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Should the state stop funding public education?

Should the state stop funding public education? (Mummolo/KTUL)

"To paraphrase Will Rogers, 'I'm not a member of an organized party. I'm an Oklahoma Republican,'" said David Arnett, reacting to the fallout from a Canadian County GOP letter saying public education should be privatized.

"The Republican Party of Tulsa County does not support the Canadian County Republican Party's effort in that regard," he said.

The topic of school funding, yet again, a lightning rod in a year that saw a massive teacher walkout and a slew of teachers run for office.

"I read that letter, and then, I confirmed that it was in fact sincere, and that was like, 'Oh my God. Here we go again,'" said former teacher and new State Rep. John Waldron, in OKC Wednesday learning the ropes of lawmaking.

"The idea that we would abolish our public schools is, I mean, that seems ridiculous," he said.

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"It's ridiculous to say, 'Well, schools shouldn't be, public schools shouldn't be supported by the state,'" said OU Professor Dr. Keith Ballard, echoing Rep. Waldron and expanding on alternative revenue streams.

"I absolutely embrace and encourage school districts to look for all forms of alternative funding, but that in no way negates nor lessons the responsibility of the state in ensuring that the schools are adequately funded," he said.

"Can we talk about the results of education rather than its funding? When we get to talking about results then additional funding, one would think would be available," said Arnett.

"Well, I don't want to give you money unless you give me results. Actually, you've been taking money away and saying 'I want to see results,'" said Tulsa teacher Larry Cagle, weighing in on the chicken or the egg debate of funding and results.

"You're taking from us at every turn and saying, 'Well, I think I want to see results first.' When you go a decade of reductions in funding, we're lower than the 2008 funding levels, how would you possibly expect with a 30 percent growth in student population that you'd have better results?" he said.

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"Education in Oklahoma is a lot like managing your teenage child; they always want more money and avoid responsibility for anything," said Arnett.

"Oklahomans are disappointed by the lack of funding. That's what we saw in the spring of this year," said Cagle.

"We're not getting the value we should for the money we spend," said Arnett.

School funding is at the front and center with a freshman class of lawmakers ready to try and tackle the issue.

"I'm really excited about the opportunities to work together with these new members, because we're all invested in our state's success," said Rep. Waldron.

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