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One of our state representatives has introduced a bill to eliminate the agency for which I work.

The state has made many moves over the years to reduce our funding and limit our ability to function, but I think this is the first bill introduced to eliminate us entirely.

So far, those attempts have failed to reduce our functioning - we just tighten our belts and soldier on.

We really need for the state to fund this agency.

And yes, I've been dancing around the agency's name for as long as I've blogged here. I'm not going to name it in the body of the diary, but I named it in the comments.

I work for the only residential public school in the state of Oklahoma dedicated to preparing gifted, ambitious Oklahoma students for college.  

Our students take college level courses and if they attend a local college, generally do so entering as a junior. Our average ACT score is 35. 100% of our students go to college, half of them in-state, and have received over $100 billion in scholarships. More than half our students come from rural communities in Oklahoma with populations less than 10,000, and we administer regional centers throughout the state to offer advanced education in math and physics to students who couldn't get in to the residential school because of limited space. We also administer the statewide middle school math competition, and provide advanced (residential) science and math workshops for Oklahoma teachers. Half of our students participate in mentorship programs within the professional scientific community.

It doesn't get listed among the Top 100 Public High Schools because our students are a small select pool of students and the criteria used to determine top schools is therefore unfairly weighted in our favor. We are always listed in a category off by ourselves, and we're considered one of the best high schools in the nation.

Asian parents actually move to Oklahoma in the hopes that their child will be accepted into our school, and many become naturalized citizens during the time their children are students here. They've been in the process of becoming naturalized before they move here, because naturalization is a long process, but they choose to do so in Oklahoma because of our school. This may be one of the reasons so many legislators hate our school - we are ethnically diverse.  But half our students come from rural Oklahoma. Many of our students and their families are staunchly Republican and Christian, just as our Legislature is, so even with the ethnic diversity, the legislature should still be able to relate to the bulk of our students and their families.

Our alumni are beginning to complete their advanced college degrees and are returning to the state to contribute back - we have several who are now on the faculty of our school who were once students here.  Others are working in medical research, computer programming, and some own businesses in Oklahoma.

And they want to shut us down.

They've denied us pay raises (11 years since the last raise...) and forced us into furloughs - we are the only state agency that is still furloughing. I sit in the dark at work every day just so we can pinch more pennies. The library lights are set on timers to pinch pennies and are turned off entirely when the students are off campus on an extended weekend or during breaks, so the librarian works in the dark. Most of us buy our own office supplies because there's no budget for them. We've slashed our staff so steeply that we all work in many departments covering all the work that has to be done when the students live on campus: tutoring, dorm duties, driving duties for students in the evenings and weekends, and all the other duties that come with a large group of gifted teens.

If you're in Oklahoma, and especially if you are in House District 58, contact Rep. Jeff Hickman to let him know you support education, support this school, and love that Oklahoma has one of the best schools in the nation right here. Instead of shutting us down, we need to support the school, expand it, add more teachers and staff (especially more staff - when we get budget cuts, they are the ones to take the hit since we can't slash anything for the classrooms and teachers).

Representative Jeff Hickman
jwhickman@okhouse.gov
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Room 336
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
(405) 557-7339

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