By David L. Boren
It seems like every day I open the newspaper there is another shocking headline about our public schools. Headlines like:
“Tulsa Public Schools offers buyouts for administrators”
“Oklahoma City Public Schools cuts more than 200 teaching positions”
“Districts across the state scale back to a four day school week”
“Art, PE, Drama, AP and gifted programs on the chopping block”
“Teachers agree to salary cut to save schools money”
Each headline a consequence of budget cuts to education that now have our schools operating in a real crisis.
Enough is enough!
These education funding cuts, making our state first in the nation in cuts to education since 2008, have serious consequences to every child attending a public school in Oklahoma, but the damage they do to the one in four Oklahoma children growing up in poverty is simply unconscionable.
The good news is there is something we can do to ensure every child, regardless of background, has a strong education foundation with a chance to climb the ladder out of poverty and into a brighter future. The first step on that ladder out of poverty is an adequately funded public education system from early learning opportunities prior to kindergarten through college graduation.
Instead of dismantling our public education system brick by brick through funding cuts, now is the time to invest in Oklahoma’s children and our collective future.
A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that investing more money in low-income districts leads to significant increases in student outcomes. In fact, researchers demonstrate very clearly that state spending on low-income students predicted a significant increase in a student’s future earnings, with a return on investment of around 40 percent over a student’s lifetime.
In short, money matters and in a state like Oklahoma where we are 49th in the nation in what we spend per child to educate our students, it matters even more.
The other night, I was reading a book by President George Herbert Walker Bush, who has become a dear friend to me over the years, and I couldn’t help but notice a quote he selected to begin his biography. It was a quote from the great orator William Jennings Bryan: “Destiny isn’t a matter of chance. Destiny is a matter of choice.”
It’s time for Oklahoma to choose our own destiny and chart a new path going forward when it comes to educating our children.
We must invest now.