Education cuts bring dire consequences

March 27, 2017

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There are a lot of experts in education. It has been said that anyone who ever went to school considers themselves an expert. There are many ideas for reform and even the very well-intended continue to grasp for the silver bullet that will “fix” our schools. The multitude of ideas and agendas from so many sources cause all the ideas to become diluted, and the lack of focus and constant noise create an environment that is unmanageable. Until we can align as a community with one voice, public education funding will continue to suffer.

Why should we care about public education? Can we really look ourselves in the mirror and say we don't want a bright future for all of our children, whether they go to public, private or charter schools? Whether they come from affluent families or families struggling to navigate through poverty and a host of social issues? Can we honestly believe that public education funding is adequate, even though our state Legislature has continued to deplete it for decades?

The results of these continued cuts are having dire consequences. At last Monday's Oklahoma City Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Aurora Lora presented a proposal for five school closures and six consolidations within the district. There was nothing easy about this decision and the process was grueling. School districts across the state are facing another brutal year of cuts and predictions are that they will continue until 2018. At that point, there is no guarantee what the building back process will be. The reality remains in Oklahoma City Public Schools that some of the $30 million in cuts made last year were not sustainable (textbooks, elementary school arts and supply budgets and athletic equipment) and a permanent solution had to be found.

These changes are not going to be easy on our kids and this affects families and neighborhoods. We ask a lot of our school district leadership, administrators, teachers and staffs. None of these school closures will be easy on them, as the decision was very difficult. This affects the fabric of our city and could have been avoided had our priorities been different.

Priorities and focus are really the only way to get things done effectively, whether in business, in education, in the nonprofit sector or in state government. What we prioritize and how we strategically go about implementing tactics are not areas where there is a great deal of consensus in the public education arena and until we can achieve that, we will continue to see the deterioration of our schools, even in the most affluent districts. In addition, we must support and allow our trained professional educators to feel supported as they carry out their plans.

There will always be different agendas and different ideas for solving problems. That is a natural and normal part of living. That being said, a clear, common agenda can make all the difference and we've seen it succeed over and over. Oklahoma City joined together to build our city's infrastructure with the MAPS projects. We did it to support the Thunder's arrival. Our legislators need to hear this. A unified voice rallying for our children … there is no more important priority and our future depends on it.

Read Mary Mélon's original NewsOK editorial