The idea getting discussed among local economists to allow school districts to use local millage money without restrictions to help fund better teacher salaries and raises in primarily urban areas of the state ignores the hard reality that Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education funding since 2008.
It also goes against this basic principle outlined in Section 13, Article 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution, “The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated.” Note the words “free” and “all” in that sentence. I believe in that sentence with every fiber of my body, and I hope you do, too.
The Oklahoma City Chamber, according to media reports, recently held a economic forum about educational funding in light of the election failure of State Question 779, which would have raised the state sales tax by one cent and given “all” Oklahoma children who attend “free” public schools the benefit of getting taught by teachers who would have received $5,000 annual raises.
As we all know, Oklahoma is mired near the bottom in the nation in teacher pay and per pupil spending, and educators are fleeing the state for better pay and better overall treatment to geographical spaces that actually value education. Since 2008, Oklahoma has cut per pupil spending by more than a whopping 26 percent. Meanwhile, the Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature decided in its really wise, deliberative ways to cut state funding for higher education by nearly 16 percent this fiscal year.
All these cuts can be related to recent income tax cuts given to the state’s wealthiest citizens and tax breaks for oil and gas companies, which have caused an earthquake crisis here through the wastewater disposal process used in hydraulic fracturing.They rob our schools and damage our houses, and then depict themselves as heroes and champions of state economic development with the support from the local media.
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