Two things: remember the base
Still fuming over yesterday’s rigged committee vote to move Representative Jason Nelson’s voucher bill to the house floor, I didn’t get my Two Things for Tuesday posted this morning. That’s probably a good thing. The delay gave me time to read from the top education news source in Oklahoma, the Tulsa World.
House Bill 2949, by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, advanced on a 9-8 vote. Votes from Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney, R-Cushing, were necessary to get the measure through the committee, where a similar bill had failed on a 9-9 tie a year ago.
The speaker and speaker pro tem can vote on any bill in committee but generally do so only when needed for a majority.
The difference from a year ago was that Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, a former educator who voted against the measure in 2015, has been removed from the committee and not replaced. All other votes were exactly the same as a year ago.
This merely continues a pattern that frustrates me. With every other issue that is important to our state leaders, they ask the experts. When it comes to education, they want us on the sidelines. Actually, they don’t even want us that close. See thing one and thing two below.
1. State Senate President Brian Bingman told the Oklahoman editorial board last week that the state needs to proceed with caution when it comes to rolling back any tax credits to try to fix the state’s budget problems.
Tax incentives are being reviewed as well. Yet many companies’ financial plans are based in part on promised tax breaks. Abrupt elimination of incentives could have serious, negative impact in the private sector.
Bingman said business leaders will be heavily consulted, and predicted most changes to tax incentive programs will not take effect until future years. Yet within a few days, Bingman appeared to send a different message after Gov. Mary Fallin urged caution over changing incentives. Fallin said The Boeing Company bowed out of two Oklahoma projects after a moratorium on some tax incentives passed out of committee.
Bingman has also proposed school consolidation (as has the governor). Were any school leaders heavily consulted? What about students or parents? It’s this double standard that infuriates all of us who work in public education. It’s not the only example, though.
2. A year ago at this time, the governor imposed a hiring freeze and a moratorium on raises. To say that exceptions have been granted is sort of like saying there are currently a few sharks off the coast of Florida.
Not only were there more than 13,000 exceptions, but the reasoning is another slap in the face to teachers. State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger didn’t want to lose good people to the private sector.
“I’m never going to be shortsighted in potentially losing a high-quality employee over not a lot of money to the private sector,” Doerflinger said.
Does anybody we’ve elected care that schools are losing high-quality employees to the private sector (or to other states)? Do you people not hear the irony?
I know that politicians have to constantly work their base. That’s why they call the groups like the State Chamber, OCPA, and OCPA Impact “grassroots” organizations. These are the base supporters for the voucher wolves and elected leaders who are determined to take even more money away from schools. The nine representatives who voted for HB 2949 yesterday listen to these groups – not to public school parents, educators, or the majority of their voters.
Well, I’m no politician, but I know my base. It starts with students and parents. It extends to teachers and principals. It includes strong support for public schools from the business community. All of us who serve the education community would do well to remember this.
Somebody has to.