I was born and raised right here in Senate District 34, and my hope is when my children grow up, they’ll be able to find jobs and raise their families here. I am sure my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens throughout the district share that hope.
That’s where having an excellent public education system comes in. The better job we do giving kids the tools they need to succeed, the more likely they are to graduate and go on to obtain post-secondary degrees, whether that’s at a college, university or a careertech. And it’s a fact that the more education a person has, the greater their earning potential. We also know that companies offering the best paying jobs target locations that offer a well-educated workforce.
When we invest in education, we are investing in the future of our children and the future of this state. But my concern after working so many years to bring education to the forefront and make the priority it should be is that we’re going to start losing momentum. After two consecutive years of teacher pay raises, I think leaders need to understand there’s much more to be done.
Many of the advancements of the historic education reform and funding measure, House Bill 1017, approved in 1990, were severely weakened if not completely undone after years of budget cuts. We’ve still not addressed overcrowding in our classes or provided adequate resources to ensure every child has their own textbooks—books that are up-to-date and not falling apart. We need more technology in the classroom as well.
The governor didn’t really address these specific issues in his State of the State address this past Monday. But he did ask for legislative leaders to set aside an additional $100 million for savings—savings that already top a billion dollars. That’s after he sought and succeeded in obtaining an additional $200 million in savings last year beyond the state’s Rainy Day Fund deposit.
It’s critical for our state to have emergency savings for economic downturns, just as it is important for families to do the same. But to continue to add to your savings at the expense of addressing real and pressing needs within your household is a short-sighted approach. A family that neglects basic maintenance for their home will end up paying more in the long run. Putting money away while failing to provide necessities for your children is neglect.
Despite a slowing economy and what will probably be a flat budget year, we do have additional resources that could be invested in education this year. Making those investments will pay dividends for our state for years to come.
I welcome your comments on state government and the issues before us. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator J.J. Dossett at the State Capitol, Room 521-A, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5566.
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