Oklahoma's children deserve good, high-quality schools. Today, Oklahoma is dead last in the region and 49th in the nation in what we invest in our students. Voting yes on State Question 744 gives our children the same educational opportunities as students in neighboring states.
SQ 744 takes control of school funding from career politicians and bureaucrats, and puts it in the hands of local parents, teachers and school boards. SQ 744 will help us reduce class sizes, recruit and retain great teachers, and finally give Oklahoma's children the education they need to succeed.
Oklahoma's kids are back in school and ready to learn. But I'm afraid our schools aren't ready for them. Over the summer, school districts throughout the state were hit again by budget cuts forcing more teacher layoffs and slashing educational programs.
These circumstances bring home the pending catastrophe facing Oklahoma's public school students. Our children already stand at the back of the line in regard to the amount of support they receive from the state. Now they're returning to school to sit in classrooms that are more crowded than in years past, and share books and technology that are practically parts of history themselves.
Many elected officials are claiming the state doesn't have the money to invest in our children's future. But our state legislators were still able to scrape together $4.3 billion in new funding for state road and bridge projects.
The problem is not that the state doesn't have the money ($4.3 billion could sure help schools shrink class sizes and provide up-to-date technology for our students). The problem is that even in booming economic times, legislators never saw fit to make children's education a priority. That's why we need to remove career politicians and bureaucrats from the process of deciding where our children's schools rank on the list of investment opportunities.
SQ 744 gives control of school investment back to local communities. This ballot question will guarantee Oklahoma's investment in education is more competitive with the states bordering us. It will guarantee that we climb out of last place. It will ensure that we have a well-educated work force that can grow our economy and help our kids compete for jobs against the best and the brightest from the region and across the nation.
SQ 744 will help our local parents, teachers and community leaders ensure the investment is having the greatest impact. It calls for annual, published reports that will show where the money is going and the effect it is having on the level of student achievement.
I'm proud to be part of the Yes on 744 Coalition, along with the hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who signed the Yes on 744 petition, and the 22 religious, tribal, education and community groups that enthusiastically support SQ 744.
SQ 744 will help us give our children the schools they need and deserve. Together we can make sure that Oklahoma's children move up from the back of the line.