Oklahoma science & math school “down to the bone” on state funding

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OKLAHOMA -- The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) is in the middle of a funding crisis, much like the entire education system.

Officials say the state profits from their graduates, but they need funding to keep the doors open.

The students and faculty at OSSM use microscopes, read blood pressure and use their brains to analyze other brains.

Solving problems is their specialty.  So what's their biggest problem right now?

"Well, staying open," Dr. Frank Wang, president of OSSM, said Wednesday.

OSSM's state funding has been cut 22 percent over the last five years.

As a result, students have been turned away and faculty and staff have been let go.

More cuts are expected when this year's budget is approved at the capitol.

"We're really down to the bone," Wang said.

But the school's graduates generate millions in the local economy, according to an Oklahoma City University study.

OSSM's education also helps attract businesses to Oklahoma.

"We got General Electric, that's just to the south of us," Wang said. "They cited that we were one of the reasons that they decided to locate here.

"In a humorous way, I tell legislators keep us whole, w-h-o-l-e, so we can dig ourselves out of a hole, h-o-l-e."

State Representative Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville), the Appropriations and Budget Chair, said lawmakers recognize the importance of the school.

"We don't want to (cut OSSM's budget), that's how come we're going to try to commit to keeping it a small cut," he said.  "They are educating an excellent group of students in regards to science and math and let's face it... we need more science teachers and we need more math teachers, but I also have the situation of having to deal with this 611 million dollar (budget) hole."

It's a difficult problem to solve... something these very smart students are used to.

"I would just say this is a hard school," OSSM student Victoria Pickens said, "but it's worth it."

As they wait on their funding fate, OSSM has decided they'll admit out-of-state students who are willing to pay full tuition this fall.

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