I was physically sick to my stomach this morning as I read about the consequences of the mandatory three percent budget cuts to education as a result of the revenue failure that’s been declared in Oklahoma.
Three percent doesn’t sound too bad until you put that figure into context as it relates to most Oklahoma families.
The median household income in Oklahoma is roughly $47,000 annually. If every family in Oklahoma had to endure a three percent reduction in their household budget, that would be the equivalent of more than $1000 a year for them.
My mind immediately goes to my sisters and their families. How would they survive that? Would this mean Bradan, my nephew, couldn’t participate in football or other extracurricular activities that he loves and keeps him off the streets and out of trouble? Would this mean that either of my nephews would go hungry or could my sisters lose their homes?
For most Oklahoma families living paycheck to paycheck, the answer would most likely be yes.
And for Oklahoma schools, the consequences are no less dire.
- Funding for school lunches? Slashed.
- Professional development support for teachers? Cut in half (as if our teachers can endure much else!).
- Vital science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives for our students? Eliminated.
I think Superintendent Hofmeister put it best when she said, “It is unrealistic to suggest there will not be some adverse effect on students.”
Let me be clear: the cuts announced at the Oklahoma State School Board meeting yesterday were not their choice, and I commend Superintendent Hofmeister and the Board of Education members for doing everything in their power to make the impact to students as minimal as possible.
But what makes me so angry is that they shouldn’t have to be in this position to begin with.
Last year, when the budget was being written, we said over and over that cuts have consequences, because we knew given the amount of cuts education has taken since 2008, even a flat budget could mean tough choices for schools. We called for then, and we continue to call for today, a long term funding solution to address this crisis facing our schools and our children.
It’s why we’re strong supporters of Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future penny sales tax initiative that will raise close to $615 million annually for education. It will be dedicated revenue to boost teacher pay, make college affordable, expand career training, and provide critical support to our schools for grade-level reading and college- and career-readiness initiatives.
Enough is enough. Our children and this state deserve so much better.
Standing with you,