New poll speaks vol­umes

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION - BY ALI­CIA PRIEST Priest is pres­i­dent of the Ok­la­homa Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

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.

Ali­cia Priest

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