With session posed to end soon at the Capitol, local lawmakers gathered Friday at Gordon Cooper Technology Center to visit with area residents.

With session posed to end soon at the Capitol, local lawmakers gathered Friday at Gordon Cooper Technology Center to visit with area residents.

Sponsored by Shawnee Forward, a collaborative partnership between the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce and the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation (SEDF), the noon meal entertained more than 40 constituents as state Sen. Ron Sharp, state Rep. Dell Kerbs, state Sen. Jason Smalley and state Rep. Zack Taylor offered insight into recent activities at the Capitol and made themselves available to those with questions. State Rep. Josh Cockroft was unable to attend, due to illness.

Sharp started off the conversation, reflecting on some of the frustrations and challenges of the current education funding problem. As a former government teacher of 38 years, Sharp has a unique perspective from both sides of the fence.

“I remember my frustration about funding cuts the last five or 10 years I taught,” he said. “Now I am very aware of how every cent comes out of taxpayer's pockets.”

Other issues still plaguing education need to be addressed, as well, he said, such as constant curriculum changes, revolving superintendents and an oversaturation of emergency teacher certifications.

Not to diminish the need for funding education, he went on to reiterate the fact that there also are other agencies that desperately need funds, as well.

Kerbs said on a positive note, some great things related to education are happening.

“One of the bills we moved across the floor — SB 880 — was the STEM bill,” he said. “It took the authority from Casmeo and moved it over to the state career tech board.”

He said Casmeo is an agency indirectly related to the STEM aspect, so it was on a back burner for the authority.

“Now, you have communications between the K-12s and the career techs, with STEM,” Kerbs said. “STEM itself is changing day by day; what better to have that authority to make those changes as fast as they are coming.”

Another topic he discussed was recent work regarding prosperity districts.

“There were just shy of 500 in the state listed as prosperity districts that were eligible,” he said. “There were 117 accepted; and Shawnee got two, which is awesome.”

The districts in Shawnee were all of downtown, which includes the iron horse projects on the south side; and on the north side along the Interstate 40 corridor.

“It's an excellent opportunity that Shawnee has,” he said. “That's extremely exciting.”

Kerbs discussed recent work making changes in vague or subjective language in current child abuse reporting laws, in order to rectify problems with leaving cases up to determination and interpretation.

“We had a situation where we used the word promptly, and they thought that meant they had two weeks to report the incident,” he said.

Simple changes make night-and-day differences, Kerbs explained.

Next, Smalley applauded the unusual swell of constituent participation in recent weeks and advocated that Oklahomans need to continue to remain involved in the legislative process as well as hold their legislators accountable.

He said though he feels the state is on a better path, he is concerned about the 35 to 40 new members who will be coming to the Capitol after the elections.

“When I get asked about guarantees regarding our longterm plans are going, I don't have an answer, because I don't know,” he said. “We don't have any idea how the new members are going to vote or where they stand on issues.”

Taylor also congratulated teachers for their role in pushing congress to get through some budget decisions.

He said though he was approached by many who said they felt defeated, he thought that didn't turn out to be the case at all.

“We might very well still be in there without anything decided if they hadn't forced it,” he said.