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HOPE campaign circulating petition for school funding

Lawton_A group called "Helping Oklahoma Public Education (HOPE)" is circulating a petition throughout the state in the newest effort to try and pump more money into Oklahoma Public Schools.  The HOPE campaign wants to increase the state public education funding by $850 million.  It proposes an amendment to the Oklahoma constitution requiring the legislature to fund public education from $6,900 per pupil to at least $8,300 - the average of neighboring states such as Arkansas and New Mexico. 

Lawton Public Schools (LPS) officials say it sounds like an ambitious campaign, and some lawmakers argue that the additional funding proposed is excessive and could cut into state budgets such as road maintenance.  Some also say that they fear a tax increase - something Lawton voters turned down in May when they denied the LPS bond issue for $28.5 million.

When its classes start on Friday, LPS won't see the money that district officials say they need to expand local schools and improve technology since the local bond was voted down.  With HOPE, parents and educators across Oklahoma are stepping in to try and raise $850 million for Oklahoma students. 

Lawton Representative Ann Coody (R) is a former LPS principal and says that increasing school funding to $850 million is a cause of great concern.  "I want to do everything we can for schools," she says.  "We need operational dollars desperately, but we must do it in a thought-out way.  Even if we took the money away and let our roads and bridges deteriorate, that would still only be half of what we need for schools.  So some people say raise taxes... that is an overwhelming financial request on our Oklahoma families."

However, LPS Superintendent Barry Beauchamp disagrees with Coody.  "I would simply challenge those same lawmakers to tell me what is more important than the education of our children," he says.  "I think those tangible things, such as bridges, roads and so forth are all important, but they pale drastically in value when you compare them to the education of a child."

The HOPE campaign is aiming for 139,000 signatures on the petition within the next three months in order for the proposal to be on the ballot in 2010.  In Lawton, the ballot will circulate around the school board, to school officials, and finally to the voters.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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