Breaking news! Gov. Kevin Stitt says Norman is a rural school. If he really believes that, he needs to get out more.
In response to a question yesterday about the House-passed funding proposal for schools the governor specifically selected one part of it for praise – a $300 million “bucket of money” to be allocated in a formula that tilts heavily in favor of small rural schools. Our geographically challenge leader named Norman and its proposed Aerospace Academy as an example of wise use of state resources specifically created and earmarked to smaller districts.
That characterization couldn’t be more off base since Norman is in the Top 10, population-wise, of our 544 school districts. But even worse, Stitt is apparently in support of this one-time windfall of cash which provides, on the low end, $62 per student [examples: Tulsa and Oklahoma City] while rewarding many smaller districts with as much as $745 per enrolled children or 18 times as much as the two cited above.
Of course HB 2775, the House plan, also includes other dubious spending ideas apparently pushed by rightwing non-think tank, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs [OCPA], the worst of which provides $5,000 per student for families that opt for private settings [think: Casady, Cascia Hall, etc.] and even $2,500 per child for homeschoolers.
Also, as a further sop to rural Oklahoma, where Sittt ran strongest, another “bucket” of bucks – $50 million in this case – is set aside to correct a shortage of local property tax money due to a lack of economic activity.
And finally, almost as an afterthought, another $150 million could be spent on a one-time, across-the-board $2,500 teacher salary boost which is the only piece of the House-patched-together, $800 million juggernaut [now the property of the honorable Senate] that merits support.
Of course, the upper body will never accept the lower chamber’s package and, conversely, the House will not approve the Senate’s, if and when one arrives at their doorstep.
In summary, what all this means is that a school policy and budget plan will be written sometime in May by a small group of lawmakers, behind closed doors, and will then be trotted out for a “take it or leave it” vote. I predict all Republicans will take it while the tiny a sliver of Democrats will try to shoot it down with facts and common sense which means the latter group will lose, the former will win.
The other losers will be our 45,000 teachers and 744,000 students currently in our public system, but they never were the focus of the “debate” about schools anyway and haven’t been at the Capitol for almost 15 years.
Lawmakers just say teachers and students are the focus – which reminds me of the following: Saying is always a lot easier than doing, which is why there’s a lot of the former and not much of the latter.