A primary focus of the academies is to give students hands-on experience in particular fields.
“We need to make sure what we’re teaching every day has applications,” Lopez said.
The arts and sports: When asked about where the arts and extracurricular activities fit in today’s classroom, both men said Oklahoma school districts need to find the money to keep such programs.
Drawing on his business experience, Lopez said many leaders have benefited from a rich background that included arts, in addition to traditional core classes.
Lopez previously served as Secretary of Commerce for the State of Oklahoma, and spent 22 years with AT&T.
“Education is handing off values to the next generation,” Lopez said. “I think as Americans, we see the value the arts have.”
When asked whether Tulsa should drop sports and focus purely on academics, similar to approaches by Kipp Public Charter Schools and other countries, Ballard said no. He said students need sports, music and the arts.
“I think extracurricular activities of all things are important for a well rounded student,” he said.
The March rally: Lopez and Ballard disagreed on the value of giving teachers a day off on March 31 so they can come to the State Capitol for a rally seeking more funding for common education. The Oklahoma City district will have classes that day, while Tulsa Public Schools board voted to close schools the day of the event.
Lopez said he understood the importance of the issues, but didn’t think closing schools was wise, especially since testing will occur weeks later and schools have already been closed often this year because of weather.
“No, we will not participate. It’s not the best use of resources,” Lopez said.
Ballard said he thinks the rally is worthwhile because the issues are so serious. He pointed to lack of funding for schools that could be exacerbated by a proposed income tax cut.