Demand Reforms First

On November 23, the Tulsa World ran a point/counterpoint article concerning fixing education in Oklahoma.

Amber England, executive director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, started off with “And while SQ779 might have come up short at the ballot box, it began an important conversation about education funding and where we go from here.”

I hate to tell Ms. England, but it did not start an important conversation. Education funding in Oklahoma does quite well. It takes over 50 percent of the state’s budget, provides in many cases abysmal outcomes and opportunities for our children and never has to change. Doesn’t anyone think that if taxpayers increase funding they should at least expect some reforms?

Ms. England goes on with, “We must demand that lawmakers work together, without delay, to pass a plan to fix education funding in Oklahoma.” What should be demanded is that the Legislature reduce the number of Oklahoma school districts and their administration staff. A good start might be to consolidate the 111 dependent school districts that cannot support themselves. Dependent district are quite small – serving grades K-8.

So in reality, when Ms. England says “the opposition served up the idea that Oklahoma deserves a better plan without actually suggesting what the plan look like” is wrong. I just gave her a plan of reducing school districts.

Another not so novel plan would be on how we handle failing schools instead of simply saying the data is all wrong. Failing schools should be given three years to improve. If improvement is not reached, the school would be consolidated with another district school. Oklahoma has 1,797 school sites. And 213 of those sites received a failing grade.

It is simply not right to leave children in failing schools. And that is what has been happening for years in Oklahoma. If such a plan cannot be implemented, then parents should be provided alternatives such as vouchers and charter schools.

Speaking of reform, vouchers and charter schools, President – elect Trump took a very impressive step in draining the Washington, D.C., swamp when he named Betsy DeVos as his choice to head the Department of Education.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Mrs. DeVos is a philanthropist who has devoted years and much of her fortune to promoting school reform, especially charter schools and vouchers.” This is all intended to liberate kids from failing schools.

Returning to the counterpoint opinion of Dave Bond, CEO of OCPA Impact, he writes that SQ779 would have increased the permanent sales tax burden on working Oklahoma families to the highest of any state in the nation.

Here again the Democrats abandon the middle class with the most regressive of all taxes on the poor. For what? To provide a $5,000 raise for each teacher? If that were the case, the tax would have been for $200 million not the proposed $615 million. Here David Boren was helping to buy passage of SQ779.

Mr. Bond further writes that, “a tax increase lets government bureaucrats off the hook from having to be as efficient with existing resources as Oklahoma families must be.”

If school superintendents and legislators cannot reform education in Oklahoma, all families should be given their money back to look for better opportunities for their children.