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Education is under legislative attack.  Education is the foundation of our economic future.  Funding education is a significant priority that can no longer be ignored.  As HD 47 Representative, I would propose bills that support and fully fund educational needs. Over the last two decades, education in Oklahoma has been defunded, like the rug has been pulled out of under our feet.  We have mandates, but no recurring or increased funding to support these mandates.  More and more items have been put onto school districts and teachers without the financial backing from the Governor and legislature.  In the last eight years, state education funding has dwindled away through the lack of leadership from our current Governor.

Education Mission.  As I serve as your HD 47 Representative, my primary goal will be restore education funding to 2009 levels.

The foundation of our state’s success lies in the education of our children, developing them with the skills to enter the workforce and re-skilling our workforce to bridge gaps between their current skills and emerging technology.  Oklahoma needs to be ready to take advantage of jobs within industry sectors that are emerging.

We must establish permanent ways to fund education and increase funding to counteract the 8 years of cuts made by Governor Fallin.  If the legislature and the Governor cannot create adequate ways to fund education, we need to look at the Rainy Day fund.

How much education funding is needed?  Let’s begin in the end in mind...what will success look like for us?   It’s a reasonable goal to increase the state per-student spending level to meet the regional “average.”   Neighboring states invest substantially more and so should Oklahoma.   Increasing annual investment to around $1.3 billion has been estimated as a level that would help our state reach par within our region.  It’s a reasonable goal to increase teacher and support staff salaries to also meet the regional “average.” 

These are short term goals. If we want Oklahoma to be recognized as national education leaders, producing students with the skills to attract industry that will expand and diversify our economy, we must fund the infrastructure that develops an exceptional workforce.  We must accept the challenge, set the bar high, and make incremental steps over time.

Focus on Education.  My education revitalization priorities include hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, expanding the availability of high-quality early education, equipping our schools with new technologies, renovating and expanding facilities, and building new schools.

I believe in lifelong learning. Our students must not only be “educated for employment” but “educated for career success.”  We must enable our citizens to focus on “career security” instead of “job security.”  Creating a foundation of current competencies and expanding skills over time requires adequate education resources.  If we don’t change our course, we risk a stagnant economy where other states leave us in the dust.

How much money are teachers in Oklahoma paid? The correct answer is not enough.  These MAPS illustrate average U.S. teacher salaries, including Oklahoma and our surrounding states. I encourage you to review the Oklahoma Minimum Teacher Salary Schedule for the 2018/2019 school year, where the minimum professional educator's salary with a Bachelor's Degree increases only ~$10k after 20 years of service and experience. The minimum starting salary is $ 36,601.  After 20 years it is only $ 46,652. It's utterly shocking that after 20 years of dedicated service, this meager salary advancement is all an Oklahoma teacher can anticipate in our state. 

Insufficient teacher salary is a primary root cause contributing to Oklahoma's ongoing teacher exodus to other states and the lack of enthusiasm for attracting young people into the K-12 education profession.  We can’t risk continuing down the road where our professional, certified, and talented Oklahoma teacher workforce is becoming our biggest export to Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and New Mexico, where other states gain the benefit of our Oklahoman talent!

Is the 2018 $50 million increase for classrooms enough? At first glance, some might say $50 million is a significant investment. Let's break down the math on the back of napkin, which quickly illustrates it’s still grossly inadequate. According to the OK State Department of Education, there were 694,816 pre-K to 12th grade students enrolled at the beginning of the 2017 school year. When $50 million is equally distributed across all students it amounts to a mere $71.96 per child. Over the course of the 180-day annual school calendar, that amounts to only ~$0.40 per child per day! While state enrollment has steadily risen over the last 8 years, education funding has not even remotely kept pace. With more students, we need more teachers.

2018 Teacher Walk Out.  I was proud to stand alongside my fellow educators at the Oklahoma teacher walkout.  I’ll be proud to represent the voices of students, parents, and teachers of HD 47 in the State Legislature, if elected.

Teacher Walk Out

Learn more about the education crisis:

Authorized and Paid for by Elect Sarah Carnes for House 2018
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