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April 4, 2014

This article was published in the Duncan Banner April2, 2014.

Quality Schools Require Quality Funding
For the past two years, it has been extremely frustrating to me to hold my weekly Opinion article to one subject which has generated vigorous debates with my initial readers. My rationale is that most of the problems upon which I have an opinion about involve multiple areas. The most difficult to write about is Education because of its many layers of finance, support, personnel, livability and above all its governing bodies.
With so many areas involved, ensuring that the students of Oklahoma’s public schools receive the most up-to-date education possible, a self-imposed requirement of one subject per news item does not do justice to either the students or the public.
To discuss monetary aspects of Education, one must discuss not only the qualifications the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction needs, but also the perceived failings of her current administration.
All successful business managers know that one does not hire a post-hole digger to run a company that constructs high-rise buildings. However, one might hire a dentist to run a dental equipment research and development company. Even then, that person would need to know how to budget wisely and give accurate guidance to provide a finished product. At present, in the case of our current Superintendent of Public Instruction, young adults educated in grades K-12, ready for further education at two or four year colleges, trade school certificates of completion, have not received a direction laid out administratively or financially to accomplish their goals.
The legislature’s inability to understand or accept that our teachers are performing at or above-approved standards does a disservice to the profession. Teachers are traditionally on the lower pay scale of public employees. Yet, both the governor and the majority of Oklahoma’s legislators want to again reduce the amount of funds available to provide not only salary increases for teachers and salaried employees but books and facilities as well!
Believing teachers and school administrators are wasting federal and state funds has led to a testing frenzy that has spiraled out of control. Oklahoma legislators, in their continued belief that the slightest communiqué from Washington is bad for Oklahoma, levied more testing than was required by Common Core Program. Meanwhile, Superintendent Barresi did not follow through with procedures, testing materials and available equipment to take the required tests. Her latest malfeasance was the unfunded mandate requiring school districts to “Means Test,” new test procedures from a private company which developed them.
Common Core is a product of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. The second and third words in ALEC’s name say it well – prepare the proposed bill (LEGISLATIVE) and in (EXCHANGE), pass it. If there are any academics on ALEC’s roster of members, they are so few that they are impossible to locate.
As Bloger okeducationtruths points out: “The legislature has more money to allocate right now than at any other point in Oklahoma history. As Governor Fallin loves to point out, the average income in this state is rising relative to the rate of inflation better than any other state except North Dakota. Today, it is unconscionable to propose that Public Education should receive a smaller “share of the budgetary pie” than it did five years ago. If people are moving to Oklahoma for this thriving economy, the state should support the people who teach the children of our new residents!”
Included in the need for instructors’ pay increases are the non-certificated employees who are the “unsung heroes” of every school district. What is widely understood by successful businesses is that industry receives excellent results for monies spent when a fair wage that allows employees to maintain their equality is paid.
If our elected officials were seriously interested in positive educational results, they would applaud Oklahoma’s teachers, appreciate non-certificated staffs and redefine the budget for our public schools!

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