By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution instructing Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano to support participation in an education rally at a regular school board meeting Monday night.
The Oklahoma Education Coalition Funding Rally Resolution will allow students, staff and patrons to participate at the Education Rally at the Oklahoma Capitol on March 31.
Rally participants will call on the Oklahoma Legislature to prioritize education funding and restore per pupil funding to pre-recession levels. Moreover, Norman Public Schools supports measures to protect the tax base of local school districts and examination of existing ad valorem exemptions in an effort to ensure adequate funding and accountable and equitable taxation.
Cari Manzer, Professional Educators of Norman president, addressed the board on the behalf of Norman teachers. With approval of the resolution, the district plans to send 10 percent of teachers from every school site to the rally who are Professional Educators of Norman members. Manzer said parents, teachers and administration who plan on attending the rally will be trained on talking points.
Professional Educators of Norman hopes to have as many parents participate as teachers, with 300 participants total. Manzer said schools would be in-session the day of the rally.
“With our plan, we’re saying that this issue is important, but school is just as important,” Manzer said.
The resolution identifies several major education funding concerns that will be brought to the legislature by rally participants, including:
· Student academic achievement is being negatively impacted as a result of funding cuts to common education.
· Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the nation and last in the region for teacher pay.
· State appropriations to common education in Oklahoma are approximately $230 million below pre-recession levels.
· Teachers and support personnel have not had a state-funded salary increase in seven years.
· School districts are eliminating academic and student enrichment programs and increasing class sizes because of funding cuts.
· The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that Oklahoma school districts have experienced the most severe state funding cuts in the nation.
Linda Sexton, NPS BOE president, said she would be at the rally with her two grandchildren in tow in their stroller. Sexton participated in a 1990 rally right after she joined the board regarding House Bill 1017 and said she felt this rally was just as important to education.
“The whole board is very much behind this resolution,” Sexton said. “And it’s terribly important for our parents to be there. Sometimes legislatures dismiss teachers’ concerns as simply, ‘I want a raise,’ but this is about so much more. It’s about how many kids are being crammed into a classroom. It’s about the kind of materials and education we can provide students with such limited resources.”
The school board also approved a contract for the district’s annual audit by Eide Bailey and a proposed revision Board of Education Policy No. 4010 regarding bullying behavior.
Rex Wall, NPS federal programs and adult basic education director, said most of the policy changes were procedural. Some substantial changes involved steps to be taken after an investigation of bullying is complete. Upon completion of an investigation, the principal or his/her designee may recommend necessary mental health care, substance abuse or other counseling as considered appropriate.
For more information about the rally, visit okea.org/legislative/education-funding-rally or email Cari Manzer at email@example.com. For more information about NPS or to view the updated Policy No. 4010, visit norman.k12.ok.
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