Archive

Posts Tagged ‘#GiveItBack’

Two Things: Enrollment Increases and #GiveItBackOK

January 12, 2016 1 comment

Quickly today, I want to draw your attention to two things.

First is that public school enrollment continues to climb. Superintendent Hofmeister’s office released this statement yesterday:

The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools increased by more than 4,000 in 2015, continuing an annual upward trend.

A total of 692,670 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 4,370 over the 2014 total of 688,300 and 33,055 more than in 2010.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister emphasized that the state should be prepared to continue serving a growing student population each year.

“Once again, Oklahoma schools are educating more students than ever,” Hofmeister said. “While it’s not a surprise, it is important to remember that statewide enrollment increases every year. Given the current fiscal reality and the teacher shortage crisis, many schools started 2015 ready to add additional students to their rosters with few new resources. We need to plan for this trend to continue in the future and do everything we can to minimize the negative impact on students.”

Districts record enrollment every year on Oct. 1 and report the figures to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Currently, Oklahoma has 516 public school districts and 1,795 school sites, including 14 charter schools not sponsored by a district.

Well, that’s about half of the statement. The release also included several graphics, including this one showing how public school enrollment has continued to increase since 2009.

statewide-enrollment_crop.jpg

Please remember that Oklahoma schools have more mandates, more students and less per-pupil funding than they did in 2009. Don’t let anyone get away with telling you differently.

Also, if you’re any kind of a data nerd at all, you might enjoy the data tables the SDE has provided showing state, district, and site numbers.

The second thing is that I want to say thank you for the thousands of positive responses to #GiveItBackOK, which a small group of rebels – including myself – concocted Saturday night. I also appreciate the coverage that several local TV stations have given the movement, as well as Nour Habib’s write-up for the Tulsa World.

Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller and several other state education advocates, including Mid-Del Superintendent Rick Cobb, launched a grass-roots campaign on social media last weekend encouraging people to give back the money they’d get through a new 0.25 percent reduction in Oklahoma’s income-tax rate.

Miller said the idea for the campaign, which they’re calling #GiveItBackOK, came about spontaneously as he and others expressed their frustration about the fiscal shortfall and the midyear cuts that schools will have to deal with.

“All the while, the Legislature has moved forward with an income tax reduction at a time when the state doesn’t have enough money to support its core services,” he said.

Miller said the tax cut will result in a minimal return of money for most people — for an average teacher, it’ll be a return of about 4 cents a day, he said.

We’re not asking people who can’t afford to donate to schools to give. We’re not asking people to give their entire tax return to schools. We’re not even saying you need to write a check to your district’s general fund. There are countless ways you can give.

I say countless ways, but Claudia Swisher has started a list.

  • Donate to the school district lunch program. In trying to alleviate cuts to schools, the OSDE cut our state’s matching funding for the school lunch program by 30.28%. Check with your district office and see if you can earmark your donation to hungry kids.

  • Donate to your school’s general fund…that’s what schools use to buy paper, pencils, supplies, printer ink. Those funds will take a huge hit in order to continue funding vital services.

  • Ask your child’s teacher for a wish list of supplies and buy all of them and more

  • Ask the music and art teachers if they could use some help. My granddaughter’s art program funds itself by selling candy bars between classes…and that was before the revenue failure.

  • Join your PTA or PTO and donate to their efforts.

  • Does your district have a school foundation? Donate!

  • School libraries have been hurting for years, and this will be hard on them. Donate to the library and invite the media specialist to get the books students have been asking for.

 

Giving feels good, and it can help teachers know that you support them. It doesn’t begin to solve the state’s funding problem, though. Then again, step one is admitting you have a problem.

Late yesterday, after this movement began gaining traction, the governor’s office released a statement about criticism over the latest tax cut.

Most of the state’s revenue decline can be attributed to the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry and the 70 percent decline in the price of oil in the past 18 months. We’ve lost about 12,000 jobs from the energy sector decline, and that has an effect upon our sales tax, our income tax, our use tax, our motor vehicle tax and certainly the gross production tax on oil and gas. Modest, incremental income tax reductions are not the problem.

“The income tax cut’s budgetary impact is $120 million in the upcoming 2017 fiscal year, which is only a little more than 10 percent of the projected budget hole. It’s a fact, the state would still have over an $800 million budget hole even if that tax cut hadn’t taken effect.

“Up until the energy downturn, Oklahoma had the fourth-fasted growing economy in the nation. This tax cut will prove its worth in the long term. Tax policy is long-term policy and over the long term, a lower tax burden is good policy and the policy the voters have asked for in Oklahoma. If Oklahoma wants to attract and retain good jobs – rather than losing them to neighboring states – we must improve our tax climate.

Not all elected officials are all in on the tax cut, however. So far, two legislators have pledged to participate in the #GiveItBackOK movement.

Supporting schools, for most Oklahomans is an easy choice to make.

Oh, and if there would be a third, very location-specific thing this morning for all of the Owassoans who are registered voters, please do your civic duty. Vote today. They don’t call these special elections for nothing, you know.

Fight the Arrogance #GiveItBack #oklaed

January 9, 2016 7 comments

This may not be a surprise to those who know me, but apparently I’m arrogant. That’s what Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger thinks of those of us who believe that continuing to cut taxes in the face of massive state revenue failures is bad public policy. I guess that’s why he went after new Tulsa Regional Chamber chairman Jeff Dunn in two separate Facebook posts yesterday. Here’s how the Tulsa World covered it:

Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, a Tulsa resident, was responding to Chairman Jeff Dunn’s blunt criticism of “a senior Cabinet official” for defending the 0.25 percent reduction in the state income-tax rate that went into effect last week, even as state agencies were told to trim spending by 3 percent because of a general revenue failure.

Although Dunn did not name the official when he made the comments during a speech to the chamber Thursday, it was understood to be Doerflinger because of recent comments he has made.

The two Facebook posts — one on Doerflinger’s own page and one on Dunn’s — used the hashtags “really?,” “outoftouch,” “ohthearrogance” and “disingenious,” apparently to describe Dunn.

What this tells me is that those of us who’ve taken to social media to express our outrage are making a difference. Why else would a member of the governor’s cabinet slam a Chamber leader on Facebook? Remember how tight Governor Fallin has been with big business? This seems to indicate a rift.

It could also mean that politicians facing re-election feel vulnerable. I thought the comments further down on Dunn’s Facebook page were also enlightening.

dunn doerflinger FB spat.png

One of Dunn’s friends commented:

I’m with Jeff Dunn, schools, healthcare providers, those who depend on safe roads and bridges, economic incentives to attract businesses to Oklahoma, higher education, and all the things that a responsible state government is expected to secure for its citizens – and against those who shrug in the face of our self-inflicted injuries (fleeing teachers, closing hospitals and schools, more earthquakes) and blame energy prices alone. Irresponsible unneeded tax cuts have consequences and we are seeing them now.#GetSerious

Doerflinger’s response was to link to an editorial in yesterday’s Oklahoman, and add the endorsement,  Couldn’t have said it better myself. Really? Could you have tried?

Yet to hear some critics, you’d think the $901 million shortfall facing legislators this year is all the result of tax policy. Rep. Scott Inman of Del City, who leads the House Democratic caucus, typified such thinking in a recent Facebook post. Noting that Oklahoma’s income tax rate dropped from 5.25 percent to 5 percent on Jan. 1, Inman argued that the income tax cut only “reduced the amount of revenue growth that could have come into the general fund” to spend on things like education, health care and public safety.

He dismissed as “laughable” the idea that allowing Oklahomans to keep more of their own money could contribute to economic activity and growth.

We’ll grant that the timing of this income tax cut isn’t ideal. Previous tax cuts came from surplus collections during economic booms.

But for too many on the political left, tax increases are the only answer to a downturn. They simply can’t imagine that it might be good for government to ever streamline or pare any activity.

Is anyone calling for an increase? No, we’re saying don’t cut taxes when you can’t fund the basic government services that you’ve promised to the people of the state.

Remember, it was as cloistered group from the governor’s office and the legislature who wrote the budget at the last minute in May. It was this small group that built the budget based on revenue projections that weren’t realistic in the first place. They plugged holes with one-time funds. They did nothing to address the predictable, preventable position we’re in now.

I would think a private sector CFO would be fired for striking out that egregiously.

But those of us who saw it coming and can’t contain our anger now…we’re the bad guys. Here’s more of Doerflinger, from the World:

“In light of Jeff Dunn’s comments at the Tulsa Chamber meeting … let there be no doubt I am always going to be in favor of the hardworking, tax paying citizens of this state being able to keep more of THEIR money. Modest, incremental tax reductions are not the problem and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. The arrogance of those who would suggest to YOU, the tax paying citizens of this state that you should not be able to keep more of your hard earned dollar astounds me.”

The Oklahoma Policy Institute has covered this thoroughly. They even have created an online calculator to illustrate how much we save by letting the .25% tax cut happen. I’ve run some numbers below to show you just how blessed you are to have leaders such as these in place.

Taxable Income Married Children Savings
$35,000 Yes 2 $9
$35,000 No 2 $20
$75,000 Yes 2 $109
$75,000 No 2 $118
$125,000 Yes 2 $224
$125,000 No 2 $226
$200,000 Yes 2 $388
$500,000 Yes 2 $1,040

If you’re a teacher, and you’re single raising kids, your tax cut is about $20. The OPI placed the median tax cut at $29. For that amount, the state is losing $147 million in revenue. If your taxable income is $500,000, and your line in the sand is $1,040, then you’re a huge part of the problem.

We have a $901 million dollar hole. Our leaders have chosen not to reverse a policy decision that would have filled about one-sixth of that hole. It’s simply foolish.

At this point, I want to see a show of hands. If you’re a state representative or senator, and you still think that keeping the most recent .25 percent state tax cut was a good idea, knowing everything we know now, we need to know who you are. You need to be challenged in your primary. If you escape that, you need a hard challenge in November.

Our state is in a serious economic and policy crisis. We need people in our statehouse who are, for lack of a better term, statesmen and stateswomen stately. When someone like that speaks his mind, we don’t need the state’s largest newspaper mocking him. For those who continue supporting tax cuts at any cost, please don’t call yourself a public education supporter. You’re simply not.

I’m fortunate to have two good incomes in my household. My tax cut is in the three-digit range. I’ll be donating it to the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation. I’ll also be making donations to candidates who can serve this state with reality in mind.

With all that in mind, tell me which of these people is arrogant. I’ll make it multiple choice, so we can standardize our responses.

  1. The kindergarten teacher who doesn’t like having 32 students in a classroom
  2. The student who doesn’t like having fewer course options from which to choose
  3. The principal who just wants all the computers in the lab to work at the same time, just once, dammit
  4. The superintendent who has a running list of deferred building maintenance that he hopes will hold until the next bond election
  5. A state cabinet official who thinks this is an opportunity

There’s no correct answer; it’s only an field-test item try-out interrogative opportunity.

As I said above, I’ll be donating my tax cut back to my school district. You can too. If you’re not sure the best way to do so, contact a principal, or a teacher, or the PTA. They’ll have suggestions. You can even give a little extra to one of the high school booster clubs. It still helps the kids, and that’s what matters.

giving back to kids.jpg

If you’re a teacher, and your tax cut is somewhere between $9 and $29, you’ve probably already donated at least that amount in-kind with your unpaid days and personally-bought classroom supplies.

On top of that, find us some real pro-education candidates. And donate to them.

%d bloggers like this: