Episode III – Response to the Response to the Response
First, the response to the response:
Barresi Responds to CCOSA / OSSBA Critique of Plan to Give Teachers $2,000 Raise
CCOSA and the OSSBA have shown their true stripes once again. When I was elected to office in 2010, the voters of Oklahoma gave me a mandate: bring meaningful reform to Oklahoma schools, raise standards, and give Oklahoma’s kids a chance at a brighter future.
The best way to do that is with great teachers.
Even CCOSA and the OSSBA can’t argue that Oklahoma schools don’t have enough money on hand to use ten percent of their carryover funds for increasing teacher salaries. Oklahoma schools had a little more than $565 million carryover entering last year. This year the carryover amount of $710 million ($145 million more than last year) clearly shows they have enough sitting in the bank to give teachers in most every district the additional money they desperately need and deserve. Whether it is called a raise or a stipend, the key is that our teachers have more money.
The liberal education establishment has fought me the whole way. And they’re not about to let reality get in the way of their agenda. CCOSSA and OSSBA claim that I’ve secured an additional $106 million for programs directed by the State Department of Education, and suggest that money doesn’t benefit schools. What are the funds they’re talking about? School Activity Funds that all go directly to the districts, including money for Teacher and Support Employee Health Insurance, Alternative Education – including online learning options for kids and parents, National Board Certified Teacher stipends, reading and teacher support programs…vital, direct-to-the-district programs for our teachers and students to meet the tougher standards Oklahomans voted for.
The response of CCOSA and OSSBA also conveniently ignores my call for them to re-prioritize just two percent of their administrative overhead. By continuing to improve efficiencies, we can find a sustainable source for teacher pay. We cannot stand by and preserve bloated administrative budgets at the expense of teachers.
I know of no teacher who would scoff at even a one-time $2000 increase in pay. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at ways to focus and prioritize funding while growing our economy by producing college and career ready students. Together, we can get our teacher pay raised to where it needs to be to support these professionals. As I have said before, other than parents, teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s education. Our shortage is in quality teachers, not administrators.
I agree with two parts of this. Barresi was in fact elected in 2010. And teachers are the most critical piece of public education.
Where we must part company is at the rest of it – the part that I call facts. This spreadsheet that Barresi sent to legislators shows each district’s carryover. Unfortunately, these are the cash forward amounts that districts had in their general fund as of June 30. Wait, that’s June 30, 2011! Those numbers are nowhere near accurate now.
In case you’re not convinced, look at this revenue report for Achille Public Schools. I picked them because they’re first in the alphabet. Both the spreadsheet and the revenue report show a carryover (cash forward amount) of $377,301.31. What’s worse is that her spreadsheet lists the number of full-time teachers with the 2012 figures. So we’re giving legislators 2011 financial data and 2012 employment data to make decisions at the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year. It would be more helpful if Barresi would provide the legislature (and the public) with accurate, current information. I’ve heard from a number of people tonight who are certain that their carryover and staffing levels are much different than what she’s representing.
It would also be good if Barresi would check voter registrations. For some reason, she thinks that there is a “liberal education establishment” in this state. In fact, her disdain for liberal teachers is in part why she formed a charter school and then later ran for state superintendent. However, I don’t think there are as many liberal administrators (or teachers, for that matter) as she believes there are. This is a very red state, and educators make up a significant part of the electorate.
Her call to cut more waste from the budget also rings hollow. For each of the last several years, that’s all schools have done. We’re beyond cutting into the bone at this point.
Oh, one last thing…Oklahoma conservatives aren’t thrilled with Barresi’s pay raise plan either.