Legislators head back to the State Capitol next week for a special session to hash out budget issues. They will need 75 percent support to pass any tax increases, and a growing number of Democrats could play a major role.
One of Governor Mary Fallin's top tasks for legislators this special session is education funding, and one of the new faces in the crowd brings first-hand experience from the classroom after he and two other Democrats were recently able to turn historically red seats blue.
After a failed run for the House last year, middle school teacher Jacob Rosecrants finally proved his students wrong. In last week's special election, he won Norman's District 46, a Republican seat since 1995.
“I think they just thought I was the same poor teacher that was just making noise,” Rosecrants says of his students, who he followed from seventh to eighth grade this year.
“Candidates have a lot to do with whether or not people stick with the party,” explains News 9 political analyst Scott Mitchell. Mitchell says Rosecrants has the sympathy of voters, who are tired of seeing teachers flee the state for better paying jobs.
Rosecrants had 45 students in a single class last year, so he says his constituents did not take much convincing.
“Even Republicans are tired of the Republican leadership.”
This is the third special election this year Democrats have flipped, after both Michael Brooks and Karen Gaddis won the seats vacated by scandal-embroiled Ralph Shortey and Dan Kirby, respectively.
Mitchell says, “That makes the fascinating possibility that Democrats, who were kicked to the side of the road metaphorically a decade ago, now hold some cards.”
Rosecrants is looking forward to working with his colleagues across the aisle to get things done but admits he will miss the kids. His mission now is to make sure they get the education they need.
“I got angry,” he says of the funding issues. “I actually do things when I get angry, and I don’t give up when I do things.”
During the special session, legislators will be tasked with finding $215 million for the budget. Teacher pay raises will cost an additional $60 million.