Edmond parent-teacher organizations are paying for school buses that will transport pro-education forces to a key rally at the state Capitol.
At 10:30 a.m. Monday, school employees from across the state will rally for about 90 minutes on the south steps of the Capitol. The event is being sponsored by the Oklahoma Education Coalition.
Edmond Public Schools is urging administrators, parents, support organizations and citizens to participate in the rally. Edmond’s goal is 10 percent faculty participation in addition to support from parents and support organizations.
Edmond’s school board passed a resolution supporting the rally, but classes will not be canceled.
Board President Lee Ann Kuhlman said her fellow members urge parents, students and business leaders unable to attend to contact their representative in the Legislature to make them aware of the severe consequences of the budget shortfall.
“The lack of funding will directly affect the quality of public education statewide,” Kuhlman said.
By a 6-1 vote, members of the Tulsa Public Schools’ school board canceled classes. Members stated they made the decision because student academic achievement is being negatively impacted as a result of funding cuts to public education. A professional day will be used to make up the missed day.
Oklahoma Education Association President Linda Hampton said organizers anticipate 25,000 people will attend. Supporters will be encouraged to go into the Capitol and talk to lawmakers, Hampton said.
“It would be hard to ignore their voice,” she said.
Edmond Public Schools says a funding shortage is forcing the district to cut $4 million from its budget for the coming fiscal year.
Administrators say since 95 percent of the district’s budget covers personnel costs, it will be impossible to make such cuts without affecting personnel. Positions will be eliminated resulting in larger class sizes and possibly program reductions.
Furthermore, Edmond’s award-winning public school system is often cited as one of the primary reasons people relocate here.
“Legislative action must be immediate to address current funding inadequacies or we will have no choice but to increase class sizes and possibly reduce programs and staff,” Superintendent David Goin said.
Since 2008-09, funding for public schools in Oklahoma has been cut 23 percent — about $200 million, according to the Oklahoma Education Association. Since that time, statewide student growth has exceeded 30,000 students; Edmond serves 2,700 more students. Hampton said during that same period, the number of teachers declined statewide by more than 1,500.
“It’s not an overstatement to say that we are in a funding crisis — perhaps the worst that I have seen in my more than 30 years in education,” Goin said.
Hampton said Peter Markes, the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and Edmond North High School’s director of orchestras, will speak during the rally. So will speakers from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, the National School Board Association, Tulsa Public Schools and students from Norman Public Schools.
Some Edmond parent-teacher organizations are paying $101.25 per bus to help transport supporters at 9:15 a.m. to the rally from Frontier City, located just north of Interstate 35 and Hefner Road, said Edmond Public Schools spokeswoman Susan Parks-Schlepp. The total number of buses will be tallied later in the week, Parks-Schlepp said.
Edmondites who want to travel on a sponsored bus are urged to contact their school’s PTO for additional information and to be included in the count for purposes of bus scheduling, Parks-Schlepp said.
“No district funds will be spent on bus transportation to the rally,” said Lori Smith, Edmond’s chief financial officer.
Same goes for Tulsa Public Schools, citing the relevant state law.
Edmond Public Schools occasionally rents buses to outside groups for various reasons, Parks-Schlepp said. Past and future renters have included the City of Edmond, the YMCA and the Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Parks-Schlepp said.
Additionally, buses will be shuttling supporters at Remington Park and Tinseltown Cinema, located just south of Interstate 44 on Martin Luther King. Shuttles will run to and from the Capitol from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To read the Edmond school board’s resolution supporting the rally and for more information about school funding, visit edmondschools.net.
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