When you talk about political division, I think the main thing that comes to mind is partisan division — Republicans versus Democrats. But as you watch legislation on particular issues come through, you quickly learn there’s another kind of political division that often comes into play at the State Capitol — rural versus urban. What works in a large metropolitan community may not work at all in a small town. Depending what you’re talking about, the priorities and needs of urban versus rural communities can be very, very different.

I think education is one of those areas where, depending on the particular issue you are discussing, the biggest divide is whether a member represents one of the state’s biggest cities, or if they come from a district made up of lots of smaller communities.

In my experience, if you come from rural Oklahoma, you probably have an entirely different view of the role of your local schools. The local school isn’t just where you send your children for an education. It’s the heart and soul of the community.

I believe schools in smaller towns are just a lot more personal. If you are in Oklahoma City or Tulsa schools, you may never see your children’s teachers outside of a parent-teacher conference. In rural communities, you’re probably going to see them at the store, maybe at church, or you could even be neighbors. Some educators may have taught more than one generation of a family. Three generations of my family have been educated in Ada schools. My children attend Ada public schools, just like I did and my father before me.

A good teacher, a good school, can change the life of a student. As a state, we need to do all we can to keep talented educators and attract more. In many districts, there is a tremendous need to improve student-teacher ratios as well.

It’s disheartening to hear that parents are discouraging their children from becoming teachers. I hope I can do my part to help make the career of professional educators in our state more desirable and restore the respect that we used to have for our teachers.

This week I was invited to the Maysville school district to tour their facilities and visit about the importance of education, and about the hardships that our rural schools are currently facing. There’s no doubt we need to invest in education in Oklahoma. Furthermore, it would be a huge mistake to try to make those investments at the expense of our rural schools and communities. We cannot hope to move Oklahoma forward if we leave our state’s rural schools and communities behind.

I am honored to serve you in the Oklahoma State Senate. If you have a question about a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 521-5541 or by email at mccortney@oksenate.gov