The Oklahoman published an editorial today that describes the importance of education, but the newspaper won’t even support average funding for state schools.
The idea that you can improve access to educational opportunities, decrease the dropout rate and better prepare students for college with some of the lowest school funding in the nation is preposterous.
The state’s per-pupil spending is the lowest in a seven-state region and 49th in the nation, according to studies. State Question 744, which The Oklahoman vehemently opposes, would raise the per-pupil spending to the regional average. Money isn’t everything when it comes to education, but it’s disingenuous for the newspaper to ignore the state’s long history of inadequate funding for schools.
The editorial (“Education key to narrowing Oklahoma’s poverty gap,” September 30, 2010) doesn’t mention SQ 744 and, in general, just hectors people to “stay in school.” It’s premise-education is crucial to success in life-is true enough, but it ignores the fact the state fails to provide anything close to adequate funding for schools. That inadequate funding does have a huge impact on what the newspaper describes as the “historical divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.”
Here are two paragraphs from the editorial:
Yet there is a yawning divide in our state, one that has been in place not just during this recession but indeed since statehood. For those who obtain an education, particularly a college degree, Oklahoma affords the chance for a comfortable way of life, one that indeed is the envy of many around the country. But the less education one has, particularly in the 21st century, the greater the likelihood of having a difficult slog to make ends meet.
It will take time, perhaps many generations, but if Oklahoma is to narrow the historical divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” and begin seeing improvement in its woeful national standings in so many public health categories, the message must remain constant: Stay in school, the longer the better.
Let me make a couple of points about the arguments in these paragraphs:
(1) The “yawning divide” is indeed historical for Oklahoma, but the newspaper has been instrumental on a foundational level in promoting an anti-education attitude that pervades the state. In the last three decades, for example, it has supported political candidates, who want to dismantle public education through privatization. It also supports politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who are anti-science and often make irrational statements that embarrass the state. The Oklahoman has no credibility when it comes to discussing education. It’s the problem, not the answer.
(2) The Oklahoman, through the years, has consistently supported a political environment that privileges the wealthy over the middle-class and the poor. This is obvious to anyone who follows the newspaper’s editorial page. It argues for tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich while nonchalantly accepting cuts in education. There is not a more active agitator in favor of wealth disparity than The Oklahoman in this state. It’s deceitful for the newspaper to talk about “narrowing the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ when, in fact, its editorial page takes positions that would further the divide.
This election year there’s actually something people can do about improving educational opportunities here on a historical level. People can vote in favor of SQ 744, which would get to the core of this “yawning divide” The Oklahoman pretends it’s so concerned about. It doesn’t have to take “many generations,” as the newspaper argue. It can happen right now, right here.