Reason #17 to Pick a New State Superintendent: 2K4T
This countdown has been more popular than I would have guessed. I’ve been receiving messages by Twitter, Facebook, and email with suggestions. Understandably, people really seem to be attuned to the state superintendent race right now. It could be that we’re a mere 20 days away from the primary election date. Yes, Janet Barresi has provided us with four solid years of frustration – and material!
#18 – The Hearing no one Heard
#17 – 2K4T
In August, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) conference in Oklahoma City featured the first state superintendent candidate forum for the 2014 elections. Seven candidates spoke, including Janet Barresi. Her appearance was notable for two reasons. One is that she spoke and left, rather than hanging around to hear her opponents and ceremoniously mingle with the audience, as candidates typically do at these things.
The larger splash came when she announced that she had figured out how to give every teacher in the state a $2,000 raise. All the school districts would have to do is crash their carryover funds and reduce administrative costs. That would cover – exactly one year. These were my thoughts at the time:
She called in her speech for districts to rearrange their budgets and give each teacher a $2,000 pay raise. This shows that she is either really savvy or really ignorant. In any case, she’s completely disingenuous.
On one hand, she is using flawed math to try to tell teachers that their employers are holding out on them. Yes, school districts aim to carry over funds from the end of one fiscal year to the next. This helps them meet costs that they face since they don’t get state aid checks right away. She also neglects to mention that by eating at the carry over, the raises would have to be a one-time thing. Districts wouldn’t have those funds available next year. She also employs straw man rhetoric, blaming districts for having too many administrators. She neglects to mention the increased requirements for administrators due to TLE and other reforms.
On the other hand, someone reading the headline and nothing else (and having spent the last three years not paying attention at all) might think Barresi supports teachers. This is her goal: to say that she’s been on the side of teachers all along.
If you really want to know what Barresi thinks of educators, read my True Colors post from 13 months ago. She doesn’t think teachers deserve more. She thinks they need to quit complaining.
Here’s what she did say two years ago:
Funding for education in this country has doubled over the last 10 years with flatline results. Do we just throw a lot more money at it? Respectfully, school choice is a right in this state. It is not a luxury. It’s an important part of the mix in education.
She has spent much of the last two years talking about the teaching shortage crisis – which is a real thing. Her solutions are either like 2K4T, which is not sustainable (or even possible for one year in all districts), or increasing support for programs such as Teach For America (TFA), which places short-term teachers with little training into classrooms.
She has also given the 2K4T issue its own tab on her campaign page. Fortunately though, teachers have seen right through this. If it was a ploy to turn teachers against their administrators, it didn’t work. We all know the score. Funding shortfalls, compounded year after year, have kept the budgets of school districts extra tight.
What’s worse is that Barresi knows one of the things that has hurt districts with money has been the way her own agency has handled it. During the 2012-13 school year, most districts didn’t start receiving reimbursements for their Federal Program claims until January or February. To explain this quickly, any school district receiving funding for Title I (support for high poverty schools) and Title II (professional development) pays for any personnel, materials, or training costs up front. Then they submit claims to the SDE for reimbursement. Several large districts were out more than a million dollars before the first claim came in. This lag was caused, in part, due to a change in the system the SDE uses. In part, it was also caused by frequent turnover in the Federal Programs division of the agency. In any case, It really put a lot of people in a bind. And it hurt districts with high-poverty populations the most.
The SDE also began the 2012-13 school year by withholding an excessive amount of funding from school districts, with a promise that they would receive the balance of their allocation in December (a decision that may be worthy of a top-ten post all its own). With this in mind, if you were a school superintendent or a finance officer, wouldn’t you try to maintain a healthy fund balance (carryover) each year? Or would you spend down to the crumbs?
Barresi’s 2K4T plan ignores every reality of school finance – a subject that she doesn’t remotely understand. She tries to patronize teachers, but they’re too well-informed to buy it. She tries to convince the public that their school districts are lying to them, but the balance hasn’t tipped in her favor. This, like everything else she has tried to do, shows a fundamental lack of respect for the people who elected her, and the people she supposedly serves.
Stunts like this get you nowhere. A person like Barresi can get elected once by flashing her money around. Getting re-elected after being herself for four years, is an altogether different subject.