The Next Steps: Preparing for FY17 from the Top Down
As we near the end of another academic year with Commencement on the horizon, the university community does two things almost simultaneously.
First, we look back and remember the many accomplishments we as a whole and we as individuals have amassed in our time at Cameron. We use the graduation ceremony to remember those things and to celebrate the Cameron Legacy.
But the other thing we do happens after the fireworks shoot off in May. When the smoke clears and when the families in the stands have swarmed the field, we begin the second half of our Commencement activities.
We think of what’s next.
As a whole, the Cameron community has done a lot of thinking about what’s next for a solid portion of this academic year because of the now-materialized budget cuts. We speculated in August and September to prepare for what we had to do in January and February when we had to make cuts in March based on what the state government might do in May.
And it all goes into effect in July.
It’s not the happiest thing to think about.For those of us coming back to Cameron for at least one more semester, it’s something that will definitely be on our minds for quite some time. According to Cameron President Dr. John McArthur, it will be the main thing running through the collective conscious of the university.
“Most of our summer will be spent preparing for next year,” McArthur said in a previous article. “A visible change that will occur will be the moving of departments and offices around campus.”
The unfortunate fact of the matter, though, is that Cameron isn’t the only one thinking about these cuts as the summer inches ever closer.
In the April 14 edition of the “Lawton Constitution,” a story on the front page addressed a sudden boom of retired and active teachers filing for state legislature positions. According to the article, 30 Oklahoma instructors would run for office in the coming election.
The reason for this surge of political interest was clear from the piece’s jump headline:
“Educators: Frustration apparent.”
Anybody who has followed the budget situation from the beginning knows that this headline is, for lack of a better word, obvious.
While state agencies across the board received cuts in preparation for the new fiscal year, education is the one that we all feel as students, instructors and administrators.
We all have noticed the apparent frustration that comes with these reductions.
But those with a close tie to the public school system feel it on various ends.
Teacher kids hear it from their parents.
Student teachers worry about the future of their jobs and their educations.
Parents stress about what will happen with their kids’ schools as the year unfolds.
So stories of educators airing their frustrations and doing something about it come as no surprise.
Some educators, like Tulsa sixth-grade geography teacher John Croisant, run for open seats in the state House. He said that teachers are frustrated over increases in test requirements and drops in per-pupil funding.
“For me, it’s personal,” Croisant said.
If recent educators’ decisions to run for office are any indication, he isn’t the only teacher who feels that way. Many educators have left Oklahoma schools to teach in neighboring states and avoid looming demonstrative cuts.
“It’s not that we don’t want to teach, Croisant said. “They’re going across the border, and they’re able to make $10,000 more each year for their families.”
Even current lawmakers are expressing their frustrations with how the cuts are affecting teachers.
“It’s no wonder educators from both political parties are mad, frustrated and want to see change,” state Representative Scott Inman said, “and that’s evidenced by the number of educators who are coming to the Capitol … and hopefully take this state in a new direction.”
Until November, though, we try to find a way with the government we have now.
Recently, governor Mary Fallin brought forth her proposals for closing the $1.3 billion dollar hole in the next fiscal year’s budget. She and the rest of the legislature will be working in the coming month-plus to try and prevent deeper cuts in spending in areas like education.
After all, with state-wide budget cuts, many public schools have considered laying off employees or making other paradigm-shifting cuts. Fallin stated in a recent speech at the Capitol that she realizes what not to do when it comes to budget reallocations.
“We have to be careful that we don’t cut so far to the bone that we’re not effective in delivering state services,” she said. “One of the things I don’t want to do is see Oklahoma move backwards on some of the progress that we’ve already made.
“I challenge the Legislature and ask them to work with me to roll up their sleeves, do the hard work, get into the details of the state budget, the needs of state agencies.”
Challenge is the right word for the situation, though.
President McArthur spoke of the difficulty that came with making Cameron’s budget decisions.
He mentioned losing sleep and adding stress to an already busy job.
And he still awaits the final numbers from the Legislature.
Remember the idiom, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown”? Well, the bigger the crown, the bigger the cranial weight.
But that’s where we come in. We as students. We as individuals. We as the roots of the political system.
In the end, we have the biggest say because of how we vote officials into office and vote on the things that we find important.
So we need to let legislators know what we want.
Just as importantly, we need to keep politicians accountable for the things they say, the actions they do and, most importantly, the times when the two don’t line up.
Governor Fallin talked about the importance of higher education and school as a whole in her address at the Capitol during Higher Education Day last year.
She mentioned how important it was for students to get to and through school and contribute back to the state.
Also mentioned was how vital higher education was to the state as a whole.
Now is the time for her and the Legislature to act on it. And it’s on us to remind them.
President McArthur mentioned the importance of student input when it came to campus budget cuts and what should stay the same or what should change.
He mentioned that the more people behind a cause, the better it pans out because of the collected intelligence.
But he also mentioned one other thing about the importance of curiosity.
“A good question makes you rethink your assumptions,” McArthur said, “In a time of the budget situation that we’re in, we need to look at all the things that we do out of habit to make sure that those are good habits.”
So as the semester comes to a close and the fiscal year comes upon us, remember to ask those questions and be prepared to answer back – whether with words or with ballots.