The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 7, 2013

OETA is creating a brighter future

NORMAN — Serious discussions are under way in the Oklahoma legislature about state funding for OETA.

Whether educating our children, preserving Oklahoma history or entertaining our seniors, OETA's core services are only possible through a combination of continued state funding and private support. For every $1 received from the State of Oklahoma, OETA (which is locally owned and controlled) raises almost $3.

OETA treats its audience as citizens, not consumers. Its value is proven: 1.8 million Oklahomans watch OETA each week, making it the most-watched public television network in America.

Oklahoma's economic and social prosperity depends on a highly literate population. The 10 fastest-growing jobs in Oklahoma require workers with higher-than-average literacy skills.

On a national scale, increasing literacy also reduces crime and $73 billion per year of unnecessary health expenses attributed to poverty. Yet, nearly half of our children are not prepared to succeed when they enter kindergarten. Children in poverty are at an even greater disadvantage, especially in literacy skills. Seventy percent of all eighth-graders and 65 percent of all 12th-graders read below their grade levels.

Not all children have access to the best schools or curricula, but 99 percent have access to OETA programs, mobile devices and the Internet. Today, OETA — along with its numerous electronic applications — is the state's largest classroom; it is the No. 1 media content source for preschool teachers and the undisputed leader in children's programming.

Almost 80 percent of children ages 2-11 watch these programs, and thousands access OETA's online resources every month. OETA is free, over the air and accessible to all — thanks in part to state funding.

Dozens of empirical studies and rigorous research have proven that OETA children's programs result in dramatically improved literacy skills, narrowing the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income kids and increasing their desire to read and visit libraries and bookstores. The impact on preparing preschoolers for school, especially among low-income families, is nothing less than astounding.

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