Students speak out at Capitol

Monday, March 31st 2008, 7:02 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

A group of ninth-graders went to the Capitol Monday with a strong message for state lawmakers -- keep your promises.

They are among a chorus of voices expressing concern that funding for education is coming up short this year, and could come up even shorter next year.

Fletcher school district has cancelled all field trips due to lack of funds, so this field trip was paid for by their local Representative, Joe Dorman. The students didn't come just to listen, as you do on most field trips, they came to speak out.

"We are just here today to give a face to what SJR 59 would affect the most, which is us," ninth-grader, Lauren Baldwin said.

Members of Fletcher's ninth grade government class are concerned about a number of education-related bills being considered by lawmakers this session, but none more than Senate Joint Resolution 59.

"Well, it's a tax cut, but it's also a funding cut, and we would lose money for our schools," Baldwin said.

But during a question and answer session with lawmakers, supporters of the measure to cap property tax increases offered assurances.

"There'll be other ways to figure out to get funding back into those schools," Sen. Don Barrington (R) Lawton said.

Opponents illustrated the perils of spending too much money on tax cuts.

"You keep giving it away, folks, it's gone, the cup is empty, you don't have it," Rep. Jerry McPeak (D) Warner said.

At the same time lawmakers are looking at restricting the key source of funding for public schools -- ad valorem taxes -- they've frustrated educators still further by failing to provide all the school funding they promised for this year.

"We don't have a lot of extras at Fletcher, but what we do have is really good education," Fletcher Superintendent, Kathryn Turner said. "And, as thy chip away, I'm going to have to start cutting programs and cutting staffing."

"I just hope that they actually realize how much this affects the students of our school," ninth-grader, Chesney Overton said.

The sponsor of SJR 59 said property taxes have been increasing at twice the rate of inflation over the past ten years, and that's just too much. He says schools will still get their ad valorem money, and says, ultimately, this would require a vote of the people.