MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 30, 2013

McPeak: We can fund education

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— State Rep. Jerry McPeak said the state’s education budget is terrible, and it shouldn’t be.

Schools are often forced to concentrate funds on the lowest academic achieving students to meet state standards, and those performing well aren’t supported as well, he said.

Programs such as Muskogee’s biomedical courses and Fab Lab that will be put in place thanks to the recent bond issue passage are much-needed, McPeak said.

“We owe everyone a chance to improve as much as they can improve,” he said. “And we can fund both ends of the spectrum. But we choose instead to starve education so schools can only afford to fund one or the other. We shouldn’t have to make the choice between those.”

More funding can provide more vocational courses at the high school level, send more students to CareerTech, offer college prep courses to more students — serve all students and not allow any to fall through the cracks, McPeak said.

“The economy in Oklahoma is one of the best in the United States, and the Legislature does have the money to spend on schools,” he said. “But we are electing to do an inadequate job for our children and that’s a decision we are making by not funding education like we can. Any legislator saying there is not enough money is either lying or uninformed.”

The state isn’t the only entity cutting school funds. The federal government cut Title I funding, for as to the tune of $500,000 for next year.

Title I funding typically pays for remediation for math and science, special education and for prevention of dropouts and the improvement of schools.

The state’s decision to change from curriculum standards it has had for decades to a new set of standards that push critical thinking skills and the ability to use technology has a big impact on schools financially.

Funding is not increasing, so many districts have turned to bond issues to fund the technology needed to meet the curriculum requirements that kick in beginning in 2014-2015.

Fort Gibson Public Schools’ last bond issue that passed will fund much new technology.

More than $43 million of Muskogee’s latest bond issue will also go toward technology, including purchasing laptops and computer software for every student in seventh through 12th grade.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.