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Posts Tagged ‘Legislature’

Remember the Names (part 2)

November 16, 2017 4 comments

One thing educators just love hearing is that our schools should be run more like businesses. It’s a great politician line: If schools were run more like businesses…
…we’d be able to pay all the teachers $100,000 a year. Of course, there’d only be about five teachers for every 500 students, but still…

I hate the mindset of treating either the students or the content we teach as a commodity. Our district finance offices should be run more like businesses. We have millions of dollars come in and go out every year – mostly into payroll. We want to save money and run as efficiently as possible, but not at the expense of educating children.

I do wonder, however, about one thing that would be different if we operated more like the business world. Maybe we’d be able to wine and dine our legislators and get our way. We’d be able to post record profits and still complain to lawmakers that they’re trying to bankrupt us. As it is, we can show up with a crowd of 25,000 people who support public education and have no impact.

Sky Shot

All together now!

Oil and Gas producers can show up with a few charter buses and campaign-quality signs and kill legislation. I definitely wish in that sense, that we were more like big business. Clout has its privileges.

On the other hand, nobody ever tells schools, you should operate more like the legislature. Imagine what that would look like.

I’m going to leave the Senate alone for now. They seem to be functioning on a higher level than the House during this quite Extraordinary Legislative Session.

But that House…bless them. Bless them all.

Each of the past two Wednesdays, the House has voted on a bill to finish the job of implementing a budget that should have been finalized in May. Last week, they killed HB 1054, which would have raised taxes on cigarettes, gasoline, watered-down beer, and gross production. It would have raised salaries for teachers and state employees. It had the 75% of votes needed in the Senate, but it died in the House by a vote of 71-27.

This week, however, the House approved a budget that uses some one-time money to limit cuts. This plan, HB 1019, passed with a vote of 65-25. Critical agencies will still face cuts. Higher education loses over $17 million. Health care loses $15 million, DHS $4 million, and Mental Health another $4 million.

Simply put, this budget will cost people more than their livelihoods. It will cost some their lives.

HB 1054 wasn’t perfect. It had elements that everybody found distasteful. It’s what was needed, though. Since we live in a state in which 65 passes but 71 fails, this is what we get.

If you want to read more about yesterday’s discussion in the House, check out Claudia Swisher’s blog. All I’m going to do is give you a list showing how House members voted on each bill (and a brief thought about each group). You can determine for yourself how to characterize these representatives.

You can call it a Special Session Scorecard, or maybe a twisted version of the Meyers-Briggs personality test. Perhaps it’s a Rorschach test for who funds the campaigns of each group.

Yes on both

Babinec, Baker, Caldwell, Casey, Cockroft, Echols, Fetgatter, Ford, Frix, Hall, Hilbert, Jordan, Kannady, Kerbs, Lawson, Lepak, Martinez, McCall, McDaniel, McDugle, McEntire, Montgomery, Mulready, Murdock, Newton, Ortega, Osborn, Osburn, Ownbey, Park, Pfeiffer, D. Roberts, Russ, Sanders, Sears, Taylor, Vaughan, Wallace, Watson, J. West, T. West, Wright

Total: 42 Republicans, 0 Democrats

To me, this group of people looked at HB 1054 as a massive compromise and the best we could do given the circumstances. This week, maybe they felt less hopeful and just had to vote for something to get finished. I would guess a lot of the names above have lost confidence in many of their colleagues.

No on both

Kouplen, Proctor, Stone, Williams, Murphey

Total: 1 Republican, 4 Democrats

If you’re neither looking for solutions nor draconian cuts,  I honestly don’t know how to read you.

Yes on 1054, no on 1019

F. Bennett, Blancett, Cannaday, Condit, Dollens, Dunnington, Fourkiller, Gaddis, Griffith, Hoskin, Loring, Meredith, Munson, Perryman, Renegar, Rosecrants, Tadlock, Virgin, Walke, Young, Humphrey, Thomsen

Total: 2 Republicans, 20 Democrats

Everybody who voted yes on HB 1054 sacrificed ideological purity to do so. This group didn’t feel like unclicking that button, I suppose.

No on 1054, yes on 1019

Calvey, Cleveland, Coody, Derby, Downing, Dunlap, Enns, Faught, Gann, Hardin, McBride, McEachin, Moore, O’Donnell, Ritze, S. Roberts, Strohm, Teague, K. West, R. West

Total: 20 Republicans, 0 Democrats

Well, people may die, but at least everybody’s third-quarter profits are safe.

Others

J. Bennett – missed vote on HB 1054, Yes on HB 1019
Inman, Rogers – No on HB 1054, missed vote on HB 1019
Goodwin, Lowe, Nichols, Bush, Henke, Nollan, Worthen – Yes on HB 1054, missed vote on HB 1019

***Important Note*** I’ve checked and double-checked these votes. If you find any inaccuracies, please let me know.
Vote on HB 1054
Vote on HB 1019

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Xenophobia: Warrior Snowflake

I wrote last night that at the end of this legislative session, depending on the outcome of the budget, either everybody gets credit or everybody gets blame. I was wrong. Well, I was wrong-adjacent.

The first thing I read this morning was an idea by a group of 22 Oklahoma legislators calling themselves the Republican Platform Caucus. News 6 in Tulsa reported it first, but that’s not where I read it. It came from Peter Greene, who writes the blog Curmudgucation:

There’s a lot to unpack in the news from Oklahoma’s GOP legislators, but let’s just skip straight to the most awful. From this special caucus of conservatives, looking for ways to close a budget hole:

The caucus said there are 82,000 non-English speaking students in the state.

“Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens, and do we really have to educate non-citizens?” [Rep. Mike] Ritze asked.

The caucus thinks that could save $60 million.

What the hell? I mean, what the absolute you-have-got-to-be-freaking-kidding-me hell??!! Let’s profile possible undocumented immigrants based strictly on what their primary language is??!!

The rest of their proposal only seems less stupid because the target-non-English-speakers sets the stupid bar so very high. But there’s still a lot of stupid here.

I love it when national writers mock us – especially when we give them good reason!

It’s not just bloggers either. The Washington Post has even picked up the story.

The caucus, and speculation of its actual size, is the subject of much social media interest as well.

No official list exists, but sources tell okeducationtruths off the record that…

Wait, I still have too much self respect to refer to my own blog in the third person. It’s ridiculous.

Mike-Ritzex175I have seen lists posted in three places, and they mostly match. I really want to post all their names and shame them, but I can’t guarantee that what I have seen is 100 percent accurate. I’ve even seen one legislator disavow membership.

Maybe their caucus isn’t as big as they say.

I can say that none of the names I’ve seen surprise me. And if a decent budget deal comes to fruition, it will be in spite of time wasted on garbage such as this by people who seek to further divide us, especially when the guy leading the charge can’t even work four full days.

 

I think we are all used to one or two isolated legislators saying ridiculous things about different groups of people. This is altogether different. This is a new breakaway wing of the Republican party. They even have a list of guiding ideals:

To address this concern raised by so many voters, this caucus was formed with the following objectives:

  1. Honor God as we serve the people of Oklahoma;
  2. Represent the principles we were elected on, the Republican Platform;
  3. Educate members about how a bill relates to the platform;
  4. Provide a UNIFIED Republican voice;
  5. Hold each other accountable to the values supported by the majority of Oklahomans;
  6. Support policies reflected in the Republican Platform and oppose policies that are contrary to the platform.

“Some say the platform is too long, but really its’ depth is a reflection of decades of hard work by those at the grassroots level,” said Rep. Roberts, R-Hominy. “Truly, the values and policies in our platform represent what it means to be a Republican. Our goal is to represent the values on which we were elected.”

“When members discuss how policy or budgetary decisions relate to the platform, new members will have the opportunity to learn from more seasoned legislators,” said state Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee. “It also helps us hold each other accountable, making us better representatives of the people we serve.”

I don’t know about you, but I can think of few things that honor God less than rounding up all students whose first language isn’t English and making them prove their innocence. Besides, as Ben Felder reports in the Oklahoman, it’s unconstitutional:

According to News 9, the caucus cited 82,000 non English speaking students as its motivation to identify non citizens.

The problem with that is being classified as an English language learner is not the same as being undocumented.

We don’t have firm numbers on how many undocumented students there are in the state as school’s don’t ask citizenship status. Oklahoma City Public Schools is over half Hispanic, but best estimates show less than one third are not U.S. citizens.

In fact, just 37 percent of Hispanic resident in Oklahoma County are not U.S. citizens.

But let’s assume there was an accurate count of undocumented students and it didn’t cost more to “identify them and turn them over to ICE” than it did to educate them, could the state Legislature do this?

The answer is no as it was ruled unconstitutional in 1982 in Plyler v. Doe. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot deny an undocumented student from a free public education.

Of all the ideas and events that have embarrassed Oklahoma so far in 2017, this is perhaps the worst. If anything like this were to become law, it would lead to a culture of profiling and intimidation. Simply put, it’s un-American.

Most Oklahomans I know celebrate diversity in our schools. Having students from many different backgrounds makes our lives richer, not poorer.

I’m embarrassed that my friends across the country are seeing this story and letting it paint a picture of our entire state. If you agree, voice your shame to the members of this caucus.

 

It’s getting late. Do something.

FY 17 budget cuts.jpg

Used by permission from OSSBA

What you see above is real. In 77 days, public schools in Oklahoma have lost over $93 million in state funding. Oklahoma City Public Schools has lost the most, just over $5.3 million. Tulsa Public is next – just under $4.9 million.

In Mid-Del, we’re dealing with over $1.9 million in losses. As I’ve mentioned before, this is money that all districts planned on having based on the state budget passed by the Legislature (and signed by the governor) last May. Here’s the notice we received from the Oklahoma State Department of Education today:

Based on available funds, the State Aid formula payment for the month of May will be paid at the accumulative amount of 88.62 percent instead of the scheduled 91 percent of the current adjusted allocation. Revenue collections for the May State Aid payment are approximately $43.1 million short of the funds needed to make the scheduled 91 percent payment. The accumulative percentage of 88.62 percent includes the total amount short for this fiscal year updated for cash received through May. The cash flow shortage of $43.1 million for the May payment supersedes the $36.3 million for the March and April payments.

The May payment, available to districts on Thursday, May 11, is based on funds collected as of May 9, 2017. To calculate your payment, use the most current adjusted allocation times accumulated percentage minus paid to date to equal the amount of payment. The amount of funds collected as of May 9, 2017, is presented below.

  • Education Reform Revolving Fund (1017) Adjusted for Revenue Shortfall has collected 84.13 percent of the Adjusted Appropriated $657,802,801

  • Common Education Technology Fund has collected 85.50 percent of the Appropriated $41,168,478

  • FY17 Mineral Leasing Fund has collected 52.57 percent of the Appropriated $3,610,000

  • General Revenue Adjusted Revenue Failure has collected 90.91 percent of the Adjusted Appropriated $1,027,324,288.85

  • FY17 OK Lottery Fund has collected 92.96 percent of the Appropriated $23,397,757

More losses will come in June. Meanwhile, our Legislature continues looking for roughly $900 million to make up for a shortfall to next year’s budget.

To see what each district has lost to date, follow this link.


Several people around the state have asked me why they’re not hearing more from superintendents about what these cuts mean. Last year, after all, we went on and on and on.

I can’t answer for all superintendents. In my case, I’m too busy to spin my wheels. I need to focus on things I can impact. It’s not that the legislators who represent my district don’t hear us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They’re involved and astute.

I’ve been fighting for five years. It’s exhausting. Our day jobs don’t slow down just because we’re trying to keep our legislators informed. They’re aware of the problem. Some are even working on Sundays (which is still allowed as long as the Ten Commandments statue isn’t at the Capitol, I guess) to try to fix it.

Maybe too many people insist on getting credit. Maybe we’re making a mountain out of a molehill. And maybe our executive branch is too busy making dumb decisions like insisting on a $2.4 million test that means nothing or throwing state money down the commode by moving offices around for no reason at all.

This isn’t the time for anyone to play hero. If you’re in the leadership in the Legislature, you were there when this problem was created. It also isn’t the time for blame. Not yet, anyway.

doordonot.gif

Fix it, and all legislators deserve praise. Fail to do anything meaningful, and none do. It’s all or nothing. I’m trying to make a budget for the upcoming school year using numbers I don’t have. I’m not really in the mood to pat anyone on the back and say thanks for trying. Reading the Tulsa World tonight, it seems I’m not alone:

Uncertainty about state appropriations, which has a host of area school districts delaying their annual budget process for the new fiscal year.

“We’re tired of chasing rumors and ghosts,” West said. “This is the dance we’ve been doing every year for three years, but this year, we’re in a wait-and-see pattern. We’re not going to hire anyone until June. What I’m worried about is somebody is going to take another job. We’re having to put them off.”

Sapulpa Public Schools is holding off on offering new contracts to its first- and second-year teachers who have been employed on a temporary basis and Owasso Public Schools leaders say they’re hoping that building up their savings will help see them through Fiscal Year 2018, but they can’t be sure.

Leaders of Union, Jenks and Broken Arrow public schools are also waiting to finalize budget plans for next year, and being cautious about communicating how programming would be affected by cuts, until they have more information from the state.

Because Collinsville is a growing district, with 165 new students the past two years and 100 more expected for 2017-18, West said he has the luxury of being able to commit to offering new employment contracts to all current teachers.

So we wait. And we’re not silent.

And I’m not alone.

Craig, I’m too tired to sigh. Plus, there’s the $1.9 million. That has me pretty bummed out.

Our state leaders persist in working on our behalf, though.

pissing contest

Good thing they’re focused!

I can’t imagine what backlash legislators would face if they fail to do their job. It’s not just public schools. It’s all state agencies. It’s all core state services. This state has consciously chosen to re-elect people who willfully made us go broke. Elections have consequences. Hopefully, at some point, failing to lead will too.

Don’t know much about history?

Yesterday, Governor Mary Fallin vetoed SB 2, which would have eliminated the state test for high school US History. This test costs the state of Oklahoma $2.4 million. It means nothing to the students who take it. As with all high-stakes tests, it forces teachers to narrow instruction to what they think will be assessed. Below is her reasoning.

US History veto message

I want to break down her veto statement one sentence at a time.

Senate bill 2 moves Oklahoma backwards.

Let that sentence linger in the air a minute. During the 6+ years of Fallin’s leadership, can you think of anything else that has moved our state backwards? Could it be three consecutive years of budget collapses? Other than our roads, bridges, schools, colleges, health care, prisons, law enforcement, and state parks, we’re having a fantastic decade! The 2010s will go down in history…oh, wait, they won’t. And even if they do, we won’t be able to afford the history books.

History is a vital component of a student’s academic coursework. It grounds students in our nation’s founding principles and our Constitution…

I agree that history is vital. And with US history dating back to 1607, we can’t cover it all in one year. That’s why the state breaks down the standards into three grade spans:

So the high school test covers the last 140 years. With all due respect, that doesn’t exactly include the nation’s founding.

…and teaches that American exceptionalism led the world to unite behind the concepts that liberty and freedom are fundamental human rights.

Not to be a noodge, but I don’t remember the world exactly uniting behind those principles. They’re great ideals. They’re core American values. And we’ve engaged in wars to end tyranny, which is a great thing.

This span of US History begins with Reconstruction, delves into immigration, westward expansion, and the industrial revolution before discussing WWI. It covers “social, cultural, and economic events between the World Wars,” such as the Great Depression. It moves through the Cold War all the way to our response to 9/11.

It’s more than our founding principles. It’s the narrative of how we got from that ontological perspective to where we are today. It includes our triumphs and our failings. It’s a mix of triumphs and human failings.

A test of facts, dates, and names doesn’t capture that.

In 2016, only 62 percent of students in Oklahoma scored proficient or advanced on their End of Instruction Exam on US History.

If you’ve read my blog for any time at all, you know I’m not really a fan of the single out-of-context statistic. Here are the state pass rates for the high school US History EOI since 2010, when Fallin was elected governor:

  • 2010 75%
  • 2011 80%
  • 2012 77%
  • 2013 80%
  • 2014 86%
  • 2015 79%
  • 2016 62%

If testing is so important, then why did scores go down? Where was your leadership during this time, Governor Fallin?

Or maybe it’s not about leadership. It could be that a new test and a new cut score had something to do with the 62%. Still, I wouldn’t rule out her leadership. This is her circus, after all.

If US History is not measured through a test, its importance in school will be lessened.

That’s just a slap in the face. Apparently the governor thinks our history teachers are incapable of doing their jobs. Strangely, I don’t recall her praising them in 2014 when the proficient rate was much higher.

I’m reminded of the time in 2015 that our governor put her knowledge of our founding principles on display:

You know there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, you have the legislative branch and you have the people – the people and their ability to vote.

Yes, she really said that. She actually forgot the branch of government she leads.

If only there had been a test.

The good thing is that we can fix this. Our Legislature may be struggling to find agreement on a budget right now, but they were pretty solid when they sent this bill to Fallin. The House vote was 65-23 with 10 absences. The Senate vote was 31-10 with 7 absences.

Now is the time to act. The governor’s action was predictable, just as it was two years ago when she vetoed HB 2625, giving parents a voice on third grade retention. At that time, the House voted 79-17 and the Senate voted 45-2 to override her veto.

That was one of the most critical moments we’ve had in the last few years. It showed how strong public education advocates can be when we unite. The state superintendent at that time called it pathetic and outrageous, which was a pretty strong indication we were right.

Maybe that helps us understand this veto. Rep. Katie Henke, the author of HB 2625 two years ago, is the house author for SB 2. The senate author is JJ Dossett, a former teacher who has been very outspoken on education and budget issues this year. I wouldn’t sleep on the role that spite plays in decisions such as this.

We don’t need to waste money on a meaningless test. Another $2.4 million could save about 55 teaching positions. Not that I’m counting.

Besides, if we wanted something resembling authentic assessment, it would look so much different. We can’t afford to continue insulting our teachers. Please call your state senator and representative and ask them to vote to override the veto.

They left the Capitol before 11:00 am today, but their voicemail works. Fill it up.

Last Dance for #oklaed?

April 20, 2017 1 comment

While we wait to see what will happen with state revenue and funding levels for public education, I’m going to take a little family break tonight and see my all-time favorite band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who begin their 40th anniversary tour tonight in Oklahoma City. In their honor, I thought it would be good to use a few classic songs to speculate on where we’ll end up in the next five weeks.

Breakdown (1976) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

It’s alright if you love me
It’s alright if you don’t
I ain’t afraid of you running away, honey
I get the feeling you won’t
There is no sense in pretending
Your eyes give you away
Something inside you is feeling like I do
We said all there is to say

Many of our teachers feel that this is the message Oklahoma has been sending them for years. Rather than continuing to pretend, they’re running away. It’s tragic.

You Wreck Me (1994) Wildflowers

Tonight we ride, right or wrong
Tonight we sail, on a radio song
Rescue me, should I go down
If I stay too long in trouble town
Oh, yeah, you wreck me, baby
You break me in two
But you move me, honey
Yes you do

I hope they open the show with this one, not that I’d be disappointed with any other choice I imagine. It’s a song about relationships that you just can’t break, even when they’re unhealthy. People  who re-elect the same politicians who created Oklahoma’s massive budget deficit in the first place would be a good example of this.

Free Fallin’ (1989) Full Moon Fever

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

Sometimes when I listen to politicians, I feel like this must be their impression of teachers. Look at that list of things the good girl loves. I don’t know how he left off sweet tea.

When a US Senator tells a teacher not to worry about her pay because she’ll get her reward in heaven, I know I’m right to feel that way. I know that teachers should be demure an compliant and not worry about raising their kids on WIC and Sooner Care. Those will soon be gone anyway, right?

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1981 – with Stevie Nicks) Bella Donna

Baby you could never look me in the eye
Yeah you buckle with the weight of the words
Stop draggin’ my,
Stop draggin’ my,
Stop draggin’ my heart around

Oh, they’ll look us in the eye and say whatever we want to hear. Still, they’re dragging us around.

Don’t Do Me Like That (1979) Damn the Torpedoes

Someone’s gonna tell you lies
Cut you down to size
Don’t do me like that
Don’t do me like that

The check is in the mail. My dog ate it. We were able to provide flat funding for education…

I Need to Know (1978) You’re Gonna Get It!

I need to know (i need to know)
I need to know (i need to know)
If you think you’re gonna leave
Then you better say so
I need to know (i need to know)
I need to know (i need to know)
Because I don’t know how long
I can hold on
And if your makin’ me wait
If you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know (i need to know)
I need to know (i need to know)

These lyrics capture how every superintendent and principal in the state feel about their teachers right now. Those in districts close to other states especially feel it. We also need to know what funding looks like. We’re trying to keep the people we want to keep so other districts don’t grab them while leaving enough slack in the budget for a wide range of scenarios. Actually, that’s better for the next song…

The Waiting (1981) Hard Promises

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

We get another signal from the Legislature. We lose another teacher or principal. We think we might be able to bring back some of the things we cut last year. We can’t be certain. In a little more than a month, the government we’ve chosen will tell us where we stand.

So much can change in that month.

Funk #49 (1970) James Gang Rides Again

Jumpin’ up, fallin’ down
Don’t misunderstand me
You don’t think that I know your plan
What you try’n’-a hand me?

Since Joe Walsh is the opening act tonight, I thought I’d throw in one of his best songs. Plus it gives me a chance to remind teachers to take heart in that better plan that opponents of SQ 779 had in their pocket all along. Right? Right?

Walk Away (1971) Thirds

Ok, I couldn’t limit myself to one song by James Gang.

Takin’ my time, choosin’ my lines
Tryin’ to decide what to do
Looks like my stop, don’t wanna get off
Got myself hung up on you
Seems to me you don’t wanna talk about it
Seems to me you just turn your pretty head and walk away

In spite of the fact that I believe the Capitol has more people wanting to help public schools than hurt them, I struggle to get past the few who repeat nonsense. Just in the last two weeks, I’ve heard one legislator say that school districts have enough carryover to fund raises right now. Others believe that there is no teacher shortage. In short, we have people pretending to serve the public with no interest in facts. I try to hope. I really do.

Won’t Back Down (1989) Full Moon Fever

Well I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey I will stand my ground
(I won’t back down)

Tom Petty describes this as his most personal song. Almost 20 years after Full Moon Fever, Johnny Cash recorded it and made it even more haunting.

With this song, I want to remind our Legislature that they can’t take the easy way out. I’ve heard several say that budget plans include some “51” and some “75” ideas. The first are revenue sources that they can authorize with a simple majority in each chamber. In total, these will just nibble around the edges of the state’s fundamental problems. The second group, which would be legitimate tax increases, will be harder to pass.

I hope the leaders supporting ideas from both columns stand their ground.

Heading for the Light (1988) Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

Been close to the edge, hanging by my fingernails
I’ve rolled and I’ve tumbled through the roses and the thorns
And I couldn’t see the sign that warned me
I’m heading for the light

In 1988, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison formed a supergroup and recorded an amazing album. This song has a distinct George Harrison sound, but I’m including it anyway. Besides, most of the Wilburys performed on Full Moon Fever.

The Last DJ (2002) 

Well the top brass don’t like him talking so much,
And he won’t play what they say to play
And he don’t want to change what don’t need to change
There goes the last DJ
Who plays what he wants to play
And says what he wants to say, hey hey hey?
And there goes your freedom of choice
There goes the last human voice
There goes the last DJ

I think of this song every time I read a post on Blue Cereal Education or Curmudgication. Or every time someone reminds me to be nice to the people who may or may not help public education. Or every time think tank people call me a bully. 

The people you can silence probably aren’t worth hearing anyway.

Something Good Coming (2010) Mojo

I know so well the look on your face
And there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
There’s somethin’ good comin’
Just over the hill
Somethin’ good comin’
I know it will

At this point, I guess we just have to believe or not believe. Something good will come, or it won’t. Maybe we’ll get there this time. Maybe things will improve. Maybe.

For me, tonight, I’m going to live something I say to people: Find what feeds your soul and pursue it fiercely.

tp 40.png

Oh no, not again!

April 12, 2017 2 comments

Here we go again. Today, just as has happened the last few months, school superintendents received our latest notice that our state aid checks would be short.

Based on available funds, the State Aid formula payment for the month of April will be paid at the accumulative amount of 79 percent instead of the scheduled 81 percent of the current adjusted allocation. Revenue collections for the April State Aid payment are approximately $36.3 million short of the funds needed to make the scheduled 81 percent payment. The accumulative percentage of 79 percent includes the total amount short for this fiscal year updated for cash received through April.  The cash flow shortage of $36.3 million for the April payment supersedes the $18.9 million for the March payment.

The April payment, available to districts on Thursday, April 13, is based on funds collected as of April 11, 2017.  To calculate your payment, use the most current adjusted allocation times accumulated percentage minus paid to date to equal the amount of payment.  The amount of funds collected as of April 11, 2017, is presented below.

  • Education Reform Revolving Fund (1017) Adjusted for Revenue Shortfall has collected 72.13 percent of the Adjusted Appropriated $657,802,801
  • Common Education Technology Fund has collected 77.35 percent of the Appropriated $41,168,478
  • FY17 Mineral Leasing Fund has collected 52.57 percent of the Appropriated $3,610,000
  • General Revenue Adjusted Revenue Failure has collected 82.05 percent of the Adjusted Appropriated $1,027,324,288.95
  • FY17 OK Lottery Fund has collected 85.08 percent of the Appropriated $23,397,757

Your Notice of Payment report can be found under Payment Notices in Single Sign On at https://sdeweb01.sde.ok.gov/SSO2/Signin.aspx.  For your convenience, a report showing the 81 percent compared to the 79 percent is located under Important Notices on the State Aid Web page at http://sde.ok.gov/sde/state-aid.

We will be closely monitoring each month’s cash and make adjustments as needed.  If you have questions, please contact State Aid.

We’ve become accustomed to mid-year cuts. It’s a sad but true fact. They still hurt. Every month is a new stomach punch.

In Mid-Del alone, our share of the shortfall is $813,200. That’s about 18 teaching positions. In other words, when we presented our board a budget last summer based on the funding promised by the state, we were at least $813,200 long on the revenue side. With two more months to go in the fiscal year, it’ll easily pass a million.

Last summer, we projected that we would end the year with a stable fund balance (carry over), and we’ve worked throughout the year to save money where we can. Maybe the $5 million we cut from the budget last year wasn’t enough. Apparently we should have done more.

Maybe our class sizes aren’t big enough yet. Maybe we should cut some bus routes. Maybe there are too many sports. Maybe the four-day week should get a closer look by those of us who aren’t there yet.

If we keep enduring cuts, there are no good choices. We either make Terrible Decision A, or we make Terrible Decision B. No amount of shaming by legislators or state officials will change that.

I get it. Oklahoma is broke. We’re broker than broke. Every state agency is enduring cuts. I’m glad to see more of them speaking out about what those losses mean too. And I know many great lawmakers ready and willing to help us, if the right coalition comes together. No Republican can afford, politically, to carry the flag for tax increases alone. That’s just reality.

Unfortunately, we have a variety of legislators representing Oklahomans at the Capitol. Some, conveniently, choose not to believe in things like the teacher shortage, budget collapses, or even science. I can’t tell you that all the legislators wanting to help public education will be enough. It’s going to take pressure on those who really don’t value what we do.

We need to explain to some, still, why having a budget carryover is not a way to fund teacher raises. We need to share our stories about class sizes we’ve increased and programs we’ve cut. We need to do it boldly. This isn’t the time to mince words.

Do we accept this as the new normal, Craig? Not only no, but hell no. Our kids and teachers deserve better than to have a bunch of passive leaders who roll over at this. The companies that allegedly won’t come to Oklahoma because of all the four day weeks are probably smart enough to be scared off by the state’s scant per pupil funding as well.

We are in a man-made fiscal crisis. If we didn’t vote, or if we voted for the people who continue to cut off revenue streams for basic state services, we are to blame.

Oh, and one other thing, in case you’ve missed it. While we weren’t watching, the state has spent the entire Rainy Day Fund.

In fact, officials admitted earlier this month that the state’s constitutional reserve — known as the Rainy Day Fund — has been emptied in order to pay bills and meet payroll.

Doerflinger repeated earlier assurances that enough revenue will come in during the final three months of the fiscal year to replace the borrowed money, but said the situation still calls for new revenue sources.

“The fact we have had to borrow from these funds shows just how serious the state’s revenue problem is,” he said.

Doerflinger would not rule out the possibility of a second round of spending cuts before the end of the budget year on June 30.

March receipts totaled $352.1 million, or 9 percent below the official estimate and 10.7 percent below actual collections for the same month a year ago.

Year-to-date, general revenue collections are 2.8 percent below the estimate and 6.2 percent, or $231.3 million, below the prior year.

 

bull durham self-awareness

Whether depleting the Rainy Day Fund without legislative approval is legal or not really isn’t for me to decide. I’m not a lawyer, but I know when something sounds sketchy.

What this means is that our state budget hole is closer to $1.3 billion. That framework for teacher raises is meaningless unless the state fills that hole. All the rhetoric in the world means nothing if our elected officials can’t agree on where to find new revenue.

As the image below shows, our legislators and governor passed a budget last May that hasn’t been met by reality. That’s three in a row. It’s trend behavior.

revenue shortfall

Conveniently, no cuts from the budget happened until after the November elections. Go figure.

We’ve cut the fat. We’re cutting limbs. There isn’t much left.

 

I’m sorry you’re upset.

March 15, 2017 4 comments

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2

Yesterday, a bunch of people who support public education went to the Capitol and met with elected officials who support public education. Pictures were taken. Ideas were shared. Good times were had by all.

I stayed home and worked on household chores. I’ve had all the conversations I need to have with my representative and senator about public school funding. We all agree it’s a problem. They’re looking into it.

Since I missed yesterday’s event, I also missed out on the lecture from a freshman representative who doesn’t like our tone. From Red Dirt Report:

Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R-Tulsa) spoke to the group Tuesday morning dismissing their tone and rhetoric. During his face time with the group he said, “We pass the teacher pay raise, and immediately after passing the teacher pay raise the focus shifted from we want a pay raise to those idiots passed a pay raise, but they don’t have a way to fund it.”

The first-time Republican representative went on to explain, “Teachers from my district, that I am friends with immediately started beating me up on this issue.” He told members of the group that they do not fully understand the budget process.

Talking to teachers, he proceeded to use simple numbers to explain that the legislature is not in control of much of the state revenue citing; the legislature will only appropriate $6 out of $17 billion dollars this year.

Fetgatter then gave teachers a learning moment with this example; “If I gave you $3,000 to pay your bills for the month, you would be excited about that and then all the sudden you only get to choose where $900 of that goes because the rest of that is already going to be apportioned out.”

Thank goodness he gave that example. Most teachers wouldn’t know what to do with $3,000 a month, of course, because its well over what they take home.

Using Fetgatter’s example, though, I doubt very many teachers get to decide where even $900 a month goes. Try living on a teacher’s salary, especially with kids. I’ve been there and done that.

Or try running a school district, Rep. Fetgatter. Salaries alone consume 90 percent of our budget. We get to make choices between things like textbooks or new school buses. So please, lecture me.

Don’t get me wrong, Rep. Fetgatter. I don’t blame you. You’re brand new. You had no idea what you were inheriting when you ran for public office during one of the most highly publicized eras of educator activism this state has ever seen.

what what what psych.gif

Rep. Fetgatter, I’m glad you were there. I’m glad you’re working on solving the revenue problems of this state before things get even worse. I don’t doubt your sincere frustration with getting lumped together with the members of last year’s Legislature who passed a budget built upon unrealistic funding projections.

To all the first-year Legislators at the Capitol: you are not responsible for this month’s version of State Aid Mystery Theatre, which superintendents received today:

Based on available funds, the State Aid formula payment for the month of March will be paid at the accumulative amount of 70.96 percent instead of the scheduled 72 percent of the current adjusted allocation.  Revenue collections for the March State Aid payment are approximately $18.9 million short of the funds needed to make the scheduled 72 percent payment.

The March payment, available to districts on Thursday, March 16, is based on funds collected as of March 14, 2017.  To calculate your payment, use the most current adjusted allocation times accumulated percentage minus paid to date equals the amount of payment.  The amount of funds collected as of March 14, 2017 is presented below.

  • Education Reform Revolving Fund (1017) Adjusted for Revenue Shortfall has collected 64.98 percent of the Adjusted Appropriated $657,802,801
  • Common Education Technology Fund has collected 68.45 percent of the Appropriated $41,168,478
  • FY17 Mineral Leasing Fund has collected 46.43 percent of the Appropriated $3,610,000
  • General Revenue Adjusted Revenue Failure has collected 72.96 percent of the Adjusted Appropriated $1,027,324,288.95
  • FY17 OK Lottery Fund has collected 77.20 percent of the Appropriated $23,397,757

Your Notice of Payment report can be found under Payment Notices in Single Sign On at https://sdeweb01.sde.ok.gov/SSO2/Signin.aspx.  For your convenience, a report showing the 72 percent compared to the 70.96 percent is located under Important Notices on the State Aid Web page at http://sde.ok.gov/sde/state-aid .

We will be closely monitoring each month’s cash and make adjustments as needed.  If you have questions, please contact State Aid.

I blame the Ides of March. Actually, I should know better than to open email on this day. How many years did I teach Julius Caesar to excited high school sophomores? Nothing good can come of it!

More cuts are coming during the remaining months of this fiscal year because the people in charge of the state’s budget spent the last several years cutting taxes to the point that we can’t run our state. Since you’re new, you’ll probably hear some of your colleagues, and maybe some members of the governor’s staff, explain that the problem is entirely because of low prices in oil and gas. You might even hear a murmur about online shopping.

Maybe, if you’re fortunate, you’ve even run into someone from the Greater OKC Chamber passing out details about their better plan for funding education.

Just remember, state law requires the Legislature to fund education by April 1 of the preceding year. Rob Miller has a few thoughts on that:

Failure to pass an education budget by April 1st will cause the wrath of the God to fall upon your head. You’ll have to work Fridays. Your shoelaces will not stay tied. You will gain weight for no reason. The hair from your head will move to your back. You’ll develop a painful rash in a delicate area of your body. Rabid squirrels will invade your home and procreate with your Shih Tzu. You will be stuck for eight hours in an elevator with a large man with horrible body odor and severe flatulence. Food in your refrigerator will mysteriously spoil. Your bank accounts will be hacked by a Nigerian Prince. Your mother-in-law will move into the guest room permanently. Your car will start making that expensive knocking sound again and no one will talk to you at parties.

What it comes down to is that if you do your jobs, we’ll tone down the rhetoric. If you don’t, I’ll be cutting again – more than the 100 jobs we had to reduce for this school year.

That said, I have no opinion thus far on how effective the 2017 Legislature will be. I won’t until the session ends.

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