On Sunday, The Oklahoman editorial page, using a red-herring argument and hyperbole, attacked a pro-State Question 744 op-ed article written by an award-winning teacher.
The editorial (“Claim that Legislature has shorted education simply untrue,” September 19, 2010) claimed Heather Sparks’ September 15 article in The Oklahoman is part of an argument filled with “half-truths,” but it’s the newspaper, not Sparks, that’s engaging in deceit.
Sparks was Oklahoma’s 2009 Teacher of the Year. As a teacher, she can directly see the effect of low per-pupil spending in Oklahoma, which ranks last in a seven-state region and 49th in the nation. Since she’s an award-winning teacher, her views should be carefully considered, not dismissed with a fallacious argument and hollow rhetoric.
SQ 744, if passed, would simply raise per-pupil spending to a regional average. Note the word “average.” The states that would be used to calculate the rate are Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado. The average funding would be phased in over a three-year period.
In her op-ed, Sparks clearly points out the state’s low school funding when compared to “neighboring states”:
Oklahoma’s children deserve good, high-quality schools. Today, Oklahoma is dead last in the region and 49th in the nation in what we invest in our students. Voting yes on State Question 744 gives our children the same educational opportunities as students in neighboring states.
That’s a straightforward argument, and it’s one I’ve made here and elsewhere. It’s not based on “half truths” or based on a “fish tale,” as The Oklahoman argues. We have low per-pupil spending here when compared to the rest of the nation. That’s a fact. I believe SQ 744 will improve Oklahoma schools and put the state in a position to reduce its dropout rate and produce more college graduates.
This how The Oklahoman responded to Sparks:
Of all the half-truths (and worse) that Oklahomans are sure to hear as the campaign for State Question 744 revs up, none is bigger than the fish tale that the Legislature hasn’t made education a priority. A proponent used that argument just last week in an op-ed piece on these pages.
The proponent, of course, is Sparks. Note “half-truths (and worse).” What’s “worse” supposed to mean, anyway? What’s worse than “half-truths”? Lies?
After essentially smearing Sparks, the editorial then proceeds to show how much of the state budget goes to education, but this is a red-herring argument, which tries to change the topic. Sparks is using the regional comparison to argue her point about school funding and the legislature, but the editorial completely ignores this and tries to change the subject. The use of red-herring arguments is fairly typical of The Oklahoman editorial writers, who often omit crucial information in their writing as well.
The Oklahoman style, of course, is to demonize anyone who disagrees with its anti-education stances. Why won’t the newspaper editorial writers argue about the state’s low per-pupil spending when compared to the rest of the nation and the region? It’s because they simply can’t do it. Also, attacking an award-winning teacher is tacky.