As funding for education keeps falling and education mandates keep rising, a coalition of state organizations that support PK-12 public schools in Oklahoma has called for local schools and parents to participate in a “Rally for Education” to be held March 31.
Superintendent David Goin stated legislature cut allocations to schools quite deeply during the recession (in 2008) and due to various reasons involved in their selection of priorities, has not restored funding to FY08 levels.
“During the same period of time, Edmond Schools has experienced significant growth in student population, dealt with overall increases in the costs of goods and services and has been implementing numerous costly state legislated and mandated reforms that have been underwritten largely, with local funds.”
Supt. Goin said the infusion of $21 million in federal funds four years ago has kept the district financially afloat although the one-time funds to the district are now depleted.
I would mention, too, that the passage of high stakes reforms with accompanying rigid rules and exceptionally brief timelines for full implementation, have progressed without adequate state funding for operational supports necessary for proper implementation.
Goin said even with conservative spending to maintain current class sizes and fund existing salary schedules there is an anticipated reduction in the beginning fund balance for FY15 to be in the $7.3 range.
“In the absence of significant action on the part of the state legislature, serious budget reductions will be required for the coming fiscal year,” Goin said, “even though the cost-cutting steps enacted during the previous budget crisis are still in effect.”
Goin added increased class sizes and program reductions may be necessary.
Looking at compensation stagnation, Goin said that it comes at a time when, across the nation, record numbers of teachers and administrators are retiring or leaving the profession.
“It would be a tragedy if state government positions schools to be even less competitive at a time when we should be resolving to establish conditions that allow us to attract and retain sufficient numbers of highly qualified educators to serve our children’s needs well into the future,” Goin said.
Goin added he knows Gov. Fallin is aware of the significance appropriate funding of education is ultimately in the best interest of the economic and social development of the state.
“Some legislative leaders who spoke here in Edmond last week at the PLAC meeting acknowledged that common education funding must be protected and granted higher status among state priorities,” Goin said. “For the state to continue along the recent path would be misleading to the public, demoralizing for educators and most importantly, unfair to students for whom the laws were created to support.”
Stating this a “crucial time in Edmond and state schools,” Goin read a resolution from the Oklahoma Education Coalition. The resolution calls for a March 31 state rally at the state Capitol to seek more funding from the state legislature. The Oklahoma Education Association website describes the Oklahoma Education Coalition as a lobbying group for public education.
“In calling for participation, Edmond’s voice can be heard without canceling school on March 31,” Supt. Goin said. “Upon passage of the resolution, we will move forward with preparatory steps to plan for representative participation at the capitol on March 31.”
Agreeing the superintendent should fully support participation in an Education Rally March 31 urging the Oklahoma Legislature to prioritize education funding in our state and restore per pupil funding to pre-recession levels, board member Kathleen Duncan said she believed a few student representatives should be sent on behalf of the student body to attempt to convince legislators about the critical importance of adequate funding for common education in Oklahoma.
“I do not think there should be a wholesale cancellation of school that day that would result in the loss of a day’s instruction for all of our 23,000 students,” Duncan said.
Board member LeeAnn Kuhlman said she thought student representation could come from Student Council members or students enrolled in Government classes.
The board approved the resolution after making it clear school would remain open March 31.