A national education advocacy group says it's time Oklahoma lawmakers provide money to implement standards imposed on public schools the past couple years.
Stand for Children has opened an office in Oklahoma with the goal this year to get money to pay for programs intended to improve learning for students, such as better reading instruction and end-of-high school exams in public schools, said Jonah Edelman, founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit.
The group, founded in 1996, has affiliates in 10 other states. Its long-term goal in the state is to get parents more involved with public schools, Edelman said.
The group decided to come to Oklahoma because it feels it can help improve educational outcomes, he said.
Brian Hunt, hired as executive director of Oklahoma's Stand for Children's affiliate, said this year's goal for the group is simple.
“Funding the reforms that are on the books,” said Hunt, a former president of Tulsa's school board.
Legislative budget leaders said they applaud the group's efforts, saying the Republican-controlled Legislature seems to be in favor of setting aside money to pay for the public school changes. Public schools, which this fiscal year gets about one out of every three dollars appropriated by lawmakers, received no additional funds in the budget approved last year.
Public schools in Oklahoma, near the bottom nationally in the state's share of per-pupil funding, got $2.3 billion, the same amount as last year, even though the amount lawmakers appropriated increased from $6.6 billion to $6.8 billion. Common education received about $40 million less in the 2012 fiscal year compared with the previous year.
“I'm incredibly excited to see them come here,” said Sen. Clark Jolley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee. “It's a good organization with good motivation. They're not planning on taking the side of reformers like myself; they're not planning on taking the side of superintendents; they're not planning on taking the side of teachers' unions; they're going to try to take the side of what works.”
Jolley, R-Edmond, said lawmakers should consider funding public school measures that were passed earlier.
“As these reforms go on, many of them are going to be more expensive the further implementation we go,” he said. “I'm going to fight for increased funding specifically on reforms. … We have passed significant reforms over the last few years to our educational system and we're kidding ourselves if we think that those reforms are going to be free.”
Rep. Scott Martin, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, said he is encouraged by the support he's heard for improving funding for public schools this year.
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It's a good organization with good motivation. They're not planning on taking the side of reformers like myself; they're not planning on taking the side of superintendents; they're not planning on taking the side of teachers' unions; they're going to try to take the side of what works.”
Sen. Clark Jolley,
Chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee