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January 2, 2013

Listing our resolutions

NORMAN — This is the time for New Year’s resolutions, so here are some from the Tulsa World’s editorial writers:

We resolve to continue defending public education against attempts by some lawmakers and others to strangle it with funding cuts or by diverting taxpayer money from public schools to private and church schools.

There is no question that public education in Oklahoma has problems in the area of student achievement. But those problems won’t be solved by further reducing funding, laying off more teachers or by sending unfunded mandates from thelegislature and state Department of Education to the local districts.

Over the past four years state funding to public schools in Oklahoma declined by $220 million, while enrollment grew by 25,000 students. Oklahoma per-student spending has dropped by more than 20 percent since 2008. In 2012, lawmakers passed what they called a “flat” budget for schools, although with expenses continuing to increase, it wasn’t really flat. It is time to begin restoring school budgets.

We resolve to oppose further cuts in the state’s personal income tax. The state Board of Equalization recently certified a fiscal 2014 revenue estimate of about $7 billion, $214.6 million higher than for 2013. That means there will be some money available to begin restoring education, mental health, corrections and other core services to their pre-recession, inadequate levels.

There are other spending obligations as well, such as the Pinnacle Plan, an overhaul of the state’s foster care system approved as part of the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Human Resources. The Pinnacle Plan will cost $30 million a year at first and $100 million a year later.

But already Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders are talking tax cut. We urge them to proceed with extreme caution with these spending needs in mind.

— Tulsa World

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