DEWEY — Public education policy and reform continue to dominate the conversation in the race for state House District 10, as Democratic Kevin Stacy and Republican Judd Strom participated in a forum Tuesday night at Dewey High School.
The forum was presented by the Dewey and Copan chapters of FFA, moderated by Dewey FFA President Kaylee Rolph and Copan FFA President Cooper Donaho.
Few items related to public education policy in Oklahoma were distinguishable between Stacy and Strom, as the candidates agreed on most topics. Both are opposed to school voucher programs that take public tax dollars away from public schools and instead allow those dollars to be used for private education.
“I believe that every parent has the right to choose where their child goes to school, I want to be clear about that,” Stacy said. “But if we are going to do vouchers, then we have to be able to put the funding in to do that. I don’t want to take away from the current funding for education.”
Strom agreed, saying he is against vouchers that would take away funding from public education.
“Money that the state takes in for public education should go to public education,” he said. “If we ever have surplus dollars where we could create another program to add to vouchers, that would be wonderful.”
The candidates also agreed that school district consolidation to save money is not something for the state legislature to mandate. It should be up to each local district to make that decision for themselves.
Stacy is the former superintendent of Oklahoma Union Public Schools. He said Oklahoma Union was a consolidated school district, and it was the best decision that was made for rural Nowata County communities.
“But that’s just it. It was a great decision, but it was a local decision,” Stacy said.
Strom said he is a product of Bowring Public School, and he supports keeping local schools independent.
“If our school in Bowring was closed, or consolidated with another district, it would kill that town,” Strom said. “So what may work in some areas as far as consolidation is concerned, would not work in others. It should be up to the local districts, not something that is mandated from Oklahoma City.”
Only one question was asked during Tuesday’s forum that dealt with an issue outside of public education. The moderators asked the candidates how the state is going to increase revenue for general appropriations.
Stacy said Oklahoma’s economy “lives and dies” with the price of oil. He said he would like to see reforms given to tax credits and rebates for corporations, especially in the wind industry.
“If we give them a dollar and only get a dollar back, that is a waste of money. We should get $1.50 back in return,” Stacy said. “There are ways that you can increase available funding by evaluating those tax rebate programs and eliminate some of them that are not a benefit to Oklahoma.”
Strom said that although Oklahoma is dependent on the oil and gas industry, the state must diversify the economy, but that won’t happen if other items, like having low educational attainment in the state, is not corrected as well.
“Continuing to diversify the economy is key and while we are in the good times with oil and gas prices, we need to invest in our future,” Strom said. “We should be using surplus revenue to increase funding to programs, like education, to make Oklahoma an attractive place for business.”