A Plan For Education in Oklahoma

Hi, my name is Todd Gragg.  No I am not running for public office in Oklahoma.  However I do have something to say about our current budget crisis, especially as it concerns education.  I have been a pastor, businessman, and most recently became a public school teacher.  That is right; close to the age of 40 I made the choice to pursue alternative certification because the education of the students in this state is important to me.  I am the son of two career educators, the son-in-law of a recently retired English teacher that invested over 40 years of her life in the classroom, and I am the husband to a great teacher.   With that being said, here is my 10 point plan for the state of Oklahoma to move forward from this state of near bankruptcy.

  1. Stop letting businesses play for free. From 2008 to 2014 Horizontal Drilling Oil and Gas companies were given a $216 million tax break.  During the same time frame $213 million was cut from education budget.  Yes we need to be competitive when competing for businesses, however if a company wants to drill for oil that is within our state they cannot go set up shop in another state and do that.  Ultimately they will have to play by the rules in the state and we do not have to bend over to get them to create jobs.
  2. Get rid of the super majority needed for school bond issues. School districts need to gain over 60% of the vote to win a bond issue.  Over 60%. Let that sink in for a bit.  Now consider that almost none of our current state leaders would be in office if they were held to that same standard.  This is a vastly unfair burden to place on schools and it is time to get rid of it
  3. Allow local school board to increase ad valorem taxes a certain percentage without having to take it to a vote. This is done in other states and is used to improve facilities and capacity in a remarkable way.
  4. Go back to a citizen legislature. Term limits were thought to bring about this change in Oklahoma but in reality it has not done so.  Instead of spending 30-40 years in the State House or Senate, our current legislators just keep giving themselves raises and spending more and more time in Oklahoma City instead of back in their district.  We need to roll back their salaries to pre 2008 and cut the amount of time they are at the capitol to at most 2-3 months a year.  They need to be back in their district and among their constituents not spending time with lobbyists.
  5. Get rid of unfunded mandates. For years our state legislators have been masters at passing bills so they can tell people they are doing something, but then never implementing a way to fund them.  This is ludicrous.  We need to take all of these mandates, evaluate them and move forward only with the most critical ones that can be afforded.
  6. Pass the one-cent sales tax for education. This will bring in much money for education and allow for the state to move forward instead of backward.
  7. Stop politicizing education and recognize it should be above partisan politics. This means both sides need to embrace the importance of education and quit trying to just dismantle it and replace it with vouchers and charter schools.  The education system needs help in our state and we need both parties working together to reach that goal, not two parties pulling against each other.
  8. Stop accepting mediocrity or worse as acceptable. Almost everyday we can access some news outlet; television, Internet, social media, and see that Oklahoma is ranked near the bottom in another list.  It seems we are ranked at or near the bottom for everything except for legislator pay.  Sorry guys, but this is all on you.  Let’s have pride in Oklahoma and make our state great again.
  9. Reform our criminal justice system. Our state criminal justice system is just as bad or possibly even worse than education right now.  We are set up for first time offenders to be failures and wind up being career prisoners.  We do not support them re-entering society successfully.  We need this to change for education.  We need more students with more stable home lives and a change in criminal justice will help this.
  10. Stop playing partisan games. Start getting along at the capitol.  Republicans stop pushing any legislation proposed by a democrat into a box.  Work together for the best solutions and learn what compromise is all about.  We will never move forward as a state while our leaders cannot play nice together.