An option other than tax increases is being discussed by a few legislators.
One possible bill would consolidate superintendents in counties with fewer than 400,000 people.
“We have to serve our communities in every single way possible,” said Roland High School teacher Steven Ostrander.
Ostrander teaches math at a rural Sequoyah County school. There are 11 school districts in his county, more than half of which have fewer than 500 students.
“The population is shrinking in addition to the funding shrinking. We’re getting double duty. It’s pretty bad,” stated Ostrander.
After countless conversations with teachers looking for more classroom funding, state representatives Tess Teague and Sean Roberts found a possible solution.
“We are not trying to take schools away from kids and parents and teachers. What we are trying to do is consolidate superintendents,” explained Teague.
Preliminary numbers show this could save more than $40 million in funding. However, Ostrander worries about favoritism in consolidation.
“Let’s say the superintendent of the schools was stationed in Roland, so he puts his kids in schools at Roland. So, we are going to rely on this one person who is running all the schools in our entire county to fairly treat each school individually and not give preferential treatment to the school in which his kids go to,” said Ostrander.
Teague and Roberts say they wrote two different options into the bill to deal with that. One would leave the decision up to the school boards in the county. The other would allow the voters to decide on their superintendent.
“That way, if there was favoritism, there’s a safety net there,” said Roberts.
They feel it’s important to work towards reform, instead of continuing to raise taxes.
Teague explains that “we can’t just keep throwing money at a problem and expect it to solve it. We need structural reform.”
This is one of six bills that Representatives Teague and Roberts have put together to reform education.