Fiscal Panelists: Anemic Education Funding May Cost Jobs (KGOU)

By Ben Fenwick

Education is a core service of Oklahoma’s state government, is woefully underfunded, and will cost the state future jobs if not addressed soon.

That’s the message of some panelists convened by the Oklahoma Policy Institute last month, which discussed Oklahoma’s burgeoning fiscal challenges.

The panel included Oklahoma State Senate President Brian Bingman, State Treasurer Ken Miller, House Minority Leader Scott Inman, Chief Financial Officer for City of Norman Anthony Francisco, Oklahoma Education Association Associate Executive Director Amanda Ewing, and Oklahoma State University economist Dan Rickman .

Rickman said the state needs to play the “long game” by adequately supporting education to attract more businesses with a knowledgeable workforce instead of trying to use incentives like tax cuts. 

“Reduce incentives…We do not see any evidence that this is contributing to growth in our economy….North Dakota and Wyoming are using (energy taxes) to fund education. Their teachers are better paid.”

Ewing said Oklahoma public schools are reeling from massive budget cuts enacted in the previous several years.  

“The funding of Oklahoma’s public schools is so low that our public officials understand it is not possible for our schools to meet the standards for their accreditation. So what’s their solution? So far, it’s been to exempt all public schools from the standards.”

Bingman said the state is still recovering from the effects of the recession .

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