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Neighboring States: Oklahoma Fights for Funding

25,000 supporters of public schools, educators, parents and students convened in Oklahoma City in late March in the largest advocacy effort the state has seen for public education in 24 years. Despite Oklahoma’s public school attendance increasing by 40,000 students since 2009, funding for the state’s public education has fallen by $200 million. Advocates came together at the state’s capitol to bring attention to the shortfall.

Those in attendance made it clear that their request for additional funding was for students’ benefit, not their own. As Sarah Caldwell, a 30-year-old teacher in Midwest City-Del City told The Oklahoman, “Sure, I would love another couple of bucks in my pocket. But my students would really like technology in the classroom, adequate supplies, textbooks, all of that.”

State Representative Lee Denney (R-Cushing) is the principal author of a bill that would provide a stable stream of funding to Oklahoma public schools. Rep. Denney sees funding as a critical tool in teacher retention and in preventing well as classroom over-crowding:

“It’s time for our legislature to recognize that our schools cannot continue to serve the state’s 678,000 students in crowded classrooms. We cannot continue to implement the major education reforms and attract and retain (top) educators.” (source)

Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President Jeffrey Corbett also spoke on behalf of the state’s teachers.

“We must invest in teachers and give them support,” he said. “We cannot do that with bargain-basement funding and unsustainable wages. It is time to turn our classrooms back over to our teachers.” (source)

Oklahoma is currently ranked 49th in the nation in per-student education funding with funding levels that are nearly 23 percent below 2008 pre-recession levels. The Oklahoma legislature, like Missouri’s, is considering possible tax cuts that would further-limit public education funding.

For comparison, Missouri currently has more than 917,000 students enrolled in our public schools and faces a more than $620 million shortfall to the Foundation Formula.

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