By: CHRIS EVERSOLE
Drew Edmondson, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Tuesday in Mustang that he would work to improve the state’s poor marks in education, health care and prison populations.
“It’s not a selling point to be No. 1 or near it in these areas and in teen pregnancies,” he told those attending Mustang’s Positive Posse session.
“I want to solve problems for a government that for all practical purposes is dysfunctional.”
The state needs to raise revenue so it can better fund education, including giving teachers additional pay increases beyond the ones the Legislature approved this year, he said.
“We don’t want to be competing with Arkansas for teachers,” he said. “We want to be competing with the nation.”
“I want to see the day that we’re recruiting teachers from Texas.”
The most severe cuts in education have come in funding for colleges and universities, he said.
As a result, high education enrollment is down, although the number of high school graduates is up.
“We’re pricing some kids out of the market,” Edmondson said.
He said he would work to reduce incarceration of people for drug possession and those who are jailed as a result of mental health problems – who make up 80 to 90 percent of the people imprisoned.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “It costs $3,000 to $5,000 for drug and alcohol treatment, and it costs $20,000 to $30,000 a year to lock people up.”
Edmondson said he supports Medicaid expansion, which would bring federal dollars to the state to provide health care for working people who are just above the poverty line.
“Our tax dollars are going to other states that have opted into Medicaid expansion, he said.
The money from Medicaid expansion could help stabilize rural hospitals that go month-to-month without knowing if they can meet payroll, he said.
“Losing your hospital is like losing your school,” he said. “A town can dry up and blow away.”
Edmondson also touted his experience, which includes serving for 16 years as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
While president of the National Association of Attorneys General, he worked with his wife, Linda (who is a social worker), on advocating for legislation to give people more choices about their end of life care.
The vast majority of people want to spend their last days at home with adequate pain relief and with family members.
However, the overwhelming number of people receive the opposite – in a hospital, without enough pain relief and isolated, Edmondson said.
“Why aren’t people getting what they want,” he said.