Oklahoma has hit the biggest budget shortfall since the 2008 recession, which has in turn had a negative affect on civil services, especially in regards to the education system. 208 teaching positions have been cut, leaving many teachers without a job, and kids without a comfortable and effective learning space. The lack of teachers will lead to increased class sizes in most schools, which has been proven harmful to students’ learning ability, as it prohibits teachers from focusing on an individual student’s needs.
As an attempt to save money, shorter school years have been put into effect, and some school boards are even opting for four day weeks instead of five. This could be problematic for the impoverished children in the community because school serves as a safe haven to the kids who do not have food security or a stimulating home environment. These budget cuts would be devastating. School boards have begun to consolidate schools, combining smaller schools to save money, and are even reducing the budget for the athletics and arts by 25%. Art and athletic programs serve a very important role in early childhood development, and also as a place the kids can go to forget about everything else going on in their lives. Students in upper level courses are also losing the ability to prove themselves academically, as funding for AP and other important tests has begun to disappear. Many students have taken it upon themselves to defend their education and extracurricular activities, as they realize their legislature is failing to realize the detrimental results of the cuts to education.
As the budget for the new year was revealed, it was astonishing that Oklahoma was $1.3 billion short of the previous budget. This budget shapes the communities in Oklahoma and provides many free civil services to the people of Oklahoma. However, as the state revenue decreased about 12%, there was no longer enough money to spend towards the necessities of our city. Many cuts have been made, and will continue to be made, as our legislature does not appear to be doing what it needs to do. Legislators have cut more than $1 billion in income taxes since 2004, which has resulted in a shortage of money. Furthermore, they continue to issue massive tax breaks to rich companies.
In short, nothing is being done to fix the problem. Taxes as low as 1% were put on oil companies, which generated very little revenue for the state, while similarly large companies in North Dakota face 11.5% taxes. Legislators said that their top priority for the state’s budget was to better school funding, and that they have full intention of following the wishes of the people in Oklahoma to help schools. However, as we face a $1.3 billion shortage, the legislators seem to be surprised at this figure, and are twiddling their thumbs, acting as if it is not their fault.
In fact, the Republicans in the Senate are attempting to issue more income tax cuts, making them appear as if they really do not care about the state of education in our state at all. In reality, the future of Oklahoma lies in the hands of the kids who are suffering major educational losses. The legislators were elected to listen to their constituents, as this is supposed to be a democracy. They are put in office to do what is best for the whole community. Each service the school offers is important to a child’s education, and a few extra dollars a year in taxes could save our schools and better the future of Oklahoma. If not, soon all civil services will be cut, offering no protection and help to our communities.
Protect the future of the kids in Oklahoma and write to your legislator demanding that they do their jobs. The things we take for granted at Casady are disappearing for kids around us, and we have to fight for their education, as their future affects the future of our state as a whole.