Earlier this year, the Oklahoma State House of Representatives proposed a bill that would provide state-funded scholarships to Oklahoma students so they could attend private high, middle, and elementary schools. This is a good proposition in theory, especially for underprivileged students who are forced to attend public schools that are underfunded and understaffed.
But that’s just it. Many Oklahoma public school districts are grossly underfunded and understaffed. Trying to pass a bill that would divert money from already struggling public school districts shows either the complete ignorance of a pressing issue related to the people of Oklahoma or the blatant disregard for said issue.
Both of these are unacceptable on the part of the state government. The state should work on providing adequate funding to its public school districts before it even begins to think about providing scholarships allowing students to attend private schools.
For as long as I can remember there has been a lack of funding for public schools in Oklahoma. This is reflected in the state’s #48 ranking out of fifty states in quality of public education. Despite this abysmal ranking, in past years school districts have at least been able to keep enough staff employed to adequately operate. This is not the case anymore for some districts. The lack of funding has gotten to the point where some schools are having to fire custodial staff, cafeteria workers and even teachers in an attempt to cut costs.
A school having to fire its teachers, or even cut their pay, solely due to a lack of state funding is inexcusable. Teachers are already horribly undervalued, and this type of treatment only serves to propagate the gross misrepresentation of the value of teachers to our society.
Even these drastic measures aren’t enough for some schools. In the Inola Public School District there is such an extreme lack of funding that the school is being forced to switch from a five-day school week to a four-day week. This is due to utility expenses being too high to operate for five days a week on the school’s current budget for the entirety of the academic calendar. Inola Public Schools isn’t even receiving enough state funding to keep the lights on for five days, let alone pay for other educational necessities like new textbooks and computers.
The adverse educational impact that missing out on an entire day of school per week will have on the students of the Inola Public School District is sickening, and there is nothing that the district can do about it. This comes down to an apparent lack of concern on the part of the state government for the education of the students of Oklahoma. This lack of care is appalling. It not only endangers the futures of the students by providing them with a less-than-adequate education in comparison to students from other states, but it endangers the future of our state by perpetuating the idea that education is not worth the money it takes to keep a school’s lights on.