Educators across the state have taken to social media to react to the budget cut approved by the State Board of Education last week.
The board voted to cut nearly $47 million from school districts in the wake of a revenue failure for the current fiscal year.
Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller and several other state education advocates, including Mid-Del Superintendent Rick Cobb, launched a grass-roots campaign on social media last weekend encouraging people to give back the money they’d get through a new 0.25 percent reduction in Oklahoma’s income-tax rate.
Miller said the idea for the campaign, which they’re calling #GiveItBackOK, came about spontaneously as he and others expressed their frustration about the fiscal shortfall and the midyear cuts that schools will have to deal with.
“All the while, the Legislature has moved forward with an income tax reduction at a time when the state doesn’t have enough money to support its core services,” he said.
Miller said the tax cut will result in a minimal return of money for most people — for an average teacher, it’ll be a return of about 4 cents a day, he said.
“The only people who will benefit are those who make rather large incomes,” he said.
On his popular education blog, “A View from the Edge,” Miller writes that, according to a tax calculator provided on the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s website, his monthly checks would increase by about $12 a month this year.
“I refuse to be a hypocrite and accept this money when I know essential services are being cut across our state,” Miller writes on the blog.
In an interview about the campaign, Miller said, “Since the Legislature didn’t have the leadership to stop the implementation of the tax cut, we’re going to take it into our own hands.”
The campaign encourages Oklahomans to give back the money to their local public school districts, contribute to the election funds of pro-education candidates, or use it to support education in any other way.
The hashtag has been picked up on Twitter by dozens of people, including educators. Some teachers have noted that they give back regularly, by personally purchasing supplies and other necessities for their classrooms.
Miller said a couple of state legislators, Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, also pledged to give back.
Miller said he hopes the campaign gains traction. But he said regardless if it actually raises a significant amount of money, the point is to send a message to elected officials that they need to properly fund schools.
Cobb, who also has a popular education blog called OKEducationTruths, posted about the campaign the same day as Miller. In his blog, Cobb said the state will lose about $147 million in revenue by implementing the tax cut.
“We have a $901 million dollar hole,” he writes. “Our leaders have chosen not to reverse a policy decision that would have filled about one-sixth of that hole. It’s simply foolish.”
Another blog post that gained some attention over the weekend comes from a high school English teacher at Mustang Public Schools.
Katelyn Caudle addresses state politicians in her post, chastising them for the cuts.
“The world doesn’t give all of my kids a fair chance, but public education should,” Caudle writes in her blog post. She says the post at lightninghasstruck.wordpress.com has more than 40,000 views and has been shared on Facebook more than 7,000 times.
“You, who have no idea the wars we battle every day in public education,” Caudle writes to politicians. “You not only get to decide how much I make, but also, how much money we are allowed to spend on education to the masses.”
Caudle says she doesn’t know what the solution is to the funding crisis, but she implores elected officials to find one “before it is too late.”
“What you are doing is not ok. I am worth more. My colleagues are worth more. My kids are worth more,” she writes.
This is Caudle’s third year as a teacher, and she said she wrote the post because her students need someone to speak on their behalf.
“Someone has to start sticking up for the kids,” she said.
Caudle said it’s humbling to see how fast her post has spread.
“But it’s also exciting because people are talking about the problems that we are facing,” she said.