Phylesia Dailey thinks her daughter is getting a good education at Cleveland Elementary in Oklahoma City Public Schools.
She also believes all children in the district should have the kind of good education her daughter is receiving.
“Right now we happen to be lucky enough to be in a good school attendance area,” said Dailey. “But other schools are struggling. I think everyone should have the same opportunity to have a good education. Every neighborhood should have that.”
She was one of several people who attended the information forum at the Tower Hotel Tuesday night to learn about a new idea for using an Oklahoma City income tax to fund teacher stipends.
It’s an attempt to make up for the lack of support Oklahoma City Public Schools and schools all over the state have been receiving from the Legislature in the budgeting process.
The organizer for the event was Ward 2 Oklahoma City Councilman Dr. Ed Shadid and an organization he has formed with other school and city leaders called Save OKC Schools.
Information – recruitment
Tuesday’s panel of speakers all had their own perspectives on why they were supporting the measure.
By the end of the evening participants were allowed to ask clarifying questions to Eric Groves, the attorney who has been hired to shepherd the petition drive to make sure the process stays within careful legal bounds.
To close, organizers gave information on how to sign up to help with gathering petition signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
A minimum of 12,000 are needed by the end of the 90 days they will have to get enough.
But, Shadid and Groves said they are going after many more signatures than that to make sure they have enough after inevitable challenges the petition will receive.
To get involved go to the Save OKC Schools website to learn about the petition drive and how volunteers can sign up.
Making the case
Rev. Jesse Jackson, pastor of East Sixth Street Christian Church and Christine Byrd provided the motivational speeches of the evening.
Byrd is the mother of 7, grandmother to 13 and great grandmother of 4.
“If we do not dig deep, and look beyond taxes and realize we are talking about children we will fill the prisons,” said Byrd. “It’s not just the right thing to do, but the best thing to do.”
Jackson said that these were times that “try people’s souls.”
“OKC has an opportunity to do something great now,” said Jackson. “This is an idea worth fighting for. This is not a game.”
Former Democratic Governor David Walters and Gene Perry, policy director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank both gave numbers showing that Oklahoma has been No. 1 in the 50 states for education budget cuts.
They gave numbers in the 27 percent range for how much in education funds have been cut since the Republican Party started taking control of Oklahoma government in 2008.
Paula Lewis and David Gray gave perspectives from within OKCPS.
Lewis is the chair of the board of education. She told of how difficult it has been in the past year as the legislature continued to hand down new cuts to public schools statewide as the year went along.
“It just seemed like the whole year wasn’t about education, but just cuts,” said Lewis.
Gray is the president of the Oklahoma City Federation of Classified employees for the district.
He gave the perspective of the bus drivers, nurses, kitchen staff, mechanics and other support specialists who all do their work to help students in their education process.
Latest support attempt
Tuesday’s forum was a continuation of Shadid’s attempts to get the people of Oklahoma City to do something to counter the affects of the Oklahoma Legislature cutting education funding since 2008.
He believes if the Legislature won’t support schools, it falls on local communities like Oklahoma City to do so.
Free Press covered his news conference on the steps of City Hall June 22 where Shadid announced and made his case for the income tax. He was joined by others who argued for the tax.
“We’ve been trying to find a way to better support our teachers financially. If you don’t like this idea, tell us yours,” Shadid said Tuesday night and in a variation June 22.
Earlier, he had tried to get one-quarter of the penny for local schools in the proposed extension to the MAPS 3 tax.
Free Press covered that process and the eventual disappointment as his ideas were foiled with last-minute maneuvers of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber had campaigned hard against a state question in 2016 that would have forced adequate funding for public schools. The measure failed to pass.