? That’s the point of them, right? They serve as a voice of the people. They set the standards for curriculum and hire and fire administrators. You know, the exact things that parents want to be able to control.


3. How do you define “low performing?”
Is it based on test scores? If so, are low test scores the fault of the teachers and administrators or neglectful, under-educated parents? And why do I get the feeling that if an elementary school in Bethany has a gay teacher, a group of parents are going to deem the school “low-performing” and vote to implement changes.


4. Don’t “low-performing” schools suffer from disengaged parents?
Seriously, talk to any educator** (I know a couple) in Oklahoma, and they’ll tell you one of the biggest problems with so-called “low performing” school are disengaged parents. Do you expect these same parents to actually care enough to vote for changes? And if they do, what changes will they make?


5. Where does the money come from?
Thanks to politicians like David Holt, the education system is already strapped for cash. Where’s the money going to come from to initiate these petitions? What happens if a school fires the principal of a “low performing” school? Are they going to pay more to bring in a better principle from a “high performing” school in Edmond to transform a “low performing” school in South OKC? Should I end this with more questions? Seriously, should I?


Once again, this idea is just flawed. Are there some bad teachers and administrators out there? Sure. Are there some schools that could perform better? Yes. Does this proposed legislation address those problems? Not at all. It’s just a clever campaign idea for out-of-touch white people who want to blame educators for the problems in our public schools, and not a lack of proper funding and/or bad parenting.

Therefore, expect this to be a state law by next spring.

** Some of the teachers and administrators will say the problem has to do with prayer not being allowed in schools. Ignore these people.

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