SQ 744 on Oklahoma ballot
BY TIM GILPIN
Sunday, October 17, 2010
10/17/10 at 5:08 AM
If economic development and the progress it brings with career jobs and a better quality of life were a football game, the Oklahoma team would be late and the competition would have points on the board.
Investment in education is the gasoline that fuels our team's bus to the economic development game. Our neighboring states know that and they have been in the game for years. We are dead last in our region on education spending and 49th in the nation in what we invest in our pre-kindergarten to high school students.
Our kids deserve better. Oklahoma's children deserve good, high-quality schools with good, high quality teachers and up-to-date technology.
State Question 744 allows our children the same educational opportunities as students in neighboring states such as Arkansas and Texas. SQ 744 takes control of school funding away from politicians and puts our state's priorities straight. There is nothing wrong and everything right about Oklahomans telling politicians to live up to the promises they make every election year on education. SQ 744 will help us reduce class sizes, recruit and keep great teachers and finally begin giving Oklahoma's children the education they need to succeed in a global economy.
SQ 744 does not reach for the stars. It reaches for the regional average in education spending. It's a pretty modest goal. And, that goal is phased in over three years. Is the regional average too bold for us? Would it be acceptable to apply that same standard to our state's university football teams? Why shouldn't Oklahoma spend the regional average on education?
Today Oklahoma invests at least $1,600 less per student than any state around us. Arkansas invests almost $2,500 more per school student than Oklahoma. Our neighbors are not waiting for us to get in the game. China isn't waiting either.
Currently, Oklahoma children receive less investment in their education, and therefore their futures, than nearly any other child in the nation. Consider the increasing reality of global competition for jobs and industry. Now consider that China, with almost 2 billion in population, has more honor students than America has students. With that in mind, consider the choices we face in shaping our near and long term future. How can we expect our children to compete with the kids from China one day when we can't compete with children from Arkansas?
We need to do everything in our power to make sure that our students are prepared for the global economy. SQ 744 will bring our children's educational opportunities up to par with the rest of our region and put our students, and our state, on a path to success. SQ 744 amends our state Constitution in order to guarantee we are investing enough to give our children smaller class sizes, as well as access to great teachers and modern learning technology.
SQ 744 gives the power over our education dollars to parents, teachers and local school boards who know their children and their schools. SQ 744 also builds in accountability to ensure the dollars go to school investment.
By contrast, the last state Legislature broke the promises of education reform passed in the late 1980s, House Bill 1017. As of this last legislative session, Oklahoma school districts were ordered to stop planning for and buying new textbooks for school children, teacher accreditation was put on a shelf along with class-size limitations, and investments in media and technology for schools.
Now is the time to make education a top priority. Now is the time to get in the game - punting is not an option for our kids' future. Nearly 250,000 Oklahomans signed the petition to put SQ 744 on the ballot in November. The Yes on 744 coalition has grown quickly and includes more than 20 community, religious and education organizations and tribal groups. I encourage every Oklahoman to reach forward and support SQ 744. Vote Yes on 744 Nov. 2. Oklahoma's children deserve better than last in the region and 49th in the nation.
Tim Gilpin, of Tulsa, is a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
Shaping our future
Tim Gilpin: SQ 744 gives the power over our education dollars to parents, teachers and local school boards who know their children and their schools.