Parents descend on Capitol to convince lawmakers to spend more on education

Kaylen Newbury and her 9-year-old daughter Natalie team up with more than 70 parents Thursday to take on lawmakers at the Capitol.

"I'm Kaylen Newbury, I'm actually in your district. I live in Norman," she said to Senator Rob Standridge at his office.

The group of parents split up to track down their legislators in order to talk about one thing: education.

"Parents should know that we need their voice," said state PTA President Jeffrey Corbett.
The PTA calls it "Capitol Day." And Corbett says the big issue influences the smaller ones. It all comes down to ffunding, and the lack of it. State money for education shows a steady decline in recent years. Fiscal year 2014 shows nearly $200 million less in state appropriated funds than in 2009.
"We are the most significant drop of any state and we have seen no recovery from that at this time," Corbett said.
The PTA supports Common Core testing, while some teacher's groups say they need more money and time to put the policies in place. Others rallied this week to repeal them completely.
"When you have kids crying because they're over tested, crying because they feel like they're stupid because they can't do math, then there's a problem there," said Jenni White with Restore Oklahoma Public Education.
"I would say that the reality just doesn't match that," said Phil Bacharach with the Dept. of Education, "the average third grader spends something like four hours total in the year with assessment tests."
People with the Dept. of Education say they're doing what's right for the kids, including holding third graders back if they can't read. That is part of the Reading Sufficiency Act, a law originally enacted in 1998 but not creating waves until a 2011 amendment required "retention" if students did not pass the reading exam.
It's another program teachers complain they don't have the money to do the right way.
"This is what schools do, they're supposed to teach kids how to read. Saying they need more money in order to teach kids how to read, there's something that just doesn't compute with that ," Bacharach said.
He points out State Supt. Janet Barresi asked lawmakers for $16 million in funding to help with the Reading Sufficiency Act transition.
And Governor Mary Fallin's office released the following statement:
"Governor Fallin agrees that K-12 education needs more funding which is why she and the Legislature appropriated 120 million dollars in new money last year for education, and why she proposed an additional 50 million dollars this year. Equally important is the need to implement good policies that promote accountability in public schools and increased classroom rigor. Governor Fallin remains committed to these policies and appreciates the PTA's support and engagement on these issues."

To deal with the day-to-day issues as well as the controversial ones, parents hope the day helped influence lawmakers to change the pattern of state spending on schools.
"There's no price you can put on education," Newbury said.
She believes the future of Oklahoma depends on it.