As Oklahoma limps along as one of the poorest and poorest-educated states in the nation, the days get longer and the air gets hotter.

Meanwhile, whether working-class or middle-middle class, kids are out of school. Many are getting summer jobs, working at McDonald’s and the like. Some might be hauling hay, milking cows or cutting wheat. Other children are locked away, hopefully out of the heat, watching The Price is Right while mom works at the local diner (or some variation). Others just hang around the neighborhood.

It’s great that some teenagers have jobs. It’s great that some parents can afford daycare, and some kids can go to parks, the local pool, the skate park and the Y. It’s even better that students can get tutored during the summer.

The song Dancing in the Street (see above) goes, “Summer’s here and the time is right/For dancing in the streets.” My hope is that every young person in the state, from 2 to 20, can have free summer instruction and fun.

A wish list for summer success

Here’s what:

  1. Let’s have learning centers all across the state. Fun learning for kiddos.
  2. Let’s have classrooms, gyms, parks, pools and transportation. Let them loose in the pool in the afternoon. No grades, just fun. Allow for much unstructured time.
  3. Let’s have specialized tutoring for special-needs students and encourage special talents for arts, sciences, sports, music and the three Rs. No grades, no pressure.
  4. Let’s make it no more than an hour away for any kid to travel, whether rural or urban or in between.
  5. Let’s offer stipends, room and board, and waive tuition for student instructors from Oklahoma colleges, augmented by a full-time staff of teachers and coaches.
  6. Let’s make schedules that accommodate age groups, working parents, summer school, daycare, church groups, Bible schools, teenage workers and whatever else when possible.

Obviously, most of this exists now, but if more investment is required, pay for it. Create a perpetual-funding source to sustain it all.

We can pay for summer programs

I don’t want to hear how we can’t afford educational opportunities during the summer months. Why is it that it’s always conservative politicians – with their handouts to gray billionaires – who tell us we can’t afford such things? You think there might be some self-interest involved to pay fewer taxes and deny the young these opportunities? Do you think conservatives would do that to their own children?

John Langston holds a master's degree and is retired from Tinker Field with 34 years of total federal service. He has been married 41 years and is the father of two sons. His hobbies include riding motorcycles, traveling, taking photos and yakking about politics.