Tahlequah Daily Press

March 28, 2014

678,000 reasons to fund education

Oklahoma Education Coalition

OKLAHOMA CITY — On Monday, March 31, approximately 25,000 educators, parents and community members from across the state will rally at the Capitol with a unified appeal to legislators – make funding education a priority. The rally date was selected because this may be the last year in which the state could have at least $360 million of ‘new’ revenue on the table to use this year’s budget before adjourning.

Despite an increase of over 40,000 students since 2008, Oklahoma public schools are operating with $200 million less dollars in the state’s funding formula, 1,500 fewer educators, and have faced greater per pupil cuts than any other state (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 2013). Without adequate funding and resources for training, schools are struggling to meet recently enacted state reforms such as: Achieving Classroom Excellence graduation requirements; Common Core State Standards (Oklahoma Academic Standards); Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Program, the state’s teacher evaluation system; and the A-F grading system.

Citing 678,000 reasons (the number of students in Oklahoma schools), rally attendees will request that legislators make students a priority this legislative session. Following the guest speakers’ remarks rally participants will meet with their legislators to discuss the importance of funding education and offer solutions to end painful funding cuts.

Possible solutions include support of HB 2642 authored by Rep. Denney and Sen. Halligan that would provide $575 million directly to the school funding formula over the next ten years. Another solution lies in allowing the horizontal and deep well drilling tax credits to expire. Doing so provides more than $300 million in additional state revenue. (Source: OK Policy Institute, March 2014).

Also, there is a plea to resume collection of the franchise tax this year which could result in an estimated $60 million in additional revenue. Many legislators and Gov. Mary Fallin have announced plans to cut the income tax this legislative session; if this is done the outcome will inevitably be additional cuts to education funding. Research finds that dollar for dollar, spending on education creates almost twice as many jobs as would be expected from tax cuts of equal value and also results in better paying jobs. (Source: OK Policy Institute, March 2014).

The rally is organized by the Oklahoma Education Coalition at the request of many educators, community and business leaders and parents. Members of the OEC organizing the rally are: Oklahoma Education Association, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, Oklahoma State School Boards Association, Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools, United Suburban Schools Association, Tulsa Public Schools, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education, and Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association.