By Ashli Sims, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The three people vying to be the state's next top educator split on their opinions of State Question 744. The candidates spoke out at a forum in South Tulsa Wednesday night.
All three state school superintendent candidates have experience in the classroom and passion for education. But they don't all agree on a state question that would boost spending per student to the regional average.
Janet Barresi, a retired dentist and founder of two charter schools, says you can't just throw money at the problem.
"I oppose State Question 744," Barresi said. "I think this is poor form of public policy, ill-conceived and not beneficial to the children of the state of Oklahoma."
10/20/2010 Related Story: Battle Continues Over State Question 744 As Election Day Nears
Teacher turned State Senator Susan Paddack ducked the big question, telling the audience 744 is up to voters.
"I do not reach into your pocket book or your billfold and tell you how to spend your money," Paddack said. "And these are taxpayer dollars. You truly have to wrestle with this and decide how you want your taxpayer dollars spent."
Thirty-year veteran educator Richard Cooper isn't running a high-dollar campaign, but he touted his belief in local control and his strong support for State Question 744.
"It will cease to be a priority and become a given. It will no longer be argued about. We have the first step in doing that with the passage of State Question 744," Cooper said.
The three also took on the subject of vouchers, in light of the new law that would funnel public dollars into private school scholarships for special needs students.
"Choice and accountability and transparency will strengthen our schools. So I'm a supporter of all forms of education choice," said candidate Janet Barresi.
"I'm opposed to public funds being used for private schools, because it's a step in eroding and assaulting and destroying public school system not only in Oklahoma but in the nation," said Richard Cooper.
Candidate Susan Paddack: "To me, I just can't support that. I think we need to support our public schools wholeheartedly and make sure they have the resources."
Both Paddack and Barresi are calling for a performance audit of the State Department of Education to make sure the money the agency has is being spent wisely.
Barresi and Paddock are nearly neck and neck with Barresi claiming a slight edge in last week's Sooner Poll.
Read more about State Question 744 and other state questions on the ballot at NewsOn6.com/politics.