Oklahoma’s failing education system is holding back its economic success. CNBC recently ranked Oklahoma at 43rd in its rankings of best states to do business in. Why did we rank so low? Oklahoma is dead last in education and has been for years now. The State Legislature has failed to prioritize education for so long that years of bad policy decisions are damaging our workforce, technology, and innovation. Businesses do not want to move or expand here and thousands of Oklahoma’s brightest young minds have left for better opportunities elsewhere. That is, and should be, unacceptable to Oklahomans across the state.
Since the 2018 teacher walkout, we have seen, at best, incremental progress far short of the changes necessary to fix the system. The teacher pay increase may have slowed the rate at which qualified teachers were fleeing the state, but it did nothing to address the critical lack of classroom funding across the state. Raises in teacher and staff pay are appropriate and appreciated but no matter how much teachers are paid, if they do not have the resources, tools, and facilities to do their jobs correctly, nothing will change. Our classrooms are overfilled with students that in far too many cases lack access to the technology, textbooks, and learning facilities that contribute to a world-class education. Districts are being forced to make difficult choices to manage shrinking budgets including eliminating programs, cutting jobs, shortening school weeks, and even closing schools. District 35 is about to lose two Tulsa Public elementary schools due to cuts. We can and we must do better.
The solution to this problem is making real, long term investments in education from top to bottom. From rural elementary schools to the halls of the state’s top universities, we must restore classroom funding and reverse the cuts of the last decade. That means significantly increasing the funding to the classroom spending rubric, restoring funding to higher education, finding smarter, more flexible solutions for district financing, and above all, placing the public school classroom at the heart of our education policy. To do so, the legislature will have to shift its priorities and put children ahead of corporate profits and oil and gas lobbyists. If elected, Carly will have her priorities straight from Day 1 and work tirelessly to ensure that our children get a top-quality education.