NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
What is it about the leadership of our state that causes the quality of our children’s education always to come in last? In the state legislature, a member of the House leadership team has introduced a bill to phase out all funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), saying art is not a responsibility of state government.
The author of HB 1895 is Rep. Josh Cockroft, assistant majority whip for the House of Representatives. Arguably, there is no state agency more involved, directly and indirectly, in arts education in our public school systems than the OAC. The executive director of the Norman Arts Council has estimated that defunding the OAC would impact art education programs for 195,000 students at 750 school sites.
Let’s face it: Oklahoma currently ranks 49th in student spending on a per capita basis and is in the bottom 25 percent of the nation in high school graduation rates. When it comes to our children, our leadership seems always to choose its two favorite priorities — business recruitment and lower taxes — over education.
Such tunnel vision ignores the reality that no major corporation wants to move its employees to a state that received a 2012 grade of D+ in education funding by Education Week, that faces the certainty of even more disappearing education dollars for its school children in 2013 and that places so little value on the arts that it wants to eliminate a state agency, created by statute, that is responsible for bringing arts education to its students.
HB 1895’s author was elected on a platform that included the protection of “traditional family values.” Many of us say it’s time to turn this code phrase into real traditional family values, ones which include placing high priority on our children’s education.