Saturday, March 29, 2014

I support the Oklahoma Education Funding Rally

School employees from across the state will rally at the State Capitol
on March 31 ( 2014 ) and we want you there. The event, sponsored by the
Oklahoma Education Coalition, will draw attention to the dire need for better
funding for public education.

When you look into the the school budget in Oklahoma you do see the need
to fund more.

And more to the fact of the failure to act sanely.
Many years ago the Republicans in the Oklahoma state capital put a
budget cut for education in the bills they wanted to pass.
The Democrats where not given any info about the cuts until
they had to vote on it. ( Sort of a Tea Party thing at the time. )

There is a need to stand up in Oklahoma for education!

~~~Superintendent Barresi comments on bill
to weaken third-grade reading law

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi made the following remarks
concerning House Bill 2625. Slated for a vote Monday in the state
Senate Education Committee, the measure would repeal automatic retention
of students who score Unsatisfactory on the third-grade reading test and who
don’t meet a good-cause exemption.

“To deny children the opportunity to learn how how [sic] to read is to deny them
an opportunity for success. Reading is the most fundamental aspect of an education.
It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach
a child to read.

“Extensive research shows that moving children forward in school without the ability
to read proficiently sets them on a course of falling further and further behind.
It condemns them to frustration and failure. But there are also severe consequences
for the students who are able to read proficiently, as fourth- and fifth-grade teachers
must increasingly spend their time in remediation with the struggling readers.

“The Reading Sufficiency Act has been in existence for 17 years to identify and provide
intensive remediation for struggling readers as early as kindergarten. And yet after 17 years
and more than $80 million in funding, the percentage of Oklahoma students reading below
grade level has remained flat. We cannot allow this to continue.
We cannot continue sabotaging the promise of future generations.

“I urge Senate Education Committee members to continue to support high standards
by ensuring that our children can read. I would ask that they let the RSA work.
There already are good-cause exemptions to address an array of special circumstances.
Predictions of catastrophe are simply incorrect. When the State of Oklahoma mandated
end-of-instruction exams as a condition for high school graduation, critics made similar
predictions that the sky would fall. Instead, Oklahoma’s young people rose to the occasion,
with the passage rate at 99 percent.

“The good news is that RSA already is working. It is igniting attention and innovation in
reading instruction. We see school districts in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Putnam City and elsewhere
making impressive gains in reducing the numbers of children with reading difficulties.
It would be a mistake to start weakening the law just as it begins to show glimmers of its
anticipated positive impact.”

~~~Oklahoma Teachers' Group Gives Education Boss An 'F'
A group representing Oklahoma educators is giving State Superintendent Janet Barresi an
'F' grade for her administration's handling of the new A-F report cards for public schools.

The Oklahoma Education Association held a press conference Friday to deliver the
grade to the first-term Republican. OEA President Linda Hampton said the 35,000-member
association has "no confidence" in the grades.

Pushed by Republicans like Barresi who swept into office in 2010, the grading system was
supposed to make it easier for parents to see how their child's school was performing.

But the rollout over the last two years has been marred by delays and fierce resistance
from some superintendents to the formula that's used to determine the grades.
A recent change by lawmakers dramatically increased the number of failing schools.

~~~Republicans Just Don’t Know What Responsibility Means!!!
OKLAHOMA CITY – House Democrats contend a proposed $200 million income-tax
cut at a time of declining state revenue is “ridiculously irresponsible,”
Democratic Leader Scott Inman said Thursday. Opposition to House Bill 2508 was
bipartisan, with several Republicans joining House Democrats in voting against
the measure. The bill passed 57-34 Thursday and was sent to the Senate.

As amended, HB 2508 proposes both an individual and corporate income tax cut.
The measure would lower the top marginal individual income tax rate from 5.25 percent
to 5 percent beginning in tax year 2016, if the estimated revenue growth exceeds
the cost to pay for the 0.25 percent cut. If the estimated revenue growth does not
exceed the cost, then revenue growth would be compared each year until the
one-quarter percent reduction could be implemented.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates that the individual tax cut would reduce
state tax revenues by $147 million in FY 2017, and that the corporate tax cut would
reduce state tax revenues by $53.2 million in FY 2017, for a total state revenue reduction
of $200 million. HB 2508 is “tied only to the income tax revenue collection stream,”
not to the overall General Revenue Fund stream, the author of HB 2508 said.

Inman said the personal income tax produced $2.338 billion in 2007 but $2.098 billion,
or $240 million less, last year. Similarly, the 7 percent gross production tax generated
$825 million in 2008, but after the levy was slashed to 1 percent it generated
$130 million in 2013, a drop of $696 million. Together, that amounts to
“almost $1 billion less” in state revenue, the Del City Democrat emphasized
which refutes the argument that continuously reducing taxes will always
produce more tax revenue.

“How do we increase our bonded indebtedness – such as the suggested $160 million
bond issue to fix the myriad problems at the State Capitol while cutting our
revenue stream?” asked Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater.

If the income-tax cut measure the Legislature passed last year had not been ruled
unconstitutional in December by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the state budget would
have an even bigger hole in it this year than the $188 million shortfall certified last month
by the State Board of Equalization, Inman said. And public education would be
$300 million short, adjusted for inflation.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute showed that the benefits from the tax cut plan proposed by
the Senate would go disproportionately to the wealthiest Oklahomans, Inman said: 41
percent of Oklahoma households would get no tax relief whatsoever; median households
would get $30 per year; and the top 1 percent of all taxpayers would get a $2,031 tax break.

Rep. James Lockhart said the median income-tax cut would be only $8 per month, or less
than he paid for breakfast at a fast-food restaurant recently. For all but the wealthiest
Oklahomans, the proposed income-tax cut would be “insignificant,”
the Heavener Democrat said. “Are we really helping those who need it the most?”
he asked. “No one has ever asked me to reduce their state income taxes,”
said Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City.

The Legislature is already has $188 million less to spend this year than it had last year,
and is considering an income tax cut of $200 million, yet public school teachers haven’t
had a pay raise for seven years, Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, reminded his
House colleagues. “With public education near the nation’s funding bottom, and law
enforcement and public safety officials at an all-time low, why would anyone brag about
a politically driven tax cut like this?” Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, wondered.

Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said it’s shameful that convenience store clerks
earn higher wages than state correctional officers.

A House proponent of the tax cut said that per capita, Oklahoma leads
the nation in spending on transportation.

Dorman, though, said Oklahomans “are spending twice the national average for
vehicle tire replacement” because of crumbling highways and bridges.
And Brown pointed to the $10 million that Oklahoma taxpayers will have to
spend to fix the Lexington-Purcell bridge after a $1.2 million “repair”
project weakened the structure.

“We have not adequately funded education or public safety, or any number of
other elements of state government,” Inman said. For example,
“We have 7,000 Oklahomans with disabilities who are on a waiting
list for public services.”

The Legislature should “invest in core functions of government,” but instead,
“whenever we get income growth we cut more services or more taxes,” Inman said.
“It will take investment in core functions of government such as education to
make this state grow.”

~~~Severe education funding cuts threaten Oklahoma’s economic future
Oklahoma has made some of the deepest cuts to funding for local schools of any state in
the country. Over the last five years, the state has cut per-pupil education aid for primary
and secondary schools by 20 percent, or $706 per student, after adjusting for inflation.
Only Arizona and Alabama have cut funding more deeply over that time frame.
These funding cuts have serious consequences for educational quality and
for economic growth.

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