You’ve heard a lot by now: “It’s all for the kids.” “We’re going to be a contender.” “We’ll go from No. 47 to head of the line, nationally.” All that’s missing is the Music Man saying, “Right here in River City!”
The National Education Association, with its million-dollar ad campaign, teamed up with the Oklahoma Education Association to try to take us down a dead-end alley. They tell us State Question 744’s billion or so a year will revolutionize Oklahoma’s public education, sending us to the top of the class, nationally, in quality of education.
Yet our state budget has already been cut to the bone and is still short hundreds of millions of dollars. If SQ 744 passes, we have two choices: either cut another billion out of our annual state budget by reducing all state services to many needy citizens of our state or try to raise revenues with tax increases that require an improbable vote of the people.
Many national rankings indicate a painful number of dysfunctional aspects of our state’s population, and the social services required to address these needs cannot be reduced or shut down without severe consequences for many of our citizens.
If you are fortunate enough to avoid receiving state-funded social services, don’t forget that funding of public safety, higher education and economic development will severely diminish, too.
Public education is broken, and without meaningful reform, just throwing money at the problem is not the solution. While funding of education in Oklahoma has gone up exponentially over the past decades, student performance has languished and flatlined.
The education model formed a century ago is horribly outdated, and the influence of teacher unions since the 1960s has calcified it, blaming poor teaching performance on societal changes, dysfunctional families and hyper and disobedient children.
But society has to care. This state has no future without an educational system that takes children as they are ” regardless of circumstance ” and educates them to be whole persons, capable of leading productive lives as responsible citizens.
So here’s my recommendation: Let’s vote against SQ 744 and elect legislators who will pass meaningful legislation to transform public education into a functional system for the 21st century. Under our state Constitution, the Legislature is primarily responsible for public education, so your state representative and senator are the first to blame for failure.
There are many incredibly good teachers. But unions, weak leadership and school laws granting privileged job security force good teachers to work side by side with and pick up the slack for incompetent teachers who stunt the quality of life of an incredible number of young people.
A “no” vote on SQ 744 should be a mandate to the Legislature to pass educational reforms needed to reward effective teachers for their efforts, to eliminate incompetent teachers entrenched by the status quo, maximize the efficiency of school administration and then provide the best education funding Oklahoma can afford.
Bleakley is publisher of Oklahoma Gazette.