The Oklahoma Legislature has done its fair share of trying to kill and bury our public schools, primarily by funding cuts. Oklahoma now leads the Nation in funding cuts to education.
The Legislature has cut $105 million from education in the last eight years, while at the same time there was an increase of 60,000 students. Other laws passed that have either taken money from education or increased the costs with charter schools and unfunded mandates. The final nail in the coffin of education are the vouchers which will take an astronomical amount from public schools and redirect it to private schools and home-schooled students. A lot of public education supporters at the capitol were glad when the Senate voucher bill was pulled out of consideration. I was curious and now I know why.
The U.S. House of Representatives (in Washington D.C.) passed out of committee HR610. HR610 is a resolution that dictates how the Federal Government will distribute our federal education dollars. Federal funds make up 10-25% of most public school budgets. The Federal Government’s intent is to use block grants for aid to States. HR610 establishes an education voucher program through which each State shall distribute block grant funds among local education districts, based on the number of eligible children in each school district. From these block grants each district shall distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home school their child.
To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must (1) comply with education voucher program requirements and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.
So, in essence, in an effort to “make America great again” the State will have to pass a voucher program to be able to receive federal funds. That’s like asking our public schools, “do you want to be shot in the head or drowned”?
On to the problems of other agencies, I have been both surprised and disappointed that the Legislature has not brought forth a supplemental funding for the Department of Human Services (DHS). Last year the Legislature funded DHS for 10 months so that they could have a balanced budget. If we don’t fund DHS for the last two months we will see county offices closed, services cease (like our senior nutrition centers). There are 16 nutrition centers in southeast Oklahoma that provide hot meals to approximately 1400 elderly and frail citizens. They will be forced to close part of April and all of May and June. There are 400 hot meals delivered to homebound seniors. Sometime hot meals being delivered to homebound seniors keeps them from going to nursing homes.
We are being inundated by a reduction of services where agencies are being told to get ready for a 14% cut in funding this year. DOC has put a freeze on purchases and are taking inmates out of county jails. DPS has cut down on trooper travel. Tourism is set to close 16 State Parks (including Eufaula and Wister in our area). This is just to name a few. BUT we are still maintaining corporate tax credits and rebates. The people of Oklahoma over the last eight years have been voting for limited government, and here it is.
Danny Baldwin from KEDDO visited us this week. Also advocates for the Vet Center, Don Faulkner and Roy Griffith, came by. It is always good to see folks from home.
Colossians 3: 12-13 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.