Thursday, July 30, 2009

Editorial Facts and Common Sense

An editorial in the Oklahoman, addressing Oklahoma's poor showing in per pupil expenditure based on the latest US Census Bureau's report, brought out suspect arguements as it tries to refute Oklahoman's support of the HOPE campaign (SQ 744).

In an effort to address perceived short-comings, Oklahoma is compared to Utah whose students do better on the NAEP, despite warnings by NAEP officials for states not to compare results if states have their own state standards.

Utah's students are recognized by the writer as being "predominately white and more affluent" than Oklahoma's students. For years, the impact of poverty on kids has been a strong indicator of success. In comparing kids from the USA to other countries, America's public schools are bashed for not being competitive. But when you take out the scores of students in poverty, our kids come out on top.

No one is saying you ignore those in poverty, but to ignore the role poverty plays in students lives is irresponsible.

Another "fact" is that common education receives 35% of the Oklahoma budget. What the article fails to mention is that common ed use to receive 39% of the budget as its share continues to decrease.

Oklahoma is supposedly working very hard and will do better "when the economy recovers and revenues permit." Oklahoma is an oil state. The revenues coming in were incredible. Because Oklahoma had so much growth revenue, the legislature, thinking the revenue would last forever, cut taxes. They learned nothing about oil revenue, tax cuts and the impact on revenues occurring in the 1980's. For Oklahoma, our revenue problems, with a shortfall of $2B, are largely self-imposed.

The piece even states "[t]he claim that the Legislature enacted tax cuts at the expense of schools is unfounded...." Is it really? The state has a shortfall of a couple of billion, and it's not at the expense of schools? Not only schools but everything else.

Addressing salaries for the Oklahoman has always been about merit pay and the salary schedule. When presented with ways to enhance teacher pay, they balk at the possibilities and always return to the same old arguments.

Paying teachers to be competitive with other states and other professions gives Oklahoma the opportunity to recruit and retain people. However, when we aren't competitive, we end up with teacher shortages the legislature addresses by passing a variety of ways to become a teacher. We don't have a teacher shortage in our state. We have a number of graduates with education degrees who are in other professions because the pay and benefits are so low.

As more information is made available showing the legislature's embarrassingly low commitment to kids and our future, you will continue to see responses that try to white-wash the truth. Sadly, all Oklahomans are impacted by the "white-wash" and our state will have a difficult time competing and growing in its second century if the truth is not told.

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