Woodward, Okla. —
By Johnny McMahan
In 1974, Dr. Ivan Holmes, then a teacher at Northeastern in Tahlequah, played a role in David Boren's "Broom Brigade" that swept the relatively unknown legislator into the governor's office.
Boren's promise to "Sweep Out the Old Guard" carried the day against incumbent David Hall, U. S. Rep. Clem McSpadden and Republican Jim Inhofe. The campaign sold brooms to highlight the message.
Dr. Holmes, now retired, is using a version of that strategy as he runs for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Holmes, one of 5 Democrats (and 1 Republican) who have announced their plans to challenge incumbent Republican Janet Barresi, is partially financing his campaign with hula hoops and the slogan - "With Everyone in the Loop, Kids win."
"At the top of the loop are parents and students," Holmes explains. "The right of the loop are master teachers, at the bottom of the loop are administrators and school board at the right is the state superintendent's office.
"The only way to improve is to get all 4 groups in the loop to run the system and start working together. The current superintendent has taken an adversarial role and has upset everyone."
Holmes, who was in Woodward last week to meet for an area superintendents meeting, is running on 3 main items.
First is adequate funding for education.
"It's something everyone says they favor, but the reality is we haven't funded education, we're last in the nation," he said. "We've got $200 million less for education than we did 5 years ago. Most of the public don't realize we're 49th or 50th in the nation in education funding."
Second is to work against and inform people about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization financed by millionaires that Holmes says is wanting to use public money to form charter schools that would be exempt from regulations that apply to public schools.
"If they have their way all public schools would become charter schools and the public education system we have would be gone tomorrow," Holmes said.
The candidate said he isn't against the right of someone to start a charter school, but he is against using public money and taking away from pubic education to do it.
Third, Holmes wants to put educators back in charge of the decision making process.
"My goal is to put educators back in charge of their own destiny," Holmes said. "The way to improve education is to hire proficient, qualified master teachers and let them control the classroom and teach."
Holmes coined the phrase master teachers and said among other criteria it means knowing how to challenge and motivate students and showing students that you care about them.
The candidate opposes the A-F grading system that has caused consternation throughout the state, and also Common Core standards that rely heavily on standardized testing.
Holmes said the system over emphasizes standardized testing and pits students, teachers and parents against teach other.
Holmes said the state superintendent's office should be communicating with parents, students, teachers and administrators.
"That's the only way you can agree on a way to be successful," he said.
Oklahoma has trended Republican so much in the last decade that it is sometimes known as the "reddest state in the nation," and every statewide office is held by a Republican.
Holmes, who directed the successful campaign by Lloyd Fisher several years ago that ousted an incumbent Republican state labor commissioner Brenda Reneau, said the timing is right for a Democrat to win in 2014.
"We (Fields campaign) beat a 12-year incumbent by traveling 75,000 miles and setting up a 77-county organization and that's what I'm doing now," Holmes said. "People are upset and want a change."