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The Best of You

January 14, 2017 Comments off

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Foo Fighters, Best of You

fullsizerender

Edmond parent and fierce #oklaed activist Angela Little wrote a reminder to us this week on Facebook about the newly elected legislature.

lets-pretend-for-a-moment

In case you can’t read the image, here’s the text:

Let’s play pretend for a moment…. Once upon a time in a land far far away, there was a school where they taught kids nothing and just let them sit around and watch movies all day. Parents were obviously irate and didn’t want their kids at this school. So the district decides to clean house and hire new admin and new teachers. Fresh start for this school. Now pretend you are one of the brand new teachers or admin hired. But the parents still hated this school because of how it once was. Do you feel that’s fair to you and your abilities since the issue was with the past staff not the current? I can only imagine you would like the chance to show these parents that you are going to do things differently and want them to have an open mind on this instead of preconceived notions, correct?

It’s a brand new Legislature, folks. We have like 40+ freshman and an entirely new leadership. Don’t hold them accountable for mistakes of their predecessors. This doesn’t mean we should proceed without caution but we must give them a chance to show us what they can do to help our cause.

It’s a good analogy. It really is. I’ve told parents and community members for as long as I can remember not to judge a school today by the memories they have of it from when they were growing up. New blood is a good thing.

Or are you gone and on to someone new…

Still, there are 100+ returning members of the legislature, and some of them – I’d like to think fewer than 20 – are virulently against us. They have a vouchers or death mentality. They want to starve public schools to create larger gaps in services and then point out the schools’ shortcomings so they can divert funding to private schools. For years, we’ve listened to promises from many to support funding teacher raises, and nothing of the sort has happened.

not-the-football-again-charlie-brown

In the past, those people have been in leadership roles. I won’t name them here. My perception is that those carrying the flag for such causes now have less sway among their colleagues.

I was too weak to give in, too strong to lose…

What concerns me is that we’re Oklahoma, and we have a type. Sure, we may have moved on to some new people, but on the whole, we tend to put up with the same behaviors we have said we would never again accept. It’s human nature.

Has someone taken your faith? It’s real, the pain you feel…

Rep. Michael Rogers (who authored last year’s bill revamping teacher evaluation – for the better) is proposing a $6,000 teacher raise. HB 1114 would raise the minimum teacher’s salary by $1,000 for the 2017-18 school year, another $2,000 for the 2018-19 school year, and another $3,000 for the 2019-20 school year.

I have three fairly significant questions about the bill:

  1. How will the state fund the raises?
  2. Will funding come on top of money to restore cuts that public schools have faced in recent years?
  3. Will districts paying above the state minimum have to give raises at least this large?

Let me be clear, though. I want this bill to pass. I appreciate Rep. Rogers putting it forward. I even emailed him today to tell him so.

The hope that starts, the broken hearts…

I just don’t want to get my hopes up yet. Teacher raises have been a long time coming. Even if this passes, we’ll continue losing teachers. A $1,000 raise won’t keep many people in Oklahoma. Implementation might be too slow for some, and that’s a problem.

New House Speaker Charles McCall has said he supports the bill, and that he thinks it has a good chance of passing. On paper, they believe it would raise Oklahoma teacher salaries to the highest in the region.

regional-teaching-averages

The surrounding states are bound to raise teacher salaries too. If HB 1114 passes and salaries climb by $6,000 over the next three years, we probably won’t be at the top. Also, the variance in teacher pay among districts in Texas varies much more than it does here. It has to do with the way schools are funded in the different states.

Still, it’s something. Senator Holt’s ideas for a $10,000 raise are worth discussing too. His plan lacks details, but he needs to get a chance to promote it. Maybe I was too dismissive of it myself last year.

It’s been two months since voters rejected SQ 779, which would have funded $5,000 raises for teachers.That sting is fresh. Because of all the build up, that amount is the minimum raise many teachers are willing to settle for.

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In the halls of the Capitol Wherever there is a microphone at the Capitol, there is a representative or senator willing to give lip service to teacher raises – with strings attached.

I’ll support raises for teachers if you’ll agree to a merit pay system…

I’ll support raises for teachers if we’ll consolidate all of the school districts…

I’ll support raises for teachers if they’ll all burn their union memberships…

And where there is a legislator proposing raises with conditions, there is a chorus of usual suspects willing to add a loud Harumph!

harumph

That should be our challenge – to keep focus on the people like McCall, Rogers, and Holt. They mean well.While it’s rare a bill written in January passes as written, this should be our starting point.We should avoid the harumphing kind of people whenever possible.

If you can’t see staying in Oklahoma because of the hope of $1,000, I get it. You have to do what’s best for you and your family.

I’ve got another confession my friend, I’m no fool.
I’m getting tired of starting again, somewhere new…

I’m still here, and I’m going to support ideas that have the potential to move us forward.

Two things: Call me a (civil) naysayer

February 9, 2016 6 comments

As you probably know, last week during her State of the State address, Governor Fallin fixed the state’s budget, provided $178 million in teacher raises (with only $105 million in additional funding for schools), eliminated wasteful tax credits, annexed all of the state’s K-8 school districts, provided vouchers for upper-middle class families to attend private schools that don’t need to be burdened by academic and fiscal accountability, and probably secured the Thunder’s first world championship. It was the best of times.

To all of our surprise, some questioned her methodology. Something about why didn’t you think any of this was important during your first five years when the state’s economy was doing so well that it was the cornerstone of your re-election campaign? Or something like that. House Minority Leader Scott Inman probably said it better (as reported in the Tulsa World):

Inman, D-Del City, said tax increases would require a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, which is unlikely to happen.

“I don’t think it (a pay raise proposal) is false hope, because I think the teachers of Oklahoma are smart enough to look right through this veiled political attempt to win votes in an election year,” Inman said during his weekly press availability at the Capitol.

The state’s budget problems are the result of a dramatic drop in energy prices, tax cuts and other factors.

When oil was selling at a much higher price and teachers were lobbying for help at Capitol rallies, the GOP-controlled Legislature did not offer a pay raise but instead cut education budgets, Inman said.

“As soon as they lose two Republican seats to Democrats in the House and Senate, they realize that people, regardless of party affiliation, are now frustrated with their fiscal mismanagement of the public schools,” Inman said.

“The election is 10 months away, and now they have all ‘come to Jesus’ on the issue, and they want to at least throw that out there as a potential so they can at least go home this election cycle and say, ‘I know the pay raise didn’t happen, but we tried.’

So, Rep. Inman, are you saying that this is just politics? What an opportunity for opportunists! You know that you’re in the minority, right?

State Senator David Holt, who was out campaigning for Marco Rubio in New Hampshire yesterday (his day job is in session, right?), didn’t like Inman’s comments at all. Over the weekend, he took to Facebook to blast the Democrat’s doubt.

The most cynical thing politicians too often do is pray for our city/state/nation to fail because they think failure would benefit their political party. It’s hard to blame Americans who are sick of these games. Yes, these challenges are hard, which is why we all need to work together to get things done for our state!

That’s the most cynical thing politicians do? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen worse.

I don’t think Inman was praying for anything to fail. I simply think he was using his skill of observation and recalling recent history.

Again, I must be wrong because the governor wasn’t happy that people don’t see the unicorns and rainbows evident in her plan. She told Fox 25 in Oklahoma City that it’ll work, pretty much just because.

“For those naysayers who say you can’t do it, show me your plan,” Fallin said. “My job as Governor is to lead and to put proposals out there. I’m always happy to receive everybody else’s plans. Sometimes people don’t have a plan, they just want to be naysayers. I put out an honest, workable plan for how we can give teacher pay raises—how we can fix structural problems in our budget.”

That’s a long lead-in, but let me go ahead and get to my two things.

  1. History tells us that the governor and the Legislature won’t find a way to give teacher raises. They haven’t even tried the last five years. Math tells us it’s not possible. We have a $900 million budget shortfall, if we trust the current calculations coming out of the Office of Management and Enterprise Service (OMES). Meanwhile, a barrel of oil is selling for around $30 and a gallon of gas for under $1.20
    strange things afoot at the circle K

    Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

    When a barrel of oil was over $100 and a gallon of gas was around $3.00, restoring state aid to schools to 2008 levels was either not a priority or not possible. Tax cuts were possible. Tax credits were possible. Funding education wasn’t. It’s not that I doubt the governor’s sincerity, or that of the 149 good men and women serving in the Legislature. It’s that I have a reasonably good short-term memory. I won’t believe you mean what you say until you prove you do.

  2. I hope I’m wrong.

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