Once again, it's the start of the yearly Legislative session and once again I begin my Charlie Brown-like moan mantra of, "Good grief".
Every year, (seriously, Google "Oklahoma teacher pay raise") bills after bills after bills are filed in the name of public education - many to provide teachers a pay raise. It's interesting, but as much political mileage as it seems to get every year, the promises never seem to materialize.
What does seem to happen every year is that more bills are passed to further regulate public education, performance standards are lowered, cigarette taxes are increased - again - to fund whatever flavor of the day is being sold as necessity and defenders continue their endless series of excuses for why the lottery doesn't pay into the system what it promised when it was voted in.
It's all like Groundhog Day. It doesn't change. Why would it? Lawmakers know well that the public only watches the hand waving in front of you - NOT the one in your pocket.
For my entire career as an education writer/activist I've opposed ad valorem property taxes for public education. We all - every one of us non-exempted Oklahomans - can lose our homes because of public education. Yup, the first time you don't pay those property taxes, the Oklahoma Tax Commission throws you and your family out into the street because - hey - "It's for the children". I object to this strenuously for numerous reasons, but mostly because a majority of the Founders of this country believed that government was instituted among men to PROTECT their property, not seize it. Of course, when I make mention of this in a group of legislators - and certainly public education activists - I'm openly derided as an idiot who simply doesn't understand. "How else would we fund public education?"
Maybe like me - out of my own pocket? I know. I'm an idiot.
And so, this year, we have a large set of Oligarchs - loved by our Oligarchical governor - who want to balance the budget on the backs of us Gopnik Oklahomans who actually work for a living. Of course, the VERY FIRST PLANK in their plan is a $5000 pay raise for teachers.
Here's the dirty little secret part...SUPERINTENDENTS HAVE THE POWER TO GIVE TEACHERS RAISES ALREADY!
Oh yes! Didn't you know? Superintendents can give teachers raises at any time. There's no state law that precludes that, and in fact, there are good superintendents in this state who actually SAVE MONEY IN THEIR BUDGETS TO GIVE THEIR TEACHERS RAISES.
So why does Step ON Oklahomans believe taxpayers are not only supposed to pay extra for that, but that we'll gleefully, willingly do so?
Why are we supposed to drop our kids off at a public school, go to work to eek out a living, all the while having to worry that we'll fall on hard times and lose the property for which we worked so hard in order to make sure the kids we could more than adequately educate at home are trained up in a government building where spending on education means million dollar sports stadiums and nicer lunch rooms while test scores fall faster than the Titanic?
Doesn't it hack you off just a bit that the elitists behind the Step ON Oklahomans plan quite obviously think to themselves - "Hey, I can afford this, so can you" - "Hey, I'm happy to donate a slice of my millions - why aren't you?" - without even really knowing who "you" are?
"You", are those of us in the middle - we're nobody these people would hang out with in Cabo (if we could GET to Cabo) - but we're great to cattle-prod into paying out for their tax incentives and "Look! I threw money at it!" public education programs. It's gross. Seriously gross.
I doubt I will ever forget the fight the Oklahoma State Chamber and a huge chunk of the Step On Oklahomans Oligarchs put up to keep Common Core in the state. These people aren't for Oklahoma - they're for themselves. It's time to get real and quit watching their waving hand.
If Step ON Oklahoma wants to balance the budget on their own backs, good for them, I can't carry any more on mine.
The people of the U.S. owe their independence and their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprized in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings. — James Madison