We're Not Doing Fine Oklahoma

Today, I attended a large gathering of Public Education supporters at the Oklahoma State Capitol organized by OEA.

I chose to park in the far east parking lot because it has a "secret" tunnel that you can walk in that goes underneath Lincoln Blvd. and drops you in the basement of the capitol. I feel like I'm on some covert ops when I enter the capitol this way.

While I met with many educators, administrators and representatives, one particular conversation still rattles me. 

As I prepared to enter the tunnel, I held the door for and engaged in a pleasant conversation with a teacher from Eastern Oklahoma. She had driven two hours and brought with her a student teacher who will soon graduate and enter the workforce in education. Possibly in Oklahoma. 

The teacher confided that she had told her young prospective teacher, "You're coming along to see this because you need to experience what it means to be a teacher in Oklahoma. We have to fight for our kids."

I was simultaneously filled with pride that we have such amazing teachers that will fight the good fight and disgust that we force teachers to take time away from their classrooms to travel across the state to petition our government to do what they are mandated to do by our State Constitution since 1907:

Article 13.1: The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated.

I am appalled that we must arrive in full force to encourage our legislators to do the right thing: fully fund our schools so that all children in Oklahoma may be educated.

But here we are.

And today our teachers arrived. By the bus load and car load. I saw educators from Deer Creek, vans from Oologah-Talala, a suburban from Hinton, and folks dressed in "I Support Public Ed" red from all corners of our great state.

Today's bill was less than ideal. There were legislators today that had serious conflicts of conscience with the bill. We cannot fault them for that, as many of them have been ardent supporters of education in many votes in their past. 

Yet I still thought there might be a chance for a win for teachers. With this much momentum and media attention, one begins to wonder - can we pass anything to 3/4 in the House of Representatives in this state?

I can only imagine the shock and devastation those teachers are feeling right now. I saw their hope filled eyes as they listened to the moving speeches in the rotunda about the importance of our educators and public schools.

I imagine they feel devastated. And discouraged. And certainly disrespected. I imagine some are ready to give up. 

But I walk away hopeful.

I saw something else today other than failure. I saw the handwriting on the wall. This is not a sustainable way to lead a state. The teachers I saw today had fire in their eyes. They are tired of the dysfunction in our government. We all are.

Now we must make 2300 N. Lincoln feel it.

Without massive amounts of capital to influence elections we have but one tool left: democracy.

We must drop our party affiliations and vote FOR our nearly 700,000 kids in public schools across Oklahoma. They cannot vote and are depending on us to do the right thing.

As I reminded several representatives today, Proverbs 22:16 reads - "Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty."

We are experiencing the poverty right now of what cut after cut to public education produces. The disconnect from the statehouse to the schoolhouse was palpable today. We stand with you teachers. 

Change is coming. It must. Because, Oklahoma, we are not doing fine for our kids, educators, or those that need us most.

Oklahoma pastor: Standing in the gap for our school children

Our public schools deserve the choice not to be a battleground for politicians.

Oklahoma children in public schools deserve the choice not to be marketed and sold as investments in profiteering schemes.

Our parents deserve the choice not to have their kids subjected to high-stakes testing at the whim of politicians.

Our dedicated teachers deserve the choice to be paid like the professionals they are, who invest countless hours in shaping the very future of the state we call home. You cannot put kids first if you put teachers last.

And we, the faithful taxpayers, deserve a choice. We should have a say that the tax money that generation after generation has invested in Oklahoma's educational assets and infrastructure not be trampled and defunded. Careless initiatives that transfer funds we all collectively place into the public trust for the maintenance and health of our public schools is at stake... (Read the complete article @ NewsOK.com)

Do the Right Thing: 7% GPT with No Strings

During the Depression, a prominent fundamentalist Baptist preacher in Fort Worth showed up at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with sacks full of groceries for the professors.  The preacher brought along the local newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to capture his benevolence when in reality he detested the seminary.  He claimed seminary professors were nothing more than a bunch of liberals; which meant they did not support his fundamentalist's views.  As he strode up to the front porch of one of the professor’s, newspaper cameras started clicking to capture the moment.  The preacher stretched out his arms offering one of the sacks to a professor.  The professor looked at the bag, then looked at the preacher that had spent so much energy making horrible allegations against him and his colleagues.  The professor sighed and took a deep breath.  He stretched out his hand to receive the groceries.   While doing so, he proclaimed loud enough for the newspapers to hear, “Sir, these times are so difficult for our families and us at the seminary that I do believe I would take groceries from the devil, himself, if he showed up at my front porch.”

In the state of Oklahoma, wealthy business leaders have proposed and touted the “Step Up Oklahoma” plan to raise tax revenue.  While on the surface this strategy appears to be benevolent, the gross production tax is moving from 2% to 4% on future wells during their first 36 months of production; it is a bit perplexing.  According to The Oklahoman, after 36 months of production, rates would increase to 7% - the percentage many would like to see on well-production without the 36-month waiting period.  So, this proposal leads to many questions.  Why three years?  What happens within the first three years of production that makes it acceptable for a tax increase afterward?  Do wells produce more within the first three years?  How many run-dry within three years?  Sadly, I hate to say it, but something is not adding up in Oklahoma.  

Unfortunately, as I have watched the politics of this state unfold over time, I am quite confident the “Step Up Oklahoma” plan will be adopted and eventually become law.  Therefore, with Oklahoma business leaders patting themselves on the back, politicians scurrying to lend their support, educators wondering what to do, and the rest of us citizens holding our noses, I merely have this one thing left to say.  In times such as these, when tax decreases that have brought our state to such a low point (decreases that business leaders and politicians have supported over the last decade) if the devil himself were to show up at the capitol with a tax increase to support education, I guess I would take it.