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April 10, 2013

Communities focus on education with forum

NORMAN — The Oklahoma League of Women Voters brought seven communities together Tuesday evening in a live-broadcast forum, Focus On Education, concentrating on issues facing public education in Oklahoma and fielding questions from viewers across the state.

Panelists David Blatt of the OK Policy Institute, Sharon Rodine of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, and Oklahoma City charter school parent Dee Robinson — among others — spoke on the status of education funding, children in Oklahoma and parental impact on student scholarship, respectively.

“The state Senate Republicans called for an additional $75 million to $100 million in state funding for common education, but their plan is contingent upon there being no tax cut taking effect in 2014, but the plan being promoted by the governor and House would enact a 25 percent cut in income tax taking effect next year,” Blatt said. “So even with those additional funds, the situation would still be very tight.”

Calling attention to the ever-widening gap as tax revenue shrinks and educational needs grow, Blatt said correcting the “misaligned revenue” must be a major priority.

Rodine discussed the number of children in poverty in Oklahoma and the crucial importance of education in remedying the situation, stating that funding and policy could directly affect a positive shift in children’s well-being.

“We need to think bigger, broader and better,” Rodine said. “As we look at policies, too often Oklahoma takes a more punitive approach than is necessary.

“We can look at positive and productive solutions by investing and helping those who need the resources instead of threatening to flunk them.”

Robinson discussed the dire impact of under-funding as evidenced by her local school, ultimately contributing to her decision to send her son to Kipp College Preparatory charter school.

“You say that our children are obese and inactive, but without proper investment in local schools, they can’t afford to build playgrounds or gymnasiums for those children, nor can they employ full-time or even part-time gym teachers,” Robinson said.

“I work in downtown Oklahoma City. I see the money we’re putting into project 360 and building this momentum. Why can’t we can’t put this kind of money and momentum into our education?”

For more information on these and other issues in education funding, visit www.okpolicy.org.

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