By Mike Mullins
President, OSSBA Board of Directors
When the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration launched For the People: A Vision for Oklahoma Public Education more than three years ago, we really didn’t know where the project would lead. What we knew for sure is that a reactive approach wasn’t producing much-needed support for our schools, teachers and
Top-down “reforms” were coming fast and furious. Despite good intentions, many of the ideas weren’t rooted in what we know about the art and science of teaching. Other ideas were poorly implemented and thrust upon schools without funding needed to be successful.
At its core, For the People was designed to lead public education advocates out of the land of negativity. With a focus in seven key areas, For the People offers myriad recommendations aimed at producing students who are fully prepared for life beyond high school. We knew then, as we do now, that resources are key. Schools will struggle to reach great heights for all children as long as policymakers low-ball the funding needed to achieve great results.
When I was asked to join the committee supporting “Oklahoma’s Children – Our Future,” a penny sales tax proposal for public education, I didn’t hesitate to say YES! For the People is about solutions, and a long-term funding plan for education is one of the key recommendations. A funding plan is also one of OSSBA’s top legislative goals.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now criticism of the proposal. No plan is perfect. OSSBA’s board of directors voted to endorse the proposal, but only after lively discussion. Still, the decision was unanimous. Like many board members across the state, I have a sense of urgency about our state’s public education system.
We have so many success stories within the public education ranks. Our students are achieving great things despite limited resources within their schools. However, it’s unrealistic to keep asking our teachers to do more with less. That funding is not keeping pace with growing enrollment is fact. That Oklahoma is losing the competition for teachers to other states and professions is fact.
The proposed sales tax is expected to generate $615 million annually. More than $427 million of that would be dedicated for school districts, with the bulk funding a significant and long overdue teacher pay raise.
In For the People, we asked school board members, administrators and other public education advocates to say yes to a new vision for public education that’s based on solutions.
The sales tax proposal fits that criteria. Even better, the proposal could help fund many of the initiative’s recommendations, particularly related to teacher recruitment and retention. We know ensuring a high-quality teacher for every child is absolutely critical.
I’m saying yes. Will you?
Mullins serves on the Sand Springs Public Schools Board of Education.