Reactions: Oklahoma Education Coalition Endorses 'Step Up Oklahoma' Plan
Reactions continue to come in about the Step Up Oklahoma plan, a reform and revenue-raising proposal from a coalition of business, civic and community leaders across the state. This is a statement from the Oklahoma Education Coalition:
The Oklahoma Education Coalition has voted unanimously to back the Step Up Oklahoma plan, according to Pam Deering, OEC chairperson. The OEC’s membership consists of eight of the state’s largest and most influential education associations, the Oklahoma City Public Schools and Tulsa Public Schools.
“The Step Up plan includes the most balanced and sustainable revenue package that has been presented to address our state’s persistent budget crisis,” she said.
“Our Coalition appreciates that many of our state’s most respected business and civic leaders recognize the need for a $5000 raise for teachers and principals, along with the need for recurring revenue that will stabilize state funding for essential state services and our schools, Deering said. “The raise provides a long overdue first step toward paying Oklahoma educators what they deserve.
“We call on Oklahoma’s lawmakers to act quickly and pass the revenue measures included in the Step Up Oklahoma plan.”
The Oklahoma Education Coalition includes the following members:
Oklahoma State School Boards Association
Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration
Oklahoma Education Association
Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education
United Suburban Schools Association
Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools
Oklahoma Parents and Teachers Association
Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association
Oklahoma City Public Schools
Tulsa Public Schools
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Friday, Jan. 26:
Members of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) voted to support the Step Up Oklahoma plan Thursday afternoon during at the 2018 Winter Policy. The annual meeting is a gathering of Oklahoma cattle farmers and ranchers to discuss issues important to the Oklahoma beef cattle industry.
"OCA members discussed at length the Step Up Proposal and voted to support it,” said Weston Givens, OCA President. “While there are certainly some specific pieces that are not related to beef cattle production, we very much like the accountability and transparency reforms as well as the streamlining of processes in the proposal. It makes sense to us to address state spending. Regarding the revenue proposals, while none of us like increased taxes, we do need safe roads and a strong and robust education system."
The Step Up Proposal was compiled by several Oklahoma business leaders from diverse industries. According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, beef cattle production is the largest sector of the Oklahoma agriculture economy.
"We acknowledge that Step Up is a broad proposal with many different pieces. It is also notable that Oklahoma, not just one industry, is pulling together for solutions," Givens said. "Oklahoma Cattlemen are committed to having a seat at the table to do our part in finding solutions."
The OCA is the trusted voice of the Oklahoma Cattle Industry. OCA is the only voice that speaks solely for the cattlemen of Oklahoma and represents beef producers in all 77 counties across the state.
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Tuesday, Jan. 23: Step Up Oklahoma is endorsed by Oklahoma Tomorrow, a statewide nonprofit run by business leaders to create sustainable growth for Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Tomorrow leaders believe the Step Up plan leads the state in a positive direction by resolving issues critical to Oklahoma’s future. While not directly affecting Oklahoma Tomorrow’s mission to increase college graduates, Oklahoma Tomorrow believes the Step Up plan will move Oklahoma forward.
Oklahoma Tomorrow is a non-partisan, independent advocate, whose statewide board of directors represent urban and rural areas.
“By now, we have proven we can’t cut our way to success. We need a bold approach. The Step Up plan puts Oklahoma on the right path to a clear and balanced budget with common-sense reform and the ability to get on with the business of growing Oklahoma.”
- Bruce T. Benbrook, Chairman and CEO, Stock Exchange Bank, Woodward
Chair, Oklahoma Tomorrow Board Of Directors
“Oklahoma cannot continue to live in the chaos of budget failure and expect to continue providing opportunity for our children and grandchildren. We need more college graduates in critical skills to grow our state. Today’s toxic environment of one crisis after another has us focusing on everything except our future. Step Up Oklahoma is the right plan at the right time. We need to pass it – all of it!”
-Bert Mackie, Vice Chair, Security National Bank, Enid
Vice Chair, Oklahoma Tomorrow Board Of Directors
“Oklahoma has over 18,000 economy-changing jobs that cannot be filled due to the lack of college graduates in fields like engineering, computer science, finance, nursing and teaching. Resolving this backlog of unfilled jobs and providing more opportunity to Oklahomans is critical. The Step Up plan is common sense and leads us to solve our problems the way we always solve them best – together.”
-Devery Youngblood, CEO, Oklahoma Tomorrow
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Wednesday, Jan. 17: The Oklahoma Education Association announced they are in support of Step Up Oklahoma as long as they fight for a teacher pay raise.
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Monday, Jan. 15: This letter was sent to members of The Wind Coalition on January 15, inviting them to the coalition for a discussion of issues that impact Oklahomans.
Details of the plan were introduced Jan. 11 in a press conference held at the Oklahoma History Center. David Rainbolt, executive chairman of BancFirst Corp., announced the plan and took questions from the press alongside Tucker Link, the chairman of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, and Glenn Coffee, attorney with Glenn Coffee & Associates in Oklahoma City. Coffee was a state senator from 1999 to 2011 and served two years as Oklahoma's secretary of state under Gov. Mary Fallin.
The House Democratic Caucus released this statement on Jan. 11:
"We are appreciative of the members of the business community who recognize that the failed Republican fiscal policy is the cause of Oklahoma's current budget crisis.
However, we believe the plan presented today is lacking in important details, and our caucus is hesitant to endorse the proposal at this time, especially given the stark lack of diversity among the members of the coalition. We will be discussing the plan with members of our communities and districts and also with stakeholders who were left out of the coalition, such as the wind industry, state employees, teachers, correctional officers, and working families who have been adversely impacted by devastating budget cuts.
House Democrats released a budget plan almost a year ago, the Restoring Oklahoma Plan. We are encouraged that Step Up Oklahoma's proposal incorporated portions of that Plan, such as the Gross Production Tax and the Personal Income Tax, but again, those portions of the proposal are severely lacking in details.
The House Democrats and Step Up Oklahoma seem unified in the belief that if we don't invest in Oklahoma teachers, public employees, healthcare, education, roads, and corrections, our entire state economy is left in peril. The House Democratic Caucus is ready to work with Step Up Oklahoma to build on this common ground and form a budget solution that works for all Oklahomans."
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister issued these remarks about the proposal:
"I want to commend the business and community leaders who have stepped up during a difficult time to help solve our state's budget crisis and fund a long-overdue teacher pay raise. I am greatly encouraged by their efforts, and I thank them for caring enough about public education to pursue solutions. Their engagement should give parents and teachers hope for a more promising future."