151 Band

Friday, November 12, 2010

Missing The Point - SQ744

State Question 744's defeat was resounding and left no ambiguity about how Oklahoma taxpayers feel about the current public education system.  They told the spin-doctors and the unions that they need to go back to the drawing table and quit misleading the public about how they want to be compensated.

At the heart of the issue was not teacher pay, but rather the disingenuous manner in which this "regional average" concept has been presented.  Oklahoma taxpayers have proven that there is, in fact, hope for the electorate and hope for the future of this great state.  The concept of "regional average" per-pupil spending is so dishonest, so deplorable that even the most uneducated among us see it for what it is:  A lie.

I challenged the soon to be gone Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sandy Garrett, about this very issue some years ago when I was the afternoon drive guy on WKY.  She admitted that the formula used to determine these regional averages for per-pupil spending was faulty at its core because the proponents did not consider something as simple as the cost of living indexes for each state in the study.  So, if Oklahoma's per-pupil spending was to equal that of Colorado, for example, the ratio for median income spending would be almost twice that of Colorado.

Talking about increasing funding for education is sexy, it's hot.  It makes us feel good.  But like the magic bullet that was to be the lottery (for the children), we have learned that not is as it seems in education-land.  We are constantly given messages from members of the media just how silly we are if we don't approve this measure or that measure because it's "for the children."  It makes the mainstream media all misty and get the vapors when they talk about teachers and how they deserve more and our kids deserve more but at the end of the day, it's the administrators who end up stealing the money and using it for their own over-inflated egos and disgusting salaries.  But it is sexy, it is hot and it is exactly what we have come to expect from the mainstream media.

I read a fascinating piece by M. Scott Carter for the Journal Record, providing his take on the whole State Question 744 issue.  In part, he writes:
There are no easy answers, but there are some positive signs.

In the House of Representatives incoming Speaker Kris Steele has acknowledged the state’s funding problem and seems focused on solving it. Additionally, Fallin has moved quickly to build her administrative team and, on several occasions, has spoken about the state’s financial challenge and the need to move quickly to develop a budget for the next fiscal year.

That focus and attention to detail could serve both leaders well.

But the state’s new government can only go as far as we Oklahomans will allow. And right now, while it’s easy for many to congratulate themselves on defeating 744, the fact remains that the issue 744 tried to solve is still on the table and still remains unsolved.

But somewhere, sometime soon, the entire system will collapse under its own weight. And, sadly, that may be the only way to get the public’s attention.
Kris Steele has admitted that there is a "funding problem," but there is no way that the Speaker of the House will tell the vast majority of Oklahomans that they are wrong in their decision to tell the proponents of the "regional average" misdirection to pound sand - not if he wants to keep his leadership position, anyway.

Carter starts with a faulty supposition (as is the case with most in the media who are left-leaning), that the "regional average" proposal is a solution.  He ignores the fact that the population of the state of Oklahoma is less than the city of Houston (8), but has 425 independent school districts.  He ignores the fact that each of those independent school districts have in leadership a superintendent whose pay averages six-digits.  He ignores the fact that we are top heavy in Oklahoma and that one solution that actually makes sense would be to consolidate administrative functions for districts, thereby freeing up money to actually go to the classrooms rather than to fund bloated superintendent salaries...which, we presume, is what the people who supported SQ744 desired to begin with.

At least that's what their commercials portrayed.

It's time we wake up.  We do, in fact, have a problem with public education in Oklahoma, but the problem isn't with the amount of money we're spending...the problem lies with how bureaucrats are spending our taxpayer dollars.  That was the message of SQ744's defeat.  That is what the taxpayers are demanding, whether or not Carter and the rest of the government big-spenders realize.

And let We The People not forget that a few years ago, former Representative Dank proposed administrative consolidation and the State Senate shot it down using one of Carter's classic "fear of loss" techniques outlined in his column:
At some time in the near future, Oklahoma’s small rural schools and their FFA clubs, 4-H programs and state championship-winning football and basketball teams will fade, killed because there wasn’t enough money to go around and because voters put anti-tax pledges ahead of public education.
Just remember why we voted the way we did and don't be misled by the tactics of the mainstream media.