Education advocates call on lawmakers to penalize themselves

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The April 1 deadline to fund education has come and gone for yet another year with no education budget from the legislature.

House Bill 1247 was signed into law back in 2003, mandating education be funded by April 1.

That’s so local districts can know how much money they’re getting from the state and can make critical decisions about hiring teachers and cutting classes.

That deadline, though, has only been met once since the law was passed.

And, some are now saying it’s time to hold legislators accountable.

“The reality is they’re breaking a law. They missed a deadline,” said Ward Curtin, political director for Stand For Children Oklahoma.

Stand For Children held a press conference mid-March, calling on legislators to meet their own imposed deadline.

Now that it didn’t happen, they’re asking lawmakers to penalize themselves.

“Obviously, it needs to be something that they feel almost personally, if it’s a salary reduction, or per diem reduction or look at their benefits. They literally have a job that they are not doing at this moment,” Curtin said.

“That’s the sad thing about the state of what we’re in today is that it’s become status quo. Because, this has become an annual event for us,” said Deer Creek School District Superintendent Ranet Tippens.

Tippens said, in the past, the state has told them the cuts will be anywhere from 0 to 2 percent.

This year, it could be anywhere from 0 to 14 percent.

It makes it difficult for her to hire the new teachers she knows she’ll need for their anticipated 300 new students next year.

“You’re gambling. You’re shooting in the dark. You’re looking at your carry forward and deciding how much can I risk? How much can I gamble?” Tippens said.

Education advocates know it will be politically difficult to get legislators to pass the penalties.

“But, you know, that penalty is tied to them not following their own law. So, we think it’s fair,” Curtin said.

Stand For Children said they are working with some lawmakers right now, trying to get the penalties added on to an existing education bill this session.

They said, right now, they are working the avenue and are not talking about filing a lawsuit as some other states have done.

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