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FOX23/Tulsa World Investigation: State lawmakers' school choices

by: Janna Clark Updated:

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Quick Facts:

  • State lawmakers vote on public school funding, a hotly debated issue in Oklahoma
  • Viewers and parents reached out to ask about how those lawmakers' children are educated
  • A FOX23/Tulsa World Investigation looked into which schools Oklahoma lawmakers' children attend
  • WATCH the full report above

 

State lawmakers make big decisions about public school funding.

Many of parents asked FOX23 about whether lawmakers' put their kids in public or private schools.

FOX23 teamed up with the Tulsa World and got some surprising responses.

“We thought it would be simple to find out if lawmakers send their own kids to public or private schools. Turns out about half of them wouldn’t tell us. Even when we came to the capitol to ask them face to face,” Clark said.

Lawmakers are getting ready to vote on how much state money they'll give kids' classrooms next year.

“It's up to the legislators. They've got a job to do,” Jenks parent Heather Persson said.

She doesn't think her lawmakers listen to her.

“I've written emails and called legislators' office, just begged them, please, show support… and hit brick wall after brick wall,” she said.

Persson wondered if lawmakers' own children go to public or private school and if that makes a difference whether they vote yea or nay on education issues.

“Have you asked your legislators if their kids are in public school?” Clark asked.

“Oh, they're all in private,” Persson said.

FOX23 and the Tulsa World went to the state capitol to get some answers, but they got the runaround.

It didn’t start at the capitol. For the past two months, FOX23’s Janna Clark and the Tulsa World’s Ginnie Graham emailed and called every single state lawmaker.

Of those who responded, 35 percent go to public, 12 percent go to private, home school or a combination and 12 percent don’t have children. Forty-one percent wouldn’t answer the question.


3 Photos photo
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

Senator Rob Standridge is one in the video above that did not answer questions. He authored a bill, so families could get voucher money to help send their kids to private school.

FOX23 looked at his biography on the state senate website. He listed his children’s names and ages there. On Facebook, we saw they go to private school.

In fact, FOX23 and Tulsa World researched on and found out many legislators who didn't answer us have kids in private or homeschool.


8 Photos photo

“I know, I don’t mind,” said Senator Gary Stanislawski.

Stanislawski didn't have a problem saying his kids went to both public and private.

“Why do you think so many don’t want to say?” Clark asked.

“They feel that’s a personal family question,” he said.

FOX23 asked if it impacts what bills pass and don't pass.

“The majority are more adult and realize they serve a greater cause, it’s not all about them,” he said.

“Do you think it’s fair to ask lawmakers if their kids go to public or private school?” FOX23 asked Representative Regina Goodwin.

“I think it's absolutely a fair question,” she said.

“Does it makes a difference how they vote?” Clark asked.

“I think it would make a difference,” she said.

Goodwin doesn't have children but said personal experience affects public decisions.

“I think you bring all your experience to this capitol,” Goodwin said.

“Every one of our decisions are colored with our backgrounds and what we do in our personal lives,” said Senator Kevin Matthews.

He said his experience influenced his stance.

“My kids went to public school, I’m not ashamed. I'm voting the conscience and the conscience of my district, but if they were in conflict I might be silent,” he said.

Heather Persson hopes lawmakers put personal choices and feelings aside.

“They've got to start representing the people. They are screaming for public education to be funded,” she said.