Friday, March 31, 2017

This Is A Joke, Right?

Surely this is a joke, a bad dream, just one big old got ya!

No state government would have ever year after year defund core services such as education, health care, police, and fire. Surely this is a joke, there has to be a punch line somewhere.

Surely this is a joke, no state would ever have 868,000,000 fewer dollars to run their state with, that would never happen. Clearly, this is just one big joke, they are pulling our leg, right?

No. This is not a joke. This is real life, this is our reality. Our state has 868,000,000 MILLION dollars less than what it needs to run the state. That is less money for education, health and human services, public safety, foster care, state parks, and our highways. How many of those things on that list do you depend on? It doesn't seem like a joke right now, does it?

Luckily our state has laws in place from keeping it from going into debt which is great, but still how do we survive this? Let's face it we have to do more with less, which is something we have seemed to have gotten used too.

We are all losers in this game. However, there is an even bigger group of people that lose in this situation, the children of Oklahoma. It is their present and their future that is being robbed from them. How can people be okay with this? How can people lay their heads down at night and not be outraged? I'm outraged, I'm devasted, and I'm heartbroken. Did I mention I was outraged?

In November we had our chance to make lasting change. We had a choice to make. I tell my students all the time that choices have consequences. We are reaping our consequences. I will admit State Question 779, wasn't the best plan for teacher pay raises and for funding education, but it was the only plan on the table. That was voted down for a better plan, a better plan to be made by the legislatures. Guess who we voted back into the office? The same officials that ignored the revenue failures, that ignored properly funding education and other public services, that gave out tax cut after tax cut to oil, gas, and wind energy companies. Elections have consequences, we are living with ours.

School districts across the state are being faced with the impossible, gut-wrenching, painful task of trying to figure out what to cut and still serve students with 12% less of what they are supposed to have. Some of the things on the table: cutting transportation unless it is required by federal law. Cutting Fine Arts and Humanities, and Athletics. Going to four day weeks which many schools have already done. Reducing central level and building level administration positions.  Closing school sites and increasing class sizes. Furlough days: those are days where the district is closed, and no one gets paid.

Is this what kids deserve? Is that what is best for kids? For the love, if you answered yes to those to questions, meet me outside. No! This is not what is best for kids. Kids deserve going to school five days a week, they deserve access to Fine Arts and Humanities and Athletics, they deserve to have the adequate staffing in their buildings, they deserve to learn in the classroom that isn't overcrowded, and their teachers deserve to be paid accordingly.

But by all means...let's try to pass another voucher bill that takes away funding from our already underfunded schools. I don't know about you, but I don't know a school that is flushed with cash.

We need a working budget, and we need revenue, and if you ask me I don't think to increase the taxes at car washes and increasing the taxes on tobacco products is going to get it done. Get down to business and get a plan together! The House Democrats have one in place, House Republicans get out from closed doors, get with your colleagues and make this happen. Just do what you were sent to office to do, serve the people of Oklahoma. You can serve the people by passing a budget that works and generates the revenue stream that we need. There are many that are on the frontline fighting this fight, and I say thank you. Thank you for standing up for our children and for us.

Those children that I am speaking of, they did nothing wrong. They didn't make the poor choices that have gotten us here, but unfortunately, they are carrying the heavy burden. Let me tell you about those kids, they are the kids that sat in my Choir Room with tears streaming down their faces as they sang "America the Beautiful." When I asked them why they were so upset, the response was overwhelming, because America isn't very beautiful right now, and we can't change it. My students are 12, 13, and 14 years old. Those answers are way beyond their years. We have to figure it out for them. They did nothing wrong, and they don't deserve what is happening.

Oklahoma legislature, you have a choice to make, please make the right one. Because this isn't a joke.

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