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Commentary: Worth every penny

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My four daughters’ futures are worth a penny.

Their futures depend on me standing up, speaking out and advocating relentlessly for what they need and deserve in school.

I learned that in Stand for Children Oklahoma’s Stand University for Parents (STAND UP). During STAND UP, I learned how to speak with my daughters’ teachers and principal, what a quality school should look like and what it takes at home and in school for my girls to be the first in our family to go to college.

When I walked across the stage — along with 26 others — to receive my STAND UP diploma and shook Oklahoma City Superintendent Robert Neu’s hand, there was much applause. The sound of the audience’s loud cheers was thrilling.

But it was the pride I saw in my girls’ faces I remember most.

Smiling from ear to ear, they were so proud that I cared enough about them to go through STAND UP. I also saw the wheels turning in their own minds about how, one day, it could be them walking across a stage for a diploma.

It’s those dreams my daughters have for themselves and what I dream for them that inspired me to write this column.

I know their teachers and principal are doing the best they can with the resources they have. But class sizes get bigger every year, and teaching shortages are getting worse in Oklahoma City and across the state. Schools are cutting back on what they offer at a time when we need more opportunities, not fewer, for kids to be competitive. Teachers haven’t seen a raise from Oklahoma in nearly a decade, and schools are weakening right before our eyes, with major consequences for my daughters and all children.

I’ve heard people say we just need to be patient and things might get better in a few years. I can’t accept that; no parent should. My oldest is 10 now, and she can’t afford for things to maybe get better four or five years from now. She only gets one shot at elementary school and junior high, and it’s my responsibility, and Oklahoma’s, to give her and all children what they need to be successful now, not years from now … when it’s too late.

A quality education for all means quality teachers in every classroom and smaller class sizes. It means paying teachers a livable wage and better supporting students in the classroom.

That’s why I support the ballot measure plan that will invest a penny more in sales tax to education.

My family lives on a fixed income, so I know the value of every dollar. But the reality is our teachers and students need immediate attention. The cost of doing nothing is much higher for my family than a penny here and there to ensure my daughters walk across a stage one day, get their high school diploma and go to college.

Please join me and the many others who want to invest in education and put this issue to a vote of the people. Visit okchildrenourfuture.org, stand up and advocate relentlessly for our sons and daughters and all Oklahoma children. Their future is our own.

Jessieca Garcia is an OKCPS parent and graduate of Stand University for Parents.

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