To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Observercast

Education Budget Leaves Schools, Students Needing More

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BY ED CANNADAY

EdCannadayState leaders announced the budget last week with great flourish, lauding its “fiscal conservatism” and its attention to state services in most need of funding increases.

Taking the spotlight in the lavish production of this allegedly “early” budget is the $91 million “increase” to education, which the budget’s author boasts takes up 43% of the growth revenue budgeted this year.

With all the stagecraft associated with the release of the education budget and the behind-the-scenes machinations in its creation, we suggest state leaders take a break from patting themselves on the back for their perceived generosity to our state’s schools.

Make no mistake, this year’s education budget is no exercise in “fiscal conservatism” or legislative largesse. Rather, our schools have been treated more like the orphan Oliver Twist, thrown down the stairwell for daring to ask for more to eat.

Like the meager bowl of porridge presented as a feast to orphans who should be grateful they get anything at all, the $91 million increase misleads the public as to the graciousness of the budget’s authors.

When $17 million of that $91 million is a supplemental that technically should be included in the previous year’s budget, the remaining amount won’t even help state public school budgets stay flat in the coming year.

This $91 million figure, the percentage of the total budget comprised by education that state leaders love to repeat, and the full-color pie chart Republican leaders used as an illustration of their budgeting does, however, generously feed into the Republican narrative that Oklahoma schools are overfed and overindulged.

“MORE?” they bellow.

Much like the vast majority of the Legislature that had no say and no oversight in the creation of the budget proposal, educators were omitted from the process as well. Contrary to the picture state leaders present to the public, school superintendents from our apparently bloated school systems have been pleading with state leaders to simply give them the money they need to keep their lights on and their doors open. More, indeed.

It’s easy to discount the rising cost of education in our state when the budget is written by people who have never been educators but are nonetheless hell-bent on undermining public education at every turn. Only in government can someone tell you they’re giving you more, when, in fact, they are giving you less.

The parallels between the education budget this year and Oliver Twist’s plight continue: just like Twist’s companion the Artful Dodger betrayed Oliver when he was in a pinch, history suggests current state leaders will reject their responsibility for our schools’ troubles just as quickly as they proclaim their generosity.

If passing off a famine as a feast passes as fiscal conservatism – no more, please.

Ed Cannaday, a Porum Democrat, represents District 15 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives

 

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.