I Read The News Today, Oh Boy... (6/5/16)
The 2016 Legislative Session is over, more or less - although we'll be suffering from the fallout for at least another year.
If you're aware enough of what's going on statewide to be annoyed, but haven't had the time or inclination to read up on every issue, here's the Blue Cereal Guide to the Latest Oklahoma Clusterfoolery - State Budget Edition. You're welcome.
The State Budget / Tax Polices
Because "throwing money at a problem doesn't solve it," our legislative leadership argues, eliminating all revenue and funding for constititutionally mandated functions MUST be the solution. Oklahoma Logic.
‘Behind Smoky Doors’: Last-minute bills breed public distrust - David Blatt, Oklahoma Policy Institute (6/2/16) - "In May, most of the rules go out the window. Brand-new bills can be introduced, amended, and approved with lightning speed, with little if any opportunity for the public – and most legislators – to understand what’s going on."
This part of the budget deal may be the greatest threat to Oklahoma’s economy - Gene Perry, Oklahoma Policy Institute (6/2/16) - "The link between education levels and state prosperity is clear. That’s why it is especially troubling that the long-awaited budget proposal from the Oklahoma Legislature and Governor Fallin would decimate funding for higher education."
Two Things: Not A Flat Budget; Please Vote - Rick Cobb, OKEducationTruths (5/31/16) - This... "budget" our legislature finally threw together at the last minute is a mess, and not even faking it very well.
Oklahoma Makes the Poor Poorer - The New York Times Editorial Board (5/28/16) - Our legislature this session was embarrassing and horrifying enough to grab attention in NEW YORK. Think about that for a moment.
With colleges and universities taking harshest budget cuts, leaders worry about future of higher ed - Kathryn McNutt, The Oklahoman (5/29/16) - Why? Because these schools have been reckless and irresponsible enough to bank some of their resources. Fiscal responsibility is UNFORGIVABLE to the Oklahoma Legislature of 2016.
Where next year’s shortfall starts: Budget counts on $600-$750 million in one-time revenues - David Blatt, Oklahoma Policy Institute (5/27/16) - "Ultimately, the Legislature failed to make those hard choices and instead slapped a bunch of band-aids onto gaping wounds."
New details: State budget agreement slashes funds for school activities and textbooks - Andrea Eger, The Tulsa World (5/27/16) - And before you ask, yes you can teach w/o textbooks. But that means you need other resources or tech instead - the sorts of things schools usually buy with - wait for it - "textbook money".
Republicans Willing to Let Oklahoma Burn - Arnold Hamilton, The Journal Record (4/28/16) - The entrenched right wing is willing to take a few lumps if it means clinging to their faith in destroying all public sector spending for their fiscal overlords. It's almost a religion for them.
The Best Resources For Understanding Why Money Matters To Oklahoma Public Schools - Oklahoma Education Journal (4/20/16) - A links page specific to an important topic, with just enough info to help you find what you need? What a great idea!
The Facts About Oklahoma Education - Oklahoma Education Coalition
Just Teach the Curriculum (Leave That Other Stuff At Home) - Blue Cereal Education (4/16/16) - My take on all this 'wasteful spending' on 'non-teaching positions' schools are doing, according to those needing a few more distractions.
Oklahoma's Revenue Options for the Budget Emergency - Oklahoma Policy Institute (4/11/16) - Here's a crazy place to start: PUT DOWN THE SHOVEL.
Aides, supporting positions proliferate at Oklahoma public schools - Ben Felder, The Oklahoman (4/10/16) - WHY do schools keep hiring people who don't actually TEACH?! It turns out there are some pretty good reasons...
The tax shift rears its head - Gene Perry, Oklahoma Policy Institute (2/16/16) - When tax cuts for the rich don't work, cut taxes for the rich MORE and go after the poor. What could possibly go wrong?
10th Amendment & #OklaEd - David Burton, Idealistically Realistic (2/11/16) - With States' Rights comes States' Responsibilities... this is one of my favorite posts EVER on the subject of state government and public education
Oklahoma state agencies give raises despite executive order - Randy Ellis, The Oklahoman (2/7/16) - This was the trigger for a complete and meltdown on my part. But I was right.
This chart shows why Oklahoma schools are broke... - Lucas, The Lost Ogle (1/26/16) - It's sad when the humor sites make so much more sense than the 'experts' and those in power.
Teacher Pay / Teacher Retention
One way to deal with a shortage of teachers is to crash and burn the budget so we can't afford more than one adult for every hundred or so kids - not MY favorite solution, but it's something.
I'm bewildered that the state had to form a 60-member commission to study this issue for a year in order to come up with a few common sense measures (make it easier to move your certification here from other states) and some truly inane ideas (how about some 'How Great It Is To Teach!' flyers w/ pictures of happy educators on them?) That's nothing compared to the ridiculous slew of promises from the Governor and any number of legislators this session that TEACHERS were all getting this GINORMOUS raises because they just LOVE us SO MUCH! It's prettty hard to insult Oklahoma teachers more than the state leadership normally does, but that pretty much did the trick.
NO EDUCATOR ANYWHERE IN THE STATE believed for three seconds that any of this was even remotely plausible. Now, it's always difficult to tell when our elected leaders are being cynical to the point of viciousness and when they're simply so delusional that they probably shouldn't be left home alone - at least not without removing all sharp objects and turning off the gas. But I for one grew weary of that particular brand of salt being constantly rubbed into our other wounds.
State Could Fall to Bottom in Average Teacher Salaries - Jennifer Palmer, Oklahoma Watch (5/27/16) - "Boren and other supporters acknowledge that a higher sales tax is not the preferred solution to education funding, but say they have no other choice because state lawmakers refuse to address an education crisis that could harm the state for generations."
Cuts to education spending hurt more than just our children (Guest post: Christiaan Mitchell) - Christiaan Mitchell, Oklahoma Policy Institute (4/21/16)
Teacher pay raise proposals probably going nowhere this session - David Blatt, Oklahoma Policy Institute (2/18/16) - Which is probably better than "we're cutting your insurance and charging you for rolling chairs but on paper we'll be able to claim you make more."
Oklahoma's teacher shortage is not just about salaries (Guest Post: John Lepine) - John Lepine, Oklahoma Policy Institute (12/14/15)
I know it's a lot to process, and you don't have to read it all at once, but this is YOUR money, YOUR state, and YOUR kids' future - short and long-term. Have a friend do the same, then talk about it and see if you're coming up with the same interpretations. Heck, get a little circle together and divide them up - an adult version of the 'jigsaw' strategy every teacher knows in some form or another.
GET INVOLVED. GET THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU INVOLVED. VOTE LIKE IT MATTERS.
Because, you know... it does and all.