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When the Road Map Looks A Little Different Featured

Written by  Monday, 02 April 2018 16:56
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By Rep. Rick West

 

Thousands of teachers traveled to the state Capitol on Monday to fight for more education funding. Educators and supporters stood outside in the cold weather and long lines to talk to lawmakers, and folks from our part of the state drove hours to participate in the rally for public education.

 

I’m truly thankful for everyone who has taken the time to get involved in this conversation. It can be easy to be an armchair quarterback with legislative agendas, but these teachers have chosen to be part of the discussion.

 

If you’re anything like me, chances are your eyes have been opened during the time you spent at the Capitol. Issues you figure should be easy fixes often aren’t. Discussions you don’t think should get heated often do. Pieces of “easy” legislation you believe will sail through the legislative process rarely have a simple path. This is a topsy-turvy environment, and it’s one that can be very frustrating for everyone.

 

The good news is this – we all believe teachers deserve proper compensation. I’ve fought for a teacher pay raise since the beginning of my time as a state representative, and I’m glad to see one finally come to be. The raise signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on March 29 actually over-delivers on what the Oklahoma Education Association endorsed in February when it fought for the $5,000 raise. It’s a great step.

 

I fully understand there are concerns about the long-term state of education in Oklahoma. I listened to teachers who are asking for multi-year pay raises. Educators lobbied me to increase education funding over the next several years. But constitutionally, there’s a problem with doing that.

 

Lawmakers are unable to tie the hands of future legislatures. In Article 10, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution, it clearly says, “The state shall never create or authorize the creation of any debt or obligation, or fund or pay any deficit, against the state, or any department, institution or agency thereof, regardless of its form or the source of money from which it is to be paid.” There is an exception for times of war and those sorts of things. But the bottom line is that we cannot create unfunded mandates, and we cannot fund future fiscal years because a different set of lawmakers will be in control. It’s right there in the Oklahoma Constitution, which I swore to uphold.

 

This means we have to work bit by bit. Over the past 18 months, I’ve fought for smart government reforms. I’ve tried to change the problems within central purchasing for agencies. I’ve worked with colleagues to prevent single entities from hoarding billions of dollars to the detriment of Oklahomans. And we’ve made some progress, but there’s a long way to go.

 

Again, I am glad for the people who have taken this opportunity to become more familiar with the Oklahoma Legislature. Visiting the Capitol and talking to lawmakers is something that many folks don’t do. Going forward, I hope we can all try to find the bits of common ground I know we share. We may differ on the road map from time to time, but we can all agree on the destination – a better education system for Oklahoma.

 

As always, I’m here if you need me.

 

You can call 405-557-7413 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Thanks, and may God bless our children, our teachers and our great state.

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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