Is OU football coach Bob Stoops in denial?
In a Wednesday column, Tulsa World sports columnist Dave Sittler wrote, ” . . . someone close to Oklahoma’s coach must convince him he’s in denial about his team’s road problem.”
After OU’s loss to Texas A&M Saturday, the Sooner nation is sure to demand Stoops stop avoiding the issue. Does anyone doubt that?
Ultimately, though, it’s just a game, even if football is sacrosanct here on the prairie. But a greater denial among state residents, especially among many of its political leaders, is far more serious. It’s the denial that Oklahoma doesn’t have a serious problem when it comes to funding education. The state is last in a seven-state region and 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending.
State Question 744, which would have raised K-12 education funding to the regional average, was defeated by a landslide vote last Tuesday. So now the state has the distinction of voting down “average” funding for its schools by a rounded 81-19 percent margin. There’s a long, decades-old story behind those numbers. It’s hard to imagine a more anti-education statement or a more stark reflection of avoidance.
When state voters were given a chance to increase funding for schools, it wasn’t even close: We don’t need average funding here. We’re just fine with 49th in the nation, thank you.
For those who supported the measure, there’s little consolation. True, there was the bad timing. The poor economy and the budget crisis put an extra burden on the measure’s supporters to explain how the increase, estimated from $850 million to $1.7 billion over a three-year period, would be met. Also, who could have guessed a year ago that Gov. Brad Henry and his wife would appear on our television screens day after day in a relentless anti-SQ 744 advertising campaign regurgitating the sophomoric “the answer is always no” slogan?
But those are minor caveats. The truth is Oklahoma voters decisively voted against education. The truth is Oklahoma schools will remain among the nation’s poorest for at least a generation if not longer. The truth is that much of the lip service from political leaders and pundits about finding ways to improve school funding outside the SQ 744 rubric is simply misleading rhetoric as a Republican-dominated government gets set to probably cut education even more if tax revenues don’t drastically improve.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley, in a gloating, anti-union video editorial titled “Scram!,” criticized the National Education Association for donating money to the pro-SQ 744 campaign. The post-election editorial was mean spirited and unnecessary. Kelley can’t or won’t even acknowledge the argument that at least some corporate sponsors of the anti-SQ 744 campaign were probably just protecting their recent tax cuts. Call it yet another case of denial.
In the end, the 189,127 people who did vote for SQ 744 didn’t succumb to political scare tactics and took a longer, intellectual view of education here and its importance in developing smarter, healthier citizens. If you’re one of those people who did vote for SQ 744, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Tragically, though, the election now tells us we simply can’t count on a majority of Oklahomans to demand self-awareness of its political leaders when it comes to education funding. It’s bleak, but it’s the truth. There’s nothing to gain from denying it. Just ask Bob Stoops.