Free market capitalism without an educated citizenry doesn’t work. Milton Friedman in his seminal book, Capitalism and Freedom, stated “A stable and democratic society is impossible without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens.”
Yet, the newly released data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education indicates that only 19.3% of statewide eighth graders can read proficiently. This data is shocking and unacceptable!
Ten years ago, the appropriation for K-12 FY 2014 funding was $2.4 billion when I was still in the Oklahoma Senate. For fiscal year 2024 the upcoming spending for K-12 will be $4 billion. That’s a 66% funding increase, while reading proficiency has declined over the last decade.
Now I’m all for additional resources for education, and I believe we need to restructure the state’s finances to lift teacher pay to Top Ten in the nation. But, clearly just spending more money isn’t working. If we want serious change in our public schools we must press for true higher standards, demand accountability, and deliver more meaningful transparency.
These measures already work in Oklahoma by the way. Harding Charter Preparatory School of Oklahoma City recently received an A report card even with 40% of students living in poverty. Steven Stefanick, Harding’s superintendent, points to high standards in that college level Advanced Placement courses are provided to ALL students, not just a select group.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, folks. We just need to invest and duplicate known processes that already work! Let’s make education the number one priority in everything we do with funding and measurable outcomes so our kids and grandkids can have prosperous and fulfilling lives.