State's top educator says Indian gaming can help with school funding crisis. - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

State's top educator says Indian gaming can help with school funding crisis.

When Oklahoma's School Superintendent made a stop in Tulsa last week, she wasn’t talking test scores and class sizes but tax structures and Indian gaming.

Sandy Garrett focused on the $158 million shortfall Oklahoma's schools are facing. And she's got some ideas for how to get the money back into the classroom.

She says it's never been like this before.

"This is the toughest year yet,” she said. “It is the toughest year for all lawmakers too and they need our support and help in making these tough decisions.”

Garrett's looking beyond the classroom, and even beyond this year's funding crisis. She's not just lobbying for education's piece of the pie, she wants to increase the size of the pie.

"We've got to diversify our tax base,” she said, “and that's too narrow. We've got to look at things outside of that."

Things like sin taxes on cigarettes or Indian gaming.

"Gaming is going on in the state right now and I think there's an opportunity for the tribes to contribute to their children's education."

Those are just some of her long-term solutions. For now, she wants lawmakers to make education a priority.

"We know that we have a lot more work to do and we don’t want to go backwards. And that's going to be my message to the legislature this year - that we don’t want to take away from the progress that we've made."

Garrett says she isn't optimistic the state's economy will turn around anytime soon. But she still has hope for the classroom.

Garrett is not just coming up with ways to raise money. She also wants schools to look at ways to cut costs. Garrett has organized a school finance task force to look at the way money is spent.

That group is scheduled to report to the legislature next week.
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