During an email exchange last week between State Representative James Lockhart (D) and colleagues at the Oklahoma State Capitol, State Representative Mike Reynolds (R) stated that he and fellow lawmakers are not responsible for making sure students have access to a college education.  Reynolds’ statement comes on the heels of the recent proposal to expand Oklahoma’s “Promise,” a program provides low-income students with opportunities to receive college scholarships.

During the email exchange, Lockhart told the story of Austin, a student who earned a 32 on the ACT and had kept up a 4.39 GPA during his schooling. However, because Austin does not qualify for Pell grants, he must rely on only his scholarships, which won’t cover all of his pricey college tuition.  Lockhart brought up the fact that as lawmakers, it is their job to see that an education be made easily available and affordable for bright students such as Austin.

“How do we guarantee that students like Austin, who is clearly very much a top student, get an education? These are the ones that will cure cancer, create the next big invention or possibly become a great leader. How do we help these students? It’s OUR JOB to see this kid get an education. We want our best and brightest to receive an education that lets them reach their full potential. We are failing him,” (emphasis in original) wrote Lockhart in the email exchange that is posted on the website of the state Democratic Party.

Lockhart’s comment triggered Reynolds’s insensitive response to the group:

“It is not our job to see that anyone gets an education. It is not the responsibility of me, you, or any constituent in my district to pay for his or any other persons [sic] education. Their GPA, ACT, AS[V]AB, determination have nothing to do with who is responsible. Their potential to benefit society is irrelevant.”

In an email to The Huffington Post, Reynolds clarified that he supports free public K-12 schooling, but his backing on opportunities for students beyond grade school stops there. It is evident that Reynolds does not support financial aid being made readily available to students for post-secondary education. Nevertheless, his coarse response to Lockhart’ support of aid for higher education contradicts the views of his forefathers, such as former President Abraham Lincoln, who was the founder of public higher education.

Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.