“It is time to stop playing politics with our children's lives.”
Those are the words of incoming Jenks Superintendent Stacey Butterfield, delivered at a news conference Wednesday to oppose tax cuts and support greater education funding. Her comments might carry more weight had she not delivered them standing next to a Democratic candidate for state schools superintendent at an event convened by hyperpartisan members of the House Democratic caucus. Decrying politics at a blatantly political event doesn't build nonpartisan credibility.
House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, insisted that education is nonpartisan. Then he attacked Republican Gov. Mary Fallin's budget plan as one that “severely neglects the children of the state of Oklahoma.” If that's nonpartisan rhetoric, what does a partisan argument sound like?
A handful of school administrators, including Butterfield, served as living props for Democrats. One of them, Bennington Superintendent Donna Anderson, is an announced Democratic candidate for state schools superintendent. No one acknowledged that fact.
It's hard to believe this wasn't an effort to raise her campaign profile, all on the taxpayers' dime. Also, since these administrators chose to attend a political event rather than stay in the office on a school day, should taxpayers ask for a refund on that day's paycheck?
House Democrats are philosophically opposed to most tax cuts. They're inclined to support greater government spending. It's proper for them to forcefully advocate those positions. But school officials shouldn't turn into partisan Democratic spokesmen, particularly when Republicans hold supermajorities. If you need better than 50 percent support for policy change, antagonizing over 70 percent of lawmakers is a fast path to failure. As Inman would say, the math doesn't add up.
It's reasonable to note the impact of rising enrollment and inflation in reducing per-pupil expenditures. Making that a partisan talking point is not. Butterfield (and her colleagues) should heed her own advice: Stop playing politics with education!