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Ye Without Facts

September 6, 2012

It’s an interesting phenomenon when a politician makes an argument first and then looks for facts later. And why limit it to politicians – it’s something many of us do from time to time.

This is what seems to be happening now, as Rep. Jason Nelson persists with the contention that school districts are unjust in their complaints about cuts to school funding. The Oklahoman continues in defending him. And the State Superintendent and State Board of Education let his claims rest unchallenged.

Today, Nelson entered into a compelling Twitter debate with one of this blog’s most dedicated followers. Using data from the Office of Accountability, Nelson surmised that school funding cuts over the last few years were not that deep or in some cases were not cuts at all. Using totals of all federal, state, and local sources of revenue, he’s not altogether wrong. However, with the strings tied to the increased infusion of federal dollars during the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years, salary positions still had to be eliminated in many districts across the state.

It’s an understandable rookie mistake for someone not accustomed to using publicly available information to support an opinion. It’s the kind of thing that also gets you called out for demonstrating a complete lack of understanding about why school districts don’t spend their budgets down to the penny every school year. It gets you called out repeatedly.

The facts bear repeating. Oklahoma school districts are being asked to do more for more kids than ever before. They are being asked to do it with less money. The state contribution to public school finance is at an all-time low, by percentage. The state’s largest newspaper and state’s largest political party can spin numbers all they want. It doesn’t keep the true things from being true.

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