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A Deep Dive Proposition to Strengthen Oklahoma's Education System

Elysabeth Britt, Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (OK-5)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 6, 2018, Oklahoma City, OK -- Over the last several weeks I have watched the standoff build between the Oklahoma Legislature and Oklahoma teachers. It is apparent that each side has a strong emotional attachment to the issue at hand. The educators rightly state that their schools are crowded, degrading, and insufficient. Simultaneously, the legislators did the impossible and passed a bipartisan tax increase with a 3/4 supermajority vote.

Both sides are right and neither side is wrong. HB1023xx moved Oklahoma teachers up the national ranking of costof living adjusted salaries from 41st to 23rd. Oklahoma will now spend 3.4% of its GDP on education (including federal dollars), up from 3.1%, and above the national median of 3.2%. However, despite these gains, the state of Oklahoma still spends $3,000 less per student on a cost of living adjusted basis than the national median. These challenges stem from the economy - per capita GDP in Oklahoma is $47,000 versus New York, the national leader, at $75,000.

Unfortunately, this leaves the situation at the current impasse. Neither side has any incentive to back down. The only outcome that is assured at this point seems to be a protracted disruption to the school year that will only harm the students of Oklahoma and their future.

What is needed now is a compromise that will allow us to move forward as a state. If we continuously train our best and brightest to be engineers, doctors, and scientists, and they continuously leave for higher paying jobs that increase the tax base of other parts of the country, we'll never move forward. We'll be stuck in the Oklahoma mud. We need a solution to bring Oklahoma into the future. A future that relies on education and on the economy.
After spending each day at the OK Capitol this week speaking with teachers, students, parents, and legislators, one could surmise that all parties are seeking true long-term solutions and that each side is willing to allow time to ensure a true bilateral measure is enacted. With that in mind, I am sharing the following proposal with educators and legislators alike for your consideration.

Here's how we do it:

1) We establish a six-month commission that assesses the current state of education in Oklahoma to define a plan to "get back to good" that includes long-term funding levels and an "emergency" package to repair any recent damage. The commission should include teachers, economists, and legislators at a minimum.

2) We establish a separate commission to create a plan for Oklahoma 2030 to attract high paying, high tech industries to both keep our best and brightest in state and pull talent from outside our borders. The development of artificial intelligence will only exacerbate the challenges that we see today. The temperate weather, low cost of living, and low crime make it a fantastic place to raise a family. Let's figure out how to leverage the best of what Oklahoma has to offer and make it a center of excellence for high tech jobs.

3) Each side agrees that what is in place is a temporary fix. We must do more to pull Oklahoma into the 21st century for our education and our economy. We revisit the issue after the commissions release their reports.

This isn't an easy problem to solve. Another $200 or $400 million dollars in the education budget is just a band-aid that doesn't secure the future of Oklahoma. Yes, the education system is flailing right now, but it's just a symptom of a larger issue. My hope is that by bringing stakeholders from all parties together in a unified effort, Oklahoma's children and educators will receive the resources they need to succeed and legislators will be able to responsibly manage Oklahoma's balance sheet.

If you’d like to know more about me and my positions, please go to ElysabethForOK.com or contact my Director of Communications, Dani Stewart at dani.stewart2015@gmail.com.

Your friend and neighbor,

Elysabeth Britt


(405) 548-5805

P.O. Box 6055, Edmond, OK 73083

Paid for by Elysabeth Britt for Congress
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