We shouldn’t ‘burn the house down’

When you look at your election ballot this year, you might be surprised to find more than a few education folks running for office.

Many of them have been pushed or prodded into running by outspoken activists and unions who can’t get what they want through force in the regular process in a budget shortfall year. To certain individuals it doesn’t matter whether Oklahoma is experiencing revenue failures during a 13-year low in the energy market – some of these folks want it now!

We all need to settle down and take a “deep breath” before we go about “burning down the house.” Oklahoma now spends 52 percent (over one half) of its budget on education. Almost 20 percent of its current members in the House of Representatives are former educators. Even if we filled all 101 seats with teachers, what would the budget amount be? Sixty percent? Seventy percent? Or 90 percent?

You see where I’m going. How would we pay for public safety, roads and bridges, DHS, health care, the truly needy, veterans, etc., if we went down this path? The scenario lacks the requisite good judgment the informed voter should exercise.

It’s ludicrous. We only have 16 members on the Common Education Committee now. What about our other House Standing Committees and Appropriation Sub Committees? Where is the professional experience to contribute there? You see the fallacy, don’t you? Cooler heads need to prevail.

We always hear that Oklahoma ranks 48th in average teacher pay ($44,373) but that’s only half the story. We also have the most generous benefit package in the United States by most surveys. The state pays for $417 million in flexible benefits and $1 billion every year goes in the Teacher Retirement System. A total of $8.3 billion goes to education from local, state and federal dollars. While other vital agencies have taken cuts, we have tried to hold education flat and even find supplemental money. The average increases are $17.5 million over the last decade.

The angry “activists” conveniently forget these facts along with tax burden and cost-of-living in their constant diatribe.

Everyone wants to give our teachers more take-home pay. We all value public education but we need to work through the budget process. You can’t find solutions in possible funding sources with limited resources if you are constantly angry and critical  of the folks who are trying to help.

Something to think about…