State Funding Crisis
Wed, 03/14/2018 - 9:12pm
In recent years, it has become all too common for Oklahoma's elected officials to individually support spending and revenue proposals yet fail to do anything collectively that addresses the budget practices which have plunged our state into a full-blown revenue crisis. As a result, decisions regarding the budget process are often made in last minute deals bearing little transparency and drastic cuts that leave our citizens without the critical state services all Oklahomans expect.
A strong and prosperous Oklahoma depends on communities and families that thrive with the help of quality schools with good teachers, well-maintained infrastructure, safe streets and neighborhoods, and public works like state parks, libraries, and arts initiatives. We strengthen communities by investing and building, not cutting back or tearing down.
We cannot wait another year to fix this. Our schools have already seen funding cuts larger than any other state, and we are struggling to keep class sizes down, to keep well-qualified teachers, or even to keep their doors open five days a week in some districts. Without budget reforms this year, revenues may plunge to an all-time low compared to what our communities need to thrive and what Oklahomans expect.
We have allowed the budget process to become riddled with special interest giveaways, industry loopholes, and one-time gimmicks that are bankrupting Oklahoma's future. This process is draining the revenues needed to strengthen our schools and invest in our future.
In a grassroots effort, teachers have planned for an April 2 statewide school closure if the Legislature Doesn't Act for the restoration of funding cuts to public schools and raises for teachers, retired teachers and support professionals. I support our teachers and stand with them 100%.
Being at the bottom of per pupil funding and last in the country in teacher pay cannot be our vision for Oklahoma. Our teacher shortage has reached catastrophic levels because it is so easy for teachers to move to Texas, Kansas, Missouri or Arkansas, or even to another profession, and make much more money.
We have thousands of full-time support professionals who live below the poverty line. These people are vital to the day-to-day operations of our schools and play a significant role in our students' lives. The legislature has seen several plans over the last two years that have included dozens of options and have yet found a way to make any improvements.
Unlike what many legislators think, we cannot cut our way to prosperity. School closure is not our goal, but properly funding education and our state's core services is our goal and as Oklahomans we should demand it.