(Editor’s note: Earlier this month, NonDoc emailed questions to more than two-dozen candidates running for various offices. More than half of those sent questions did not respond by the Oct. 20 deadline. The appearance on our site of a candidate’s responses, which have been lightly edited for style and grammar, in no way represents an endorsement from NonDoc.)
Edmond teacher Kevin McDonald faces Republican Adam Pugh and independent Richard Prawdzienski for Oklahoma’s Senate District 41.
Below, the Democrat candidate answers general and specific questions regarding his campaign. His opponents did not respond to emails and messages regarding similar questions, or else their answers would be included here as well.
Why are you running for office?
Over the last five or six years, it is near impossible to be an educator who does not feel like your value to society is under attack. Whether it is poor funding or legislative policy that created unintended consequences (even though educators often warned legislators about those consequences), the morale in my profession has plummeted.
Many of us spend every spring exhausted from working all day, doing some part-time job, keeping up with legislative moves (and lobbying either for or against them), raising children, doing housework and preparing for school the next day. All because the average teacher feels that they must work to counteract the state Legislature instead of feeling supported by them. As a two-teacher family, my wife and I have no desire to leave Oklahoma to teach in another state, but staying means necessary changes at the Legislature to eliminate across-the-board budget cuts.
What have you done in the past 10 years that most qualifies you to hold this office?
In the last 10 years, I have been the head of the Classroom Teachers Association in Edmond, requiring me to know both school finance and school law to allow for effective collective bargaining with the district. In addition, I’ve provided professional development to hundreds of teachers in Oklahoma over the last 12 years, allowing me to listen to professional educators discuss their realities and the changes they wish to see so that they can better serve their students, making them the learners and citizens we say we want them to be. And, as an active advocate for teachers through my involvement with teachers’ associations, I have a track record of working for the greater good at both a local and state level, demonstrating a long-standing commitment to public education as a profession and a necessity for our state’s future. This, combined with active lobbying of my legislators and those on committees important to me, has me well-versed in how state agencies are both regulated and how they are funded, allowing me to understand the broader machinations of state government and how they impact Oklahomans on a day-to-day basis.
Oklahoma’s education funding has been a topic most relevant this election year. Are you voting for or against State Question 779 on Nov. 8?
I’m ambivalent about SQ 779.
If we don’t vote yes, it will be quite some time before the Legislature can offer teachers a substantive pay raise that will reduce the rush of teachers to other states. And we also need this money to keep teachers who are new to the profession in the state. My wife and I watch too many students, teachers and former students get trained in Oklahoma and take jobs in other states. However, SQ 779 will not fix all of Oklahoma’s education problems — from overcrowded classes to a lack of funds for resources like textbooks — and so legislators will have to communicate clearly to their constituents why they will still need to request more money for education even if SQ 779 passes.
Aside from education, what topic are you most passionate about? What is one piece of legislation you are considering filing next year?
My wife and I have come to understand that when we make across-the-board budget cuts, the students of Oklahoma end up being cut two, three and even four times. For example, our students who most need access to education often access state health services, and their parents often access some portion of the services DHS offers (supplemental child care services, for example). The one place that Oklahoma can quickly recoup some of its own tax dollars is through revisiting the federal Medicare and Medicaid funds available to the state. These are federal tax dollars that we have paid and yet are refusing to bring back to the state; we need to make Oklahoma tax dollars actually work in Oklahoma.
You’re a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning district against an Air Force veteran. What makes you a better fit for SD 41?
This is my 13th year in Edmond (and 20th year of teaching), and my wife was born and raised here. In fact, she has spent her entire professional career in Edmond as well. We are also raising our two daughters here and sending them through Edmond Schools.
I’ve taught over 1,500 students in my English class and have taught thousands more through my work with our school’s marching band program. I’ve heard the cares and concerns of these students and the cares and concerns of their parents during this time.
I’ve also worked to represent my students and my colleagues through my professional advocacy. I have what only time and experience within the community can provide: an understanding of the values and cares and concerns that come from literally thousands of hours of conversations about topics ranging from schools to business to local government to faith.
It is this experience and knowledge that Edmond would be sending to the State Capitol.