Tulsa is in an educational crisis. It's hard to pay attention to when there are national headlines that grab at our attention. And simply being informed is quickly becoming not enough.
In 2006, The Guardian reporter Paul Harris profiled Tulsa. He called our city "America's heartland" and "picture book middle America". It's an image we've cultured over generations. It's our shared habits. We're proud of our city. But even then, a decade ago, he identified "a hunger [here]". It's a hunger at our edges, in the forgotten neighborhoods and schools. We've built the storybook and shunned the hungry. Our schools are underfunded and understaffed. Our teachers are overworked and overwhelmed. Our kids are falling behind. Our city's hunger has grown since 2006, and it could get far worse.
In Oklahoma's last legislative session, we cut $153 million from higher education. One hundred and fifty-three million dollars.
Our city's hunger feeds off inequality, and our major educational response last year was to deepen that inequality. Compounding this major cut is the statistical analysis that, by 2020, 37% of jobs in Oklahoma will require a college degree. College will become not simply the marker for success in our state, but the prerequisite for employment. Tulsa will grow hungrier.
But we can - we must - assuage that hunger. By not letting our communities in need continue to be forgotten. By looking up from our story book and doing something. This situation is bad, but it can get better. Get informed: watch, read, look and listen for our kids' voices. Their needs, our educational crisis, is hidden only from those not looking. And get involved. Passive complacency is accepting the path we are on.
Tulsa is a proud city. We are America's heartland, the quintessential storybook. But the story is not finished. Our chapters are unwritten. And while our problems are great, so are our people. If we do our part right now, our story will be one of inspiration, of overcoming and solving the problems so long ignored.
Be active in our story. Help us change the future. For our city, for our kids, for us.