‘See the Eagle?

When my wife’s brothers were caught in a “white lie” or other mixups by their parents, many times they would resort to looking out the window, saying “See the eagle.”  They hoped their parents would leap to the window to see the giant bird. It might have worked once, but not twice.

Today, Oklahomans are being asked to “see the eagle” as the media and education administrators cry for more funding.  Education already takes nearly 60 percent of the entire state budget.  When is enough, enough?  People are crying uncle.

Administration after administration has relied almost totally on the oil and gas business to pay our bills.  Almost no effort was made to bring new business to the state.  My office is at 13th Street and Boulder Avenue and many times there is no traffic on the street for several minutes.  Is that a sign of growth and an expanding city?

Oklahomans have paid for performance and gotten none.  The Tulsa World recently told of Shelby Eagan, Mitchell Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year who is leaving Oklahoma for a $10,000 raise in Kansas.

The sad part of the “see the eagle” story is it never should have happened. The district superintendent and school board dropped the ball.  All across Oklahoma, well-fed and well-paid superintendents are dropping the ball.  They have the ability to pay higher salaries.

The Tulsa World said Oklahoma is losing some of its most creative, inspiring and talented teachers because it doesn’t pay them a living wage.  In fact, Oklahoma really needs to lose well-paid and uninspiring superintendents.  They are the problem.  As another Tulsa World article reported. Tulsa teachers are more interested in cutting out meetings and getting support for handling discipline issues than money.

But I do want teachers to make more money.  Last year, I read an article by Tulsa University Professor Matthew Hendricks, who had studied the teacher’s pay issue.  He found that the starting salary of $32,900 was actually better than what other college graduates earned.  The problem was it took another ten years to get to $45,000.  Dr. Hendricks recommendation was to move up increases so that younger teachers made more.  His analysis showed the overall cost to the state would be the same.  Oklahoma loses 50 percent of its new teachers every three years to never return.

If I ran our company with 50 percent attrition every 3 years, we would not be in business, but public education gets away with it.  You must have to check your common sense at the gate to be a public school administrator.

Back to Dr. Matthew Hendricks.  I thought his work was what Oklahoma needed, so I arranged for him to meet with the Superintendents Advisory Board at the Department of Education.  Dr. Hendricks made his points and we awaited the groups’ questions and thoughts.

What happened was nothing.  The superintendents didn’t care.  No one wanted to even try his ideas to stem the teacher outflow.

The lie to the Oklahoma public is school superintendents who could change the status quo will not.  They don’t sell surplus property and no one cuts administration.  Oklahoma has over 601 percent more administrators and now teachers in the university system than other states that cost the state over $328 million a year.  Reforms should come before any tax increase.