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Reason #2 to vote #oklaed in #OKElections16: We can’t have nice things.

Two years ago, I made a list of the top 20 reasons to vote for anybody else other than Janet Barresi for state superintendent. At the end of the list, I also had a sizeable honorable mention list. We have two days left and I’m down to my top three reasons to vote for pro-public education candidates. I had better pick up the pace.

10. One person can’t fix bad education policy alone.
9. The people who hate us still hate us.
8. I’m tired of saying “only.”
7. This matters more than Trump vs. Clinton.
6. What if the Veep thing really happens?
5. We are the Blob. We must protect the Penny.
4. Paul Blair would make us miss Clark Jolley.
3. Janet Barresi and her friends won’t go away.
2. We can’t have nice things.

I was reading Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States recently, and one section in particular really reminded me of the political issues we face in Oklahoma. In the excerpt below, she writes about how the Continental Congress refused to pay for basic supplies for Washington’s troops, leading to a miserable winter at Valley Forge:

Sarah Vowell.jpg

In 1777, the Continental Army was two years old. The officers and politicians suplying the soldiery were no more experienced at getting blankets to the troops than the troops were at standing in a line and fending off Cornwallis and his veteran regulars, fighters well clothed and well fed through an efficient supply system whose kinks had been worked out over generations.

I would like to see the calamity at Valley Forge as just the growing pains of a new nation. It has been a long time since the men and women serving in the armed forces of the world’s only superpower went naked because some crooked towines in upstate New York filched thier uniforms. But there’s still this combination of governmental ineptitute, shortsightedness, stinginess, corruption, and neglect that affected the Continentals before, during, and after Valley Forge that twenty-first-century Americans are not entirely unfamiliar with.

I’m thinking of how the noun “infrastructure” never appears in an American newspaper anymore without being preceded by the adjective “crumbling.” Or how my friend Katherine, a public high school English teacher, has had to pay out of her own pocket for her classroom’s pens, paper, paper clips, thumbtacks.

Is it just me or does this foible hark back to the root of the revolution itself? Which is to say, a hypersensitivity about taxes – and honest disagreements over how they’re levied, how they’re calculated, how that money is spent, and by whom. The fact that the Continental Congress was not empowered to levy taxes was the literal reason for the ever-empty patriot coffers.

 

In other words, we want to complain that we can’t have nice things, but we don’t want to pay to have nice things. It’s something of a sticky wicket.

In Oklahoma, this is why our roads crumble. It’s why our hospitals and nursing homes close. It’s why our schools can’t afford textbooks. We love hearing tax cut and taking our $30. We just don’t think about what that does to the state’s ability to provide for basic services.

None of us supporting those who would buck the system think that the state’s priorities will magically reverse because a few legislative seats change hands. We know that we will always face those who want to send middle class kids to private schools with voucher dollars. They’ve been around for decades. We know we will always face those who want to blame schools for society’s problems. And we know that we will always face outside influences who are funded by the business elite for the very purpose of acting as their mouthpiece.

We also know that we’re in their head. The more and more they focus on thwarting The Blob (as Rob Miller wrote about today), the more emboldened we are. In April, many in power seemed offended, frankly, that teachers would run for office. They’re teachers, after all. They should be at home sowing the patches on the elbows of their tweed and corduroy jackets.

Their opponents don’t think teachers are well-suited to make laws. At the same time, our current senators and representatives feel they are qualified to make policies for teaching and learning. As I’ve said before, I can’t think of another professional board that doesn’t require expertise in the profession for membership. Every member of the state dentistry board is a dentist, right?

They’ve launched third-party attack ads on our candidates.

Loveless really knew nothing about this.jpg

And the incumbents claim to have nothing to do with these.

Notice, by the way, that this is another piece of work by the Carter/Barresi group, Oklahoma Federation for Children.

Finally, there have been several editorials in the Oklahoman that mention the “teacher caucus,” including one this morning:

Many of the challengers have been loosely identified as “teacher caucus” candidates who want to increase state spending on schools, often via tax increases. The group Oklahomans for Public Education has released a list of such candidates. The group has endorsed Democrats and Republicans, but clearly prefers the former to the latter.

In fact, if Democrats endorsed by Oklahomans for Public Education were to consistently win, it’s mathematically conceivable Democrats could regain control of the House of Representatives.

I’m on the board for this group. Our membership mirrors the political makeup of the state: more Republicans than Democrats. Yes, we do want to see more spending for schools. Mostly, we want the cuts of the last 10 years to be restored. It’s so unreasonable.

We have no illusion about flipping the House or Senate to the control of the Democrats. I expect Republicans to have control of the Legislature for a long time. Hopefully, to borrow a phrase from the Tulsa World this morning, the leading faction of the caucus will be rational conservatives, rather than the ones who use phrases such as Republicans in Name Only. 

I still don’t really care what party you pick. I care about who you are and the positions you hold. When it comes to public schools, I want full funding. I want local control. I want teachers to have your respect. It’s pretty simple. Oh, and when state revenues are declining, quit giving away tax credits. Just because things are bad doesn’t mean you can’t make things worse. I believe in you.

Our students and our teachers deserve nice things. All Oklahomans do. They come with a price, though.

 

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