Byng — Our state legislature has passed numerous school “reform” bills over the last five years, including legislation for an A-F grading system, a new teacher leader evaluation program, as well as a third grade “reading” test in order to enter the fourth grade, to name a few.
All of these reforms have added additional costs while our legislature has continued to whittle away revenue from the state income tax. In this election year we face a $180 million shortfall in collections with our governor calling for yet another reduction in the state income tax. If this comes to pass, common folk will see a reduction of about $30 while the wealthiest Oklahomans (in the top one percent) will save about $2,000. We are going to spur economic growth and have less money available for services next year!
In Pontotoc County alone, we have lost in excess of approximately $3 million in state aid revenue to our schools due to the factors being reduced again and again. We are receiving $243.60 per weighted student less than in July 2009. All of us have seen class size continue to increase, even in K-through-third grade. In 1990, HB 1017 established class size for those primary grades at 20. All rules and regulations of that landmark legislation, brought to us by then Gov. Henry Bellmon, seem to be of little consequence in today’s legislative chambers. If the funding factors were restored to fiscal year 2009 we could hire the teachers needed to keep class sizes at the level research shows to be optimum. We could employ 70 additional teachers with $3 million! This represents an annual loss!
Our state aid revenue per student weight has decreased from an average of $2,384.46 to $1,895.82 while our county total weighted average daily membership has grown from $11,280.51 to $12,286.48. An increase of 1,005.97 student weights in Pontotoc County schools! The verbiage to school folks has been, “Cuts are the new normal.” Cuts due to an economic crisis would be normal, but any cut due to the political adage, “let’s get reelected” is something altogether different.