New poll speaks volumes
Voters are fed up. As lawmakers approach the beginning of the legislative session, they should be troubled by the result of a poll conducted by the Oklahoma Education Association.
When it comes to education funding, the Legislature has only a 7 percent approval rating among Oklahoma voters. The governor fared only slightly better at 12 percent.
When asked who was more trustworthy — Gov. Mary
Fallin, Republican lawmakers or Democratic lawmakers — one in four respondents said none. This is an indictment of the state’s failure to fix the education funding crisis and increase teacher pay.
The public education crisis in Oklahoma is real, and Oklahomans know it. Most importantly, Oklahomans want action.
Half the state says education is the No. 1 funding priority — ahead of jobs and the economy, health care, roads and bridges, and taxes. Most voters say education funding must be increased — even if it means raising taxes. In fact, 70 percent of voters said they would support the recently filed ballot measure to increase gross production tax to 7 percent to fund a teacher pay raise.
The teacher shortage continues to cripple communities, and students are bearing the brunt of the crisis. What does it say to our students when we allow Oklahoma’s teacher of the year, and thousands like him, to slip away to other states for higher pay? It says we aren’t valuing the very professionals who make the most difference in their education — a great teacher.
Oklahoma voters understand this, which is why 85 percent of those surveyed say teacher pay is too low and 72 percent say the teacher shortage is an extremely or very serious problem.
It’s time to put the welfare of students ahead of corporate welfare. We give away hundreds of millions of dollars year after year. Voters see this, and the majority of them believe increased education funding will improve the quality of education our students receive.
Voters know the decade of brutal cuts to schools isn’t the way forward. Lawmakers have a chance this election year to get it right and salvage their relationship with constituents before voters have their say at the ballot box in November.