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Much Rain, Many Vouchers

March 9, 2016

Much rain wears the marble. – William Shakespeare

In case you haven’t noticed, the bottom has fallen out of the state budget. As other state agencies are, education is taking a beating. It’s so bad that on Monday, a number of senators called for the state to tap into the Rainy Day Fund. Then the governor declared that she was on board. Yesterday, House Speaker Jeff Hickman announced that he wasn’t sure now is the best time.

Those of us who lead districts have been candid about what these budget cuts could mean. If it rains any harder, any longer, we’re going to be able to carry the marble out with our bare hands.

Meanwhile, we still must wait and watch for votes in both chambers of the Legislature to see if we’re going to have vouchers. Believe me, if the House and Senate leadership had the votes, they would have already heard Senate Bill 609 and House Bill 2949 on the floor. One or both would have already been passed.

I hope the two items aren’t related. I hope this isn’t a Faustian bargain tying the Rainy Day Fund to floor votes for vouchers. That would just be crass.

I’ve said all that I probably can this week about the voucher bills, so let me point you to the words of my friend and colleague, Owasso Assistant Superintendent Amy Fichtner. On Facebook this morning, she wrote the following:

Friends, those that know me well know that I honor each parent’s right to choose the education plans that best meet the needs of their family. You also know that I have never posted what could be referred to as a political item. However, I am passionate about public education as a way to serve all the children of our nation. A strong public education system benefits our communities, our economy, and most of all our children.

This week SB609 & HB2949 have both been placed on their respective floor agendas. These bills create a voucher system for the state of Oklahoma that we can’t afford. If you have a child in public school, you can anticipate about $360, less per child, invested in their education even if no children leave your child’s school district on a voucher. Someone has to bear the burden of this program – that’s a financial principle, not rhetoric.

Additionally, a voucher will not begin to cover the cost of private education which has been misleading to parents in struggling schools. Those families who can’t afford to make up the difference between their voucher and the cost of a private education will remain in a public school and actually receive less for their child’s education. As a woman of faith, I struggle knowing that children who the voucher system claims to help most will actually be hurt first in the process.

If you choose, please respectfully call your legislators and ask them to honor the majority of Oklahomans and vote NO on vouchers. If you need more data or information you can visit www.okedcoalition.org. Thank you.

Call and email your senators here.

Call and email your representatives here.

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