Tulsa-area legislative candidates voice views on education at forum
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
10/10/12 at 8:14 AM
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Nearly every one of the dozen Tulsa-area legislative candidates who spoke at an education forum Tuesday advocated increased funding for public schools.
Sponsored by the 49th is Not OK organization and Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee, the forum was held at Rogers Early College Junior High and High School.
Two nonincumbents questioned why funding for public education is commonly treated as a partisan issue.
Katie Henke, a teacher and Republican running for House District 71, said Oklahoma needs to increase funding to attract and retain quality teachers and for its nationally recognized early childhood education program.
"As a Republican, I can go to the House and work with the leadership. I am a teacher. I see these issues firsthand, and I can speak to them and get the funding we need," she told the audience of about 120 people.
Julie Hall, a Democrat running for Senate District 39, said economic development efforts can't succeed without a "strong investment" in the state's public education system.
"To me it's about responsibility. We need to look back at what we have cut. We probably did cut some waste, but we cut hard in education," Hall said. "It's not a chicken or an egg question. If we don't invest in our education system, there is no way we will be able to grow our economy. It's that simple.
"It shouldn't matter whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. Education is an issue that affects us all."
Marlow Perkins Sipes, co-founder of 49th is Not OK, said the forum was organized because voters deserve an opportunity to hear firsthand from their candidates about public education concerns.
49th is Not OK is a grass-roots, nonpartisan organization that was founded in April by parents concerned about budget cuts in their children's schools. Its name refers to a statistic that Oklahoma ranks 49th among the states in educational expenditures per student.
The Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee is also a nonpartisan group. Its goal is increasing parent and community awareness about legislative issues affecting public education in Oklahoma.
While some candidates called for identifying new funding sources for state allocations to public schools, others said the challenge is in making education a top priority for existing funds.
Glenda Puett, a Democrat seeking election to House District 76, called for the collection of sales taxes from online companies, such as Amazon.
Eric Proctor, a Democrat who is unopposed for re-election to House District 77, drew the biggest applause of the evening when he said: "The money's there folks. It's just a question of where your heart is.
"We have legislators who prioritize public educators. We have other legislators who prioritize giving tax breaks to companies that are sending jobs to places like China, India and Mexico, but they won't send it to Tulsa Public Schools or Sand Springs Public Schools or Owasso Public Schools."
The other issue candidates shared concerns about is the time and focus being spent on standardized testing, including high-stakes tests, in public schools.
Jadine Nollan, a Republican running for re-election in House District 66, said standardized testing is "stressing out" teachers and students and taking the joy out of education.
Jeannie McDaniel, a Democrat seeking another term in House District 78, said she voted for the legislation that required high school seniors to pass four out of seven subject tests to receive a diploma with the assurance that schools would receive adequate funding to provide remedial instruction.
"We have a lot of great ideas at the Legislature, but we haven't sent out the funding to implement a lot of these ideas," she said.
"I believed in the ACE (Achieving Classroom Excellence) initiative, but you know what? We never sent out the funding schools needed to do it.
"I never believed we were sending out the Titanic without lifeboats, but we proved we did this year when we had 561 kids not get their diplomas."
Legislative candidates at the forum
Original Print Headline: Candidates back funds for schools
- Shawna Keller, D-House District 23
- Jadine Nollan, R-House District 66
- David Phillips, D-House District 66
- Katie Henke, R-House District 71
- Dan Arthrell, D-House District 71
- Seneca Scott, D-House District 72
- Glenda Puett, D-House District 76
- Paul Catalano, R-House District 78
- Jeannie McDaniel, D-House District 78
- Julie Hall, D-Senate District 39
- Randall Reese, R-House District 72
- Eric Proctor, D-House District 77
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Rep. Jadine Nollan, a Republican who is running for re-election in House District 66, speaks at a legislative candidates forum on education issues at Rogers Early College Junior High and High School on Tuesday evening. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World