Ryan Walters new math budget request
(Mike Allen)

We can all agree that we want nice things for our education system in the state of Oklahoma … right? It can be hard to tell in our modern, polarized climate, but I truly hope that is a shared position, no matter your perspective.

Still, things are constantly changing in the education realm, and even something seemingly straightforward — like teaching math — can become a source of drama. For instance, are you familiar with the “new math” concepts being taught in some schools? Depending on your generation, terms like 10-frame, number bond and number line might be pretty confusing.

Speaking of confusing, when Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters revealed his Fiscal Year 2025 budget request for the State Department of Education last week, more than a few people were puzzled by the numbers. In bold at the bottom of a slide, Walters emphasized a $47.1 million “net decrease” figure. Some journalists quickly ran with the figure, even asking Gov. Kevin Stitt if he supported Walters’ “proposal to cut $47 million from education.”

In reality, however, Walters had used some funny math of his own to obfuscate the fact that he is really asking the Oklahoma Legislature for $113 million in new spending on a series of education programs, including $11 million for math tutors and math teacher bonuses. NonDoc’s Bennett Brinkman broke down the details about a one-time $160 million appropriation from last year that is coming off the books, and it sort of helped someone like me would be less confused. Still, the whole thing still feels a lot like political theater.

We as citizens request a great many things from our elected officials, but whether they are acted upon is an entirely different matter. The same goes for state agencies when they propose their budgets to the state Legislature every year. I simply hope they can get on the same page about the facts and figures.

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