Paying for changes
Estimates indicate lawmakers will have about $215 million more to appropriate this fiscal year. Budget leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate said their intent is to allocate additional funds to public schools to pay for changes passed in laws the past couple years, but they haven't started hearing yet from agencies on their budget needs and there is the uncertainty of some federal funds. A last-minute “fiscal cliff” deal avoided federal cuts from being implemented earlier this month and pushed back the deadline for spending cuts until March 1.
“The goal isn't to get funding or to pass reforms, the goal is to increase student achievement so that more students graduate from high school ready for postsecondary training they have to have to make a living,” Edelman said. “Certainly Oklahoma needs to invest more in public education and do so strategically, which is why our focus will be on funding reforms that are on the books to ensure they work. We're believers in the reforms that have passed.”
Edelman said his group will work to secure money to fund the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by state leaders and educators and adopted by Oklahoma and more than 40 other states; legislation passed in 2011 that requires all students to be reading at appropriate levels by the third grade and a measure that requires high school students are proficient in key subjects by passing end-of-instruction exams.
Edelman said his group's Oklahoma affiliate is being funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Inasmuch Foundation.
In addition to Hunt, the Oklahoma affiliate has hired Amber England as its government affairs director. She previously worked for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
Edelman said more staff will be hired after this year's session ends in late May. Staff will include grass-roots organizers who will recruit and develop leadership of parents who in turn will talk to lawmakers about public school funding needs. Stand for Children also will teach low-income parents how to better support their children's education.
“We're here for the long term,” he said. “It's not about one session or two sessions or three sessions. Our focus is going to be to build a movement of parents across the state and other Oklahomans who care about education.”
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