OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican leadership in one of Oklahoma’s most populous counties has sent a letter to the state’s lawmakers calling for an end to government-run public schools, or if that is too much, to at least find alternative funding sources for the system besides tax revenue.
Other GOP leaders have rebuked the letter, saying its views are outside the state party’s mainstream, while looking toward next year’s legislative session, when classroom funding is likely to again be a major focus.
Andrew Lopez, Republican Party chair for suburban Oklahoma City’s Canadian County, signed the letter sent last week. It requested that the state no longer manage the public school system, or at least consider consolidating school districts. Public schools should seek operational money from sponsorships, advertising, endowments and tuition fees instead of taxes, the letter says.
The letter itself can’t force policy changes, but the swift criticism from fellow Republicans shows continued grappling for power in the state’s dominant political party. Education funding played a big role in this year’s legislative elections following a spring teacher walkout that closed public schools throughout Oklahoma for two weeks. Several Republican lawmakers who opposed tax increases for teacher salaries were ousted, including some targeted by a key GOP House leader and an out-of-state super PAC.
Rep. Rhonda Baker, a former teacher and current chair of the House common education committee, tells The Oklahoman in an article published Thursday that increasing education funding remains one of her priorities for next year.
“I have always been and will continue to be a supporter of public education,” Baker said.
Oklahoma Republican Party Chair Pam Pollard said Lopez’s letter doesn’t reflect the party’s position.
But Lopez said the GOP lawmakers are betraying party principles, including through increasing the size of government. His letter also called for abolishing abortion and eliminating unnecessary business-licensing agencies.
“In government we have a system that says we believe it’s a good idea to take (money) from you by force to educate other people’s children,” Lopez said. “That doesn’t appear to be a fair deal to me.”
Shawn Hime, the executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said he’s not concerned about the letter.