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Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday to sue the Oklahoma Legislature, speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate over school funding.

After adjournment, board chair Paula Lewis and board member Mark Mann spoke to Free Press about the action they took a few minutes before.

After this interview we asked Lewis what she thought about the criticism they have received for planning to spend more money for a lawsuit when money is stretched thin for the district now.

“To me, all the criticisms are based on fear and not-enough,” Lewis said. “And that’s the problem in this state. We are fighting for not enough. We don’t have enough money to do this.”

“Urging our legislative leaders to provide our students what they deserve has, thus far, not resulted in the structural change needed in our state, which has cut education funding more than any other state in the nation over the last decade,” said Lewis in a written statement later Monday.

Lewis and Mann said the district had taken a $30 million cut last year alone and could no longer stay passive about the problem of “unfunded mandates” from the Legislature.

“The Legislature has pushed us back against the wall and I don’t see any other way to move this forward than to litigate,” said Mann.

Harsh response

In a news conference Thursday Superintendent Aurora Lora, board Chair Paula Lewis and board member Mark Mann argued that the Legislature has not lived up to its constitutional responsibility to adequately fund public schools.

Speaker of the House Charles McCall issued a statement shortly after the OKCPS news conference Thursday harshly critical of Lora and the board.

“I would encourage them to spend their time and money on being better stewards of the dollars they receive instead of filing frivolous lawsuits that blame others for their own poor leadership,” McCall wrote.

McCall’s office said in response to tonight’s vote they stand behind their statement from Thursday.

Next steps

Lewis said that now OKCPS in-house legal counsel Brandon Cary will start exploring strategies for finding the right legal representation to recommend to the board.

She said their resolution was the started the process. There will be more decisions the board will have to take later as to specific strategies.

Lewis said they will be talking to officials in other districts about the possibility of their filing similar lawsuits to bring even more public attention to the problem.

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