Editor’s note: State House District 52 Rep. Charles Ortega (R-Altus) was provided an opportunity to respond.
The Oklahoma legislative session has ended, and the budget deal is done. From what one now sees, Altus Public Schools and other schools statewide are reeling under massive cuts to public education and will struggle to survive. Statistics do not lie but statisticians and positions do. Any politician who speaks of a “flat budget” and no further cuts to education is being disingenuous at best and at worst dishonest.
School funding is based on a complicated formula that determines per-student spending. This budget has reduced per-student spending by almost $67. When one factors in that there is no allocation for student textbooks, and the activity account is reduced by more than $38 million, the fact is that this budget passed by the state legislature slashes funding for common education in fiscal year 2017 by $58,151.698.00. Loss of activity funds affects alternative education, ACE Technology, professional development and the Reading Sufficiency Act.
The projected loss of revenue for Altus Public Schools is $1,659.787.14. This “shortfall” will result in fewer teachers and support staff, larger class sizes, fewer honor classes and fewer services provided for at-risk students and those with special needs. How can this be described as a “flat budget?”
The future of our state is being determined by the quality of education we provide our young people. Funding cuts equal less opportunity which leads to a less-enlightened population and puts our state at risk for increased ignorance and poverty with all the tangential problems — crime, drug abuse, broken homes and the list goes on. Is this really what we want for our state? I think we can do better.
John N. Thomas