Call to overhaul county government in Oklahoma makes fiscal sense

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: December 19, 2012

Mismanagement at Boynton-Moton Public Schools forced the state Board of Education to revoke its accreditation in 2011. State law mandates a school's administrative costs can't exceed 10 percent of the district's budget, yet the Boynton-Moton superintendent's salary alone was more than 30 percent of the budget. Of 27 students tested in math at the tiny district, only three scored proficient or higher. Just six of 29 students scored proficient or higher in reading. The board that supposedly oversaw the school included one member who had served for decades.

Closer to home, a state investigation determined roughly three-fourths of seniors at Douglass High School don't have the credits required to graduate on time. Oklahoma City administrators and school board members were asleep at the wheel, at best, to have allowed that to happen.

Without active citizen participation, local government can quickly become out-of-control government. The desire to keep power close to home is understandable, but incompetence and corruption don't become acceptable simply because they're locally administered. Government must be both cost-efficient and accountable.

Those who prefer local control must make the case for it not only by defending it in the abstract, but also in practice — by participating in local elections, attending local government meetings, and holding those in power responsible for their actions.

The Oklahoma Academy's call to overhaul county government makes financial sense. Only citizens' active involvement in local affairs can justify maintaining the system.

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