|Updated: 10/10/2012 10:22 am
||Published: 10/09/2012 9:22 pm
On Tuesday, 12 candidates for the Oklahoma Legislature fielded questions about the state of education in Oklahoma in advance of the November election.
Close to 150 people attended the forum held at Will Rogers High School.
“My hope is that we can move forward, moving to 50th is not acceptable in my eyes,” Marlow Sipes told FOX23.
Sipes co-founded 49th is Not OK, a grassroots organization made up of parents frustrated with education in Oklahoma. Along with other moms, they set out to ask candidates how to fix the education problem in the Sooner State.
“I am upset that’s not been a priority for the legislature,” Mom Jennifer Fultz said.
For many parents, priority number one is funding. They are demanding that more of the state budget be channeled to education. Since 2009, close to $200 million has been cut from the state’s education budget.
“I would like to hear that they would like to put more money into the common education budget, it’s been cut by over 20 percent in the last four years, and that’s just not ok,” Fultz said.
Oklahoma ranks 49th in per student spending and 48th in teacher pay. The moms say the education system in Oklahoma is nothing to celebrate.
“We’re here to hear their ideas, and if they have solutions we’d love to hear those,” Melissa Abdo with the Parent’s Legislative Action Committee said.
The candidates had very different idea.
“Getting rid of wasteful spending, looking at what we do spend money on and prioritizing and looking to see do we have multiple agencies performing the same functions,” Katie Henke, Republican Candidate for House District 71, said.
State Senate Candidate Julie Hall said the state should use improved revenues to boost education funding.
“Our revenues are up, we’re topping out on our emergency funds, so there are opportunities to redirect those funds into education,” Hall, who is a Democrat seeking the District 39 seat, said.
Finally some say it could be time to eliminate certain tax breaks for the benefits of Oklahoma students.
“We have 6 billion dollars in tax credits and tax exemptions, there hasn’t been the political will to move some of them, but that’s six billion dollars think what you could with a small part of that,” Dan Arthrell, a Democrat running for House District 71, said.
Candidates also talked about bipartisanship and the need to work on both sides of the aisle to find a solution for the funding shortfall.
Fultz said hearing those ideas is exactly what having this forum was meant to do.
“It gives us a chance to really hear our candidate’s stance on education and who is really putting it as a priority and who is not.”