Funding is only part of needed education discussion in Oklahoma

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: August 15, 2012

SCHOOL is back in session — or soon will be throughout Oklahoma. Children will be busy in their classrooms and educators will concern themselves with the teaching of reading, writing, math and other important lessons.

What happens inside the schoolhouse doors is what matters most to parents. Yes, they worry about test scores. They worry about teacher quality. They care about whether their children have art and music and PE. They don't care so much about the state of education funding until they see it through the eyes of their children. And why should they?

The polarizing rhetoric in the last few years over the state of education is disheartening and unproductive. Lawsuits and elections haven't even begun to bridge the gap between policy and reality. We've been urging for some time now — ever since State Question 744 and its blank-check-for-education approach failed miserably — that the state needs a serious conversation about education.

Funding has to be part of that conversation, but it's not the only one.

Change typically moves slowly across public education. So it's no wonder that Oklahoma school officials feel run over by the comparatively rapid pace of reforms hitting schools. But as evidenced in recent months, policymakers have yet to seriously put pencil to paper about what those reforms will cost, and perhaps more important, how to pay for them. Sure, we've seen estimates, but one huge reform — an end to social promotion for third-graders who aren't reading on grade level — hasn't fully taken effect. The work to shore up reading instruction is well under way.

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