Hello again, everybody. At every level, there are some in elected office who like to say one thing, but do another. Such tactics undermine public trust in government.
That was made brutally clear last week during an exchange over a proposal by the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA). That group, which represents Oklahoma’s teachers, wants to change the state Constitution to put more money into public schools.
The OEA proposal would require Oklahoma public schools be funded at the per pupil average of our neighboring states. If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, it would boost school funding from $6,900 per pupil to at least $8,300 per pupil.
This proposal is a long way from becoming the law of the land. Also, no plan is perfect, and this one deserves a thoughtful and honest discussion as it could have a serious affect on the state budget.
Even if the proposal gets to the ballot, Oklahoma voters will have the final say on whether it becomes part of our Constitution.
Despite that, some Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House of Representatives could not resist criticizing the proposal by playing the dreaded “consolidation card.”
Members of the House’s leadership suggested, among other things, the proposal could force schools to consolidate if the districts could not meet the expenditure amount required by the proposal. There is a problem with that politically-motivated suggestion.
The very leadership of which these representatives are a member has — for the last four years — killed a constitutional amendment that would have prevented forced school consolidation. The latest effort was Senate Joint Resolution 1, which I wrote and passed through the Senate in 2007.
A strong bipartisan majority in the Senate passed that bill on a 44-3 vote in 2007. The bill then went to the House of Representatives where — you guessed it — the proposal was killed when it was denied even a hearing by the Republican leadership.
This should not have been a partisan issue as the bill had a Republican author — Rep. Lisa Billy — and 33 co-authors of both political parties. Despite bipartisan support, Republican leaders refused to hear the bill, just like they did with the autism insurance bill. That is not how democracy should work.
If these leaders were truly concerned about the risk of school consolidation against the will of parents and school patrons, they could have prevented it forever with SJR 1. Sadly, House leaders chose to greedily keep that control for themselves instead of entrusting this power to Oklahoma families.
The “crocodile tears” shed by House leaders about school consolidation is a textbook case of elected officials saying one thing, but doing another. Oklahomans deserve better than that, and the people can see through lame efforts that put political ambitions ahead of the public good.
Thanks again for reading “The Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.