start with Mickey’s home in higher education. Unlike most states with a
consolidated higher ed system, ours is fragmented, with nearly 30
separate colleges and universities, each with its own president,
squadrons of vice presidents, deans, provosts and other administrators
and enrollment and business offices. Bring all the two-year colleges
under one statewide community college system, assign the many four-year
schools as subsidiaries of either the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma
State University and you’d save tens — perhaps hundreds — of millions.
proliferation of public school districts is an ongoing scandal — 527 in
2012, more than half with 500 students or fewer. LeFlore County alone
has 17 school districts, 10 of them small to miniscule, often just a few
miles apart. One superintendent could oversee all of them at 10 percent
of the current cost. Multiply such savings by 77 counties and you’d
have enough to raise pay for classroom teachers significantly.
government is packed with duplicate and often useless boards and
commissions. We have a task force on foreign animal diseases, licensing
agencies that oversee dozens of occupations like interior decorators and
foresters, a Shaken Baby Prevention Education Initiative Task Force
that has never prevented a baby from being shaken.
State Board of Cosmetology employs 12 people to examine and license
beauty operators. Why this should be a function of state government is a
mystery, as is the simultaneous presence of a State Barber Advisory
Board. One agency to deal with people who cut hair is a waste; two of
them is a scandal.
Even when it funds and runs a
necessary agency like the state Department of Health, government is a
clumsy, spendthrift and sometimes venal beast. In 2000, investigators
found a swarm of “ghost” employees there, including a former Democratic
state senator and his wife who apparently had been working and being
paid as “environmental health consultants” for a decade, without ever
showing up for work.
The Republicans who now govern us
have made a start at trimming away the deadwood and waste in state
government, but it is only a start. Until we have a government that is
structured for efficiency and the delivery of maximum service at minimal
cost, Mickey’s complaints are specious.
—Mike Brake, Oklahoma City