You Stood Up for Education Today; Don’t Forget to Vote Tomorrow
When parents, teachers and administrators saw education funding being cut, resulting in growing class sizes, outdated books and fewer materials, unfunded legislative mandates, growing higher education tuition and fees, low teacher pay and a depressing dearth of resources all the way around, we stood up. At some point, enough is enough. No one wants children going to school every day without everything they need to be successful. We can do it if we put our priorities in the right place and do the right thing, rather than the political thing.
In his remarks today, David Blatt, executive director of the non-partisan Oklahoma Policy Institute, pointed out that Oklahoma’s taxes are “the lowest they’ve been for decades,” yet the governor and the legislature want to cut income taxes even more, and at the same time, they’re telling us that there’s no money for additional funding for education. As Blatt says, “If we cut the top income tax rate a quarter-point, the average Oklahoma family would save $29 and many of you would get nothing at all. Yet we’d have some $120 million less to take care of our schools, public safety, and other critical needs.”
Read the complete comments here: http://okpolicy.org/right-choices-can-restore-education-funding
I’m more than willing to give up my $29 to properly fund education. It’s the morally right thing to do, but it’s also the economically sound thing to do. All I hear from our policy makers is that they want our children to be “career and college ready.” I want them to put their money where their mouth is (or, actually, OUR MONEY).
You can go to okpolicy.org for more ways to increase the budget.
I know too many teachers, including myself, who have quit the profession because of low pay, lack of respect, lack of support and lack of good quality materials. The work environment of the teacher is also the work environment for the kids. It was difficult for me to have 150 – 180 high school students, grade that many essays every week (I taught English), pay for some of my own materials, come up with creative ways to individualize instruction to reach every kid, sponsor clubs, write college recommendations, and be a mom/counselor/social worker/tutor to many of those kids. On top of that, instead of having a cohesive, sensible, long-term plan for public schools, our policy-makers too often do what’s easy or politically motivated. New legislation is enacted every couple of years, so teachers and the public rarely have a chance to see if anything works. And part of the reason for that is that lawmakers don’t involve educators in the decisions. You can see that happening now with the third grade reading sufficiency law.
Another example of bad policy is having students take several standardized tests a year, which are then used punitively to “grade” teachers and schools. It makes no sense at all. Standardized tests are a terrible measure of the quality of a school or of a teacher, yet Oklahoma is spending millions on testing. Think about it. How much did you learn from taking a standardized test? Here’s a great article on why standardized tests don’t measure educational quality, and what they actually can do: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar99/vol56/num06/Why-Standardized-Tests-Don%27t-Measure-Educational-Quality.aspx
Don’t give up. Our kids deserve better. They depend on us.
I want to remind all Tulsa County voters that there are two important propositions on the ballot TOMORROW, TUES., APRIL 1.
They will fund the construction of a new juvenile facility and additions to the Tulsa jail. If you’ve never been to the juvenile facility, it’s shockingly bad. It is falling down around the people who work there, the juvenile offenders, and the innocent abused and neglected children who must go there. Over 40 percent of the cases at the facility involve abused or neglected children. No one should have to work in those conditions, and no child should have to be in such a place. It’s unsafe, overcrowded and should be embarrassing for all of us to know that we allow it.
The jail is also overcrowded, in part due to the lack of mental health services. According to the League of Women Voters (LWV), the jail has 2,500 inmates, but 1,700 beds. According to LWV materials, “Over the first six months of 2013, the jail had more than 6,400 inmates with mental health issues and more than 4,300 inmates on psychiatric medications.” This same lack of services has increased the caseload at the Juvenile Justice Center as well. The lack of mental health services is a larger issue that must be addressed by lawmakers.
Voting yes on both of these propositions will NOT raise your sales tax if you live in Tulsa city limits. It would remain as it is now. If you live outside city limits in Tulsa County, your sales tax would increase very slightly – less then one-tenth of one penny.
Is that too much to ask? I would be happy for a portion of the sales tax I pay to go to building a decent juvenile facility and improving the jail. And if our governor and legislature would get busy working on ways to really improve the lives of Oklahomans by funding education, improving mental health and supporting struggling families rather than worrying about their political agendas, we probably wouldn’t need as much room at the jail.