OKCPS needs to strategically align its composition of traditional public schools, enterprise schools, and charters with projected demographic shifts. Given the recent announcement of major development plans, it is critical for OKC’s future that elected officials and developers not overlook the interconnectedness of urban planning and schools. Good neighborhood schools and access to transportation are vital imperatives for a city with the expansive land area, such as Oklahoma City. If I am elected, I will be responsible for helping OKCPS understand and influence all these moving pieces.
The top-down approach that has been used to build the budget is not working. All levels of government are facing serious concerns about how to remain financially solvent going forward. Given that there are a finite number of ways to raise government revenue at any level, the School Board must be more involved with the budgeting process and allocation of resources to maximize existing funding for core priorities. I will use my 20+ years of experience in business, managing multi-million dollar budgets, to make sure OKCPS builds the budget from the ground up, ensuring that basic safety and classroom needs are met first.
Public education has three main objectives. It must teach children how to learn and acquire knowledge, how to use that knowledge to navigate the world around them. Second, formal education prepares the foundation for adulthood. For many this means being prepared to enrolled in college. For others, it means having the skills necessary for entering the workforce. Lastly and most importantly, public education's purpose to create good citizens for our city, state, nation and world. It prepares children to understand what it means to live in a democracy, to have personal freedoms, to participate in self-governing. A strong, leadership-focused Board of Education creates the educational opportunities necessary to accomplish these goals.
I fully support our existing charter schools in Oklahoma City. Our city is unique from other large urban districts because OKCPS's charter schools were born out of our community spirit and generosity. They are not part of national for-profit companies. Starting over 20 years ago, pioneering educators and community members identified specific needs within OKCPS and put in the hard work to build successful charter schools like Harding College Prep, Harding Fine Arts, John Rex Elementary, KIPP Reach, Independence Middle, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, Stanley Hupfeld Academy, and Santa Fe South Schools, Inc. I support new charter schools that are founded with the same principles as our existing charter schools. New charter schools should not adversely affect our existing public and charter schools. All charters should also be inclusive and accessible to all students.
I support the existing program for students with disabilities, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. I am against school vouchers and/or educational savings accounts. I am not in favor of taking tax payer funds and giving them to private entities. This program would incur significant costs to implement, oversee, and audit. Given that private schools, online-schools, and other vendors are not accountable to the state or local school districts, the potential for fraud is very high. Additionally those students in greatest needs - those with incarcerated parents, living in foster care, or in neighborhoods where the majority of residents live in poverty are the least likely to benefit. ESAs and vouchers will not fully cover all the costs of all needs for these students: transportation, full tuition at private schools, meals during the day, uniforms, extra tutoring, and other incidental costs.
Oklahoma has 520 school districts, one of the highest states in the nation. I have heard over and over from voters that they will not support increased funding for education until the number of districts is reduced. Although the state legislature has taken on this issue many times, it faces fierce resistance from rural districts. Critics of consolidation claims that reducing districts and administrative spending to match that of Hawaii, the state which spends the least on admin expenses, would only return 3% more dollars back to the classroom. They also claim that rural students would suffer. For voters, perception is reality. If voters continue to believe that our state is wasting tax dollars, they will not support increasing funding for public schools at the level needed to see academic performance improve across any of our districts, rural or urban. The OKCPS board and all its members must be leading voices in the legislature and across the state for finance reform in education.