Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Misconceptions about HOPE (aka State Question 744)


Look, there's a reason why Oklahoma's students fare poorly (that's a bit of an understatement - they fare disastrously) on civics questions: the state's K-12 system has been shortchanged for ages. By keeping the state's schools perpetually underfunded, we end up with kids who don't know the basics of how their society functions, who are at high risk for dropping out, and we also end up with something of a brain drain - teachers in surrounding states earn higher salaries than those who work in Oklahoma. The district where my kids go has lost teachers to Kansas and Texas in recent years, and it comes down to getting paid a living wage. These were educators who made a difference while they were with us. Of course underfunding of education is a chronic problem not only at the K-12 level but also in higher education. Students at all levels are being short-changed in this state.

All State Question 744 will do is to require the legislature to fund public education on par with other states in our region. That would be a novelty, and a welcome one. Contrary to at least one misconception, State Question 744 will not mean that surrounding state legislatures will dictate our state's education budget. Quite the contrary. What it will do is to require the Oklahoma legislature to bring education funding up to the level of education that other states in the region offer their students. Times may be hard, and there are some tangible budgetary pressures right now, but the kids who are in our schools represent our future, and we need to take that charge seriously unless we want to relegate the state to subsisting off dying oil fields and Indian casinos.

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