TULSA – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman rolled out a detailed, innovative proposal to fix the public education mess created by Mary Fallin, Janet Barresi and the state legislature.
“If we value our families, our children, the economy and the future of this state – at a minimum we must get our public schools the basic resources they need for their classrooms,” said Dorman. “I am proposing a ‘Classrooms First’ education initiative to dedicate every dollar of the existing Franchise Tax to in-room classroom instruction. My plan will also protect against radical cuts. We must establish that these students, the future of Oklahoma, are our top priority.”
“The first phase of my ‘Classrooms First’ plan ends the education cuts and increases funds to the classroom without increasing taxes,” continued Dorman. “
“Business leaders know that if we have poor public schools, it costs us jobs both in the short term and the long term. Higher education leaders should also support this as it will reduce the number of incoming students in need of remediation – saving resources for our colleges," said Dorman. "My plan is all about getting back to the basics of funding classroom instruction. To make Oklahoma the best state it can be, this increased level of basic funding is non-negotiable.”
“We need new ideas and responsible policies," said Dorman. "We must bring more in-classroom investment, and we need better leadership from our Governor.”
“Governor Fallin failed students,” added Dorman. “On her watch, hundreds of millions of dollars were cut from education, in contrast to other states that have chosen to invest in education. She allowed her State Superintendent, Janet Barresi, to run amok. Further, Fallin’s appointees to the State Board of Education have promoted radical plans that would drain hundreds of millions more away from Oklahoma public schools and give the money to experimental schools as well as unproven nationalized agenda items. We can and will do better.”
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“Classrooms First” Policy
Per student funding of Oklahoma’s K-12 education formula is down by 22.8 percent. This is the largest percentage cut of any state – an $810 per student decrease, adjusted for inflation. In fact, total state appropriations for K-12 education have fallen by $220 million since fiscal year 2008. Meanwhile, the number of students in Oklahoma schools has increased more than 40,000. We now have fewer teachers and fewer resources making it to the classroom to help kids. No wonder more than 30,000 parents, students, teachers and administrators voiced their outrage at the state capitol this year. We are a fiscally responsible state, and we don’t believe that just spending more money will always get us better results. However, the radical cuts we’ve seen in recent years are doing real world damage. We can and will end these overzealous reductions without creating excessive spending or increasing taxes.
DORMAN’S SOLUTION: “Classrooms First”
Joe Dorman’s “Classrooms First” plan dedicates 100% of funds from the existing Franchise Tax to in-classroom instruction and prohibits using these resources in the general fund for any other purpose. These funds will not be subject to political games and special interest giveaways and subsidies. This plan does not raise taxes one dime, and it stops the political sleight-of-hand the politicians use to cut school funds. This plan ties the state legislature’s hands from playing politics, arbitrarily cutting our public schools’ funding and harming our kids and our economy. This is good for parents and kids, good for our business community and economy, and is a fiscally sound policy for our state.
“Classrooms First” Phase One
1. Enhance Classroom Resources
- Dedicate Franchise Tax to fund in-classroom resources
- These resources include teaching materials, textbooks, text/curriculum support materials, laboratory equipment, supplies and computer technology
- The funds can only be used for in-classroom instruction materials and aids; not for salaries, benefits, sports equipment, or administrative purposes.
- The funds would be distributed to schools on a per pupil basis inside the state funding formula
- In this plan, the distribution will be made annually to schools in the mid-term adjustment when the most accurate enrollment numbers are provided
- Schools will get the support needed to enrich the classroom environment and improve our children’s education
2. Protect Funding Levels from Arbitrary Reductions
- Per pupil spending may only be reduced by the same percentage drop in overall state budget during a shortfall, or loss
- The Legislature will not be allowed to arbitrarily reduce per pupil spending during any budget cycle
3. Coherent Guidelines Based upon State and Local Priorities
- Local boards direct resources to classrooms in need
- Simple, easy-to-understand criteria to hold schools accountable for proper classroom funding.
- State businesses, which provide the franchise tax payments, will have a direct tangible investment in schools’ success and the future workforce of Oklahoma