Educators, we hear you

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The Monday education rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol was an excellent example of democracy in action. I love to see individuals passionately involved in the discussion of education policy, as it is one of the top priorities of Oklahomans.

The message most rally attendees wanted their elected representatives to hear is that schools need an increase in funding. I would like to assure you that we do hear you loud and clear.

Although we face a budget shortfall, the governor has proposed a $50 million increase in education funding. Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives are pushing for an even larger increase in negotiations on the budget. We also provided widespread support for legislation that will increase funding for education in upcoming years with the ultimate goal of providing more than $500 million in annual increases to education on top of normal budget appropriations.

I do want to paint a picture of the constraints on the budget, though. Although we have been aggressive in our plan to repair roads and bridges, we cannot let up or someone will be hurt due to an unsafe road or bridge. Corrections officers and facilities must have funding support or we will face public safety issues. Education is at the top of our priority list and receives the largest share of the state budget. The reality is that while revenue has grown over the years, funding needs have grown faster. Essential services make up the bulk of the budget. In order to find more funding, we have to eliminate bureaucracy and streamline state government. We cannot spend more than we bring in.

 On the revenue side, tax policy is always at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Tax cuts have provided an uptick in revenue. Taxation works a lot like retail business pricing. If you charge too much, there are fewer customers and ultimately less money. If you set a competitive price, you have the opportunity to increase your revenue. That is the simple logic behind conservative tax policy.

The good news is that given time, we will get education funding up to a more appropriate level. Some agencies provide essential services, but have bureaucratic waste. These agencies have revolving funds with millions of dollars stashed aside. Forcing them to use those funds for pay increases and technology upgrades would free up more money for schools, corrections, public safety and roads.

I want to thank those educators and concerned citizens from my district who visited with me personally on Monday. I value and thank all educators for the service they provide to our children. I will continue to work hard on your behalf. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407.

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