Budget battle: Nearly half of all Oklahoma lawmakers wouldn’t answer if their children attend public school

Who teaches the children of the politicians tasked with funding public schools?

OKLAHOMA CITY – As lawmakers continue to battle it out at the Capitol about a budget, many citizens are watching with bated breath about what will be decided.

In March, lawmakers asked each state agency to think about how it would handle a nearly 15 percent budget reduction, should it come to that, as they try and fill a nearly $900 million budget shortfall.

The Department of Education announced teachers would lose their jobs and schools may close as a result of a cut.

“I think it is unacceptable that we have four-day school weeks for our children. You’ve heard me say this but I have visited with major companies looking at moving jobs to our state and I’ve heard from several of them that tell me, ‘Governor, your state’s so poor you only fund schools for four days a week. How can I convince my employers, my businesses to want to come to your state when you won’t fund your schools? And I can’t find an educated, quality, skilled workforce if your people are uneducated in your state,” Gov. Fallin said.

Following the news of the budget shortfall in February, the State Board of Education revised the common education budget to reflect $50.2 million in cuts.

Officials say the adjustments were necessary, especially since the Oklahoma Board of Equalization also confirmed a $39.1 million shortfall to the Education Reform Revolving Fund.

School districts across the state are preparing for even more funding cuts as the deadline for a balanced budget grows closer.

As politics continue to be played out at the Capitol, many Oklahoma parents say they are frustrated that education is even involved in negotiations.

“I’ve written emails, I’ve called the legislator’s office. I’ve just begged them, ‘Please, show support,’ and have just been hitting brick wall after brick wall,” Heather Persson, a Jenks parent, told FOX 23. 

FOX 23 teamed up with the Tulsa World to see if lawmakers’ own children were in public education or if they opted for private education.

“I am shocked any of my colleagues responded to this invasive request,” Sen. A.J. Griffin wrote in an email.

In all, 35 percent of the lawmakers said their children went to public school. Also, 12 percent said their children attended private or were home schooled, and another 12 percent do not have children.

However, 41 percent of lawmakers wouldn’t answer the question.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski said his children attended both public and private school. He says he doesn’t feel that lawmakers would base their decisions on whether or not their children attended public school.

“The majority are more adult and realize they serve a greater cause. It’s not all about them,” Sen. Stainislawski told FOX 23.

However, others disagree.

“I think it would make a difference,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin. Goodwin does not have children, but says she believes that experience plays a big role in decisions made at the Capitol.

“My kids went to public school. I”m not ashamed. I’m voting the conscience and the conscience of my district,” said Sen. Kevin Matthews.

Click here to see how your legislators responded.