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April 10, 2014

Public education: The vine must be watered

PRYOR, OK — Last Monday's rally for public education was the single most exciting event I've had the opportunity to experience in my 10 years in the legislature. But the crowning moment of the rally came at its opening, when over 25,000 educators, unified in spirit and purpose, recited the Pledge of Allegiance. For me it brought back the beautiful sound of my own beloved teachers who led my classes in the pledge, multiplied by over 25,000. It was emotional to stand on the south steps of the Capitol and feel the energy build from out of the crowd and boom toward the building and upward into the sky.

Over 100 educators and education supporters made the trek from House District 8. In fact, there were 11 educators present who have taught my own children at some point in their lives. The rally reinforced my personal resolve to support public education. And that support is more than a pat on the head with empty political speech.

While we all agree money can't fix every problem, not having enough money sure can create problems. Things like larger class sizes and more unfunded mandates.  

 And Robbing Peter to pay Paul is unacceptable. We should not take money away from our transportation program, or any other core service, to fund education.  That would be a continuation of the intellectually dishonest discourse on education funding that has become the norm at the Capitol.  Instead, legislators should do the courageous thing and vote NO on the tax cut proposals still alive in the legislature. Education cannot be properly funded if we remove upwards of $200 million from our state budget that, for education, is already nearly $200 million less than it was in 2008.

Education supporters in this state can no longer accept "warm fuzzies" from their elected policymakers. Public Education is either a priority or it's not. No excuses.   Until voters view education funding as a moral issue and hold legislators accountable for causing harm the status quo will remain and our public education system will be left to wither on the vine.

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