SO accustomed are we to overheated rhetoric on education from opinion molders and school officials in northeastern Oklahoma that it takes a lot to warm us to the point of needing to comment on it. But the latest serving of mulled whine prompts us to say that a refusal to fall in line with the education establishment's agenda isn't an indication of mental infirmity.
Tulsa School Board Vice President Anna America said last week that although an income tax cut was averted “very, very narrowly” this year, that may not be the case next year “if we don't start electing people who think sanely.”
Thinking “sanely” apparently means giving common schools what they want, divorced from all other considerations — public safety, welfare, roads and bridges, etc. Ms. America called on school patrons to defeat the mentally deficient incumbents and replace them with people who “think sanely.” It's a hollow threat because nearly 60 percent of Oklahoma House members and about a third of state senators drew no opponents in the filing period for this month's primary election. If the people think the current serving of lawmakers doesn't think sanely, then surely those numbers wouldn't be so high.
Education accounts for more than half of all state appropriations. Common schools got more than 32 percent of total appropriations in the 2013 budget approved last month. Higher ed was second on the appropriations list, with about 14 percent. We'd also remind America and others in her region who are frothing about these matters that the people were given a chance less than two years ago to dramatically increase funding for schools. They rejected the proposal by a margin of 81-19.
Apparently, the populace itself isn't thinking “sanely.”
Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said lawmakers meeting in the 2012 session “did not support the public schools.” Really? Those lawmakers also didn't support a tax cut that the school establishment fought hard against.
The rhetoric about school funding from the Tulsa area is joined by the tendency of area school districts to litigate when things don't suit them. We routinely read about public schools being “strangled” by state government. A standstill budget for common ed (most other state services also got no significant increases in funding) as the recession recovery continues isn't strangulation. It may not be optimal, but the rhetorical flourishes from Green Country do nothing to help.
Instead, they send the message that tax consumers are ungrateful for what they get from taxpayers. It tells lawmakers that they're downright crazy to ignore the pleas of administrators for ever more funding — even as some of those administrators line up to sue the state.
We were also dissatisfied with the 2012 session. Lawmakers nixed sensible bond issues for state Capitol repairs, among other items. They did their best to water down school reform measures, an effort that found traction in the Tulsa area but which ultimately failed. Such is politics, sane or otherwise.
Lawmakers who read about school officials questioning their sanity won't be inclined to help the folks who are making that claim.
And why should they?