Minority House Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) and Representative Mike Shelton (D-Oklahoma City) gave passionate remarks on the 4th floor of the Capitol to a crowd of parents, children and educators who attended the Let’s Fix This: For Kids rally. Former representative and recent gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman was also present to address the crowd.
What appeared to be over 100 people showed up wearing red to hear the remarks and visit legislators to lobby against cuts made to education funding. The crowd also handed out apples bearing labels that listed the name of a student or a teacher who lost his or her job.
Many met at Oklahoma City’s Douglas High School and marched to the Capitol for the rally.
Inman urged the crowd to accept no excuses from legislators and to remind the lawmakers that there is still plenty that can be done to fix the budget hole that is drawing anger from those concerned about public education in Oklahoma.
Shelton said that “we need to be cheering for our educators like we cheer for the Oklahoma City
Thunder.” He urged the crowd to “let everybody hear you.”
Dorman, who has been an outspoken critic of the current legislature’s handling of the budget, told the crowd how to approach their representatives and senators — “with the respect with which you would like to be treated, and not with the respect they ‘deserve'” — and stated that if the legislators would not speak with the citizens to “remember it come November.”
Rally participants expressed their disappointment with the current budget which leaves about $360 million in cuts from last year’s appropriations to be absorbed by state agencies.
One legislator was overheard saying that “Oklahoma today is spending more on public education than it ever has.” This is technically true, but the amount appropriated to education has not kept up with inflation or rising enrollment. Oklahoma Policy Institute reported in October of 2014, that Oklahoma led the nation in cuts to education appropriations for FY08 to FY15 with cuts equaling 23.6%, adjusting for inflation. This constituted a cut that 5.8% greater than Alabama who had the second highest cuts to education at 17.8%.
As of that writing, Oklahoma Policy Institute reported, “Total state appropriations for the support of schools is $172 million below what it was in fiscal year 2008, even before accounting for inflation.”
Full remarks here.