Above: Moms for Liberty Co-founder Tiffany Justice leads panel discussion with State School Leaders
It's a rare thing to have one State School Superintendent on stage in a Public Forum unless it is sponsored by an education think tank. It's highly unusual to have four superintendents together at one time in front of a crowd of over two hundred moms and parental rights activists. It's nearly miraculous to hear them speak with honesty and candor about what needs to happen in our public schools.
It happened at the Moms for Liberty Summit in Philadelphia when Ellen Weaver, State Superintendent of Schools for South Carolina, Manny Diaz, State Superintendent of Schools in Florida, Jacob Oliva, State Superintendent of Schools in Arkansas, and Ryan Walters, State Superintendent of Schools in Oklahoma participated in a discussion group with Tiffany Justice, Co-Founder of Moms for Liberty on Saturday, July 1.
Three of these Superintendents are former teachers. One, Ellen Weaver, South Carolina, comes from business and a government position in D.C. All of them express new ideas and a desire to stay in touch with what really happens in classrooms every day and not the ideas of elite academic Progressives and union backed political action groups.
Manny Diaz - Florida - Diaz is a former teacher who thinks this is an incredible time to be involved in education policy. He supports the Classical Education Movement:
The Classical Education Movement goes back to the writings of Aristotle and Socrates as well as other classical literature. It encourages an in-depth study of the basic content areas in literature, mathematics, history, science, and writing. Rather than avoiding classics of the past, this movement embraces them.
When it comes to communication, Diaz supports a model where school board members from different districts can speak directly to the State Superintendent rather than going through local officials or middle management at the state level.
He advises parents to show up at board meetings and act as an "antibiotic" preventing the infection of bad ideas from seeping into the classroom. He expressed gratitude for Governor DeSantis.
Another former teacher is Ryan Walters of Oklahoma. Walters reminded the audience that the founding fathers were called terrorists, so Moms for Liberty should feel proud of that designation. He reminded the crowd that we are fighting radicalism and the forces that want to destroy families.
Walters said that evidence of this is in the fact that school policies for LGBQT+education are generally over 30 pages long while reading strategy policies are three pages. Textbooks are giving fewer and fewer pages to foundational education and more to ideology.
Walters also debunks the argument that Covid caused bad scores on state testing. "Scores were bad before Covid." He says the problem with education is the involvement of the unions and the academic elite. The Federal government adds new initiatives every four years and those in charge will do whatever they can to bully schools to address new ideology rather than core subjects using money as the incentive.
The Government is injecting pornography into the curriculum and removing the Bible and Constitution.
"We know how to teach reading," Walters said, "but they try to make it more complicated." Any good teacher should welcome parents in the classroom. " His advice to parents is, " Love is an expertise." Parents should not let educators tell them that they don't know what their children need.
Another former teacher is State Superintendent Jacob Oliva from Arkansas. Oliva started his comments by saying, " Philadelphia is the city of MOTHERLY love," in reference to Moms for Liberty.
Oliva believes that "bad systems beat good people every time," alluding to the fact that we have good teachers, but systems are not allowing them to do their job. In Arkansas they are restructuring early learning. They are also incorporating Science of Reading by training teachers and aligning textbooks with that program.
Arkansas, under the leadership of Oliva and Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is empowering parents by allowing them to be part of the decision making process for their children. " It's okay to ask teachers questions because schools are where children learn, not where adults work."
The only non-teacher in the group, Ellen Weaver, came to the Superintendency through the corporate and political world. "Saving our world begins with saving our schools. The schools don't belong to educators, they belong to the people. " She pointed out that when it comes to academic achievement, we keep having the same conversations over and over again without any positive change.
When discussing teaching reading, she proclaimed whole language dead and neurological science as the new basis for teaching strategies. In a move that is unusual for a State Superintendent, Weaver is taking the same LETRS reading training that teachers in South Carolina are taking.
Weaver stated that it is incumbent on us to tell teachers we have their backs and that the labor unions do NOT represent them. She feels that educational leaders like school boards are taking bad advice from lawyers. She makes it a practice to talk directly to teachers, principals, faith leaders, and business leaders about education in her state. She also said "We need to make school board elections great again!"
At the end of the panel discussion, Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan appeared in a video. "These leaders know what they stand for and what they won't stand for. Life is a race between education and catastrophes." In his opinion, we need more State Superintendents like the four on the panel so we can win that race.