The editorial board of The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com never ceases to astound in its crass, illogical arguments against adequate funding for our public education systems here.
Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending. It has cut education the most of any state since the economic downturn way back in 2008. Teacher salaries are some of the lowest in the country, and THE absolute lowest in the region, and thus we face a major teacher shortage as our educators flock to neighboring states, such as Texas, which pays them a lot more money.
But The Oklahoman thinks all we need is a little history lesson about this “talk of a teacher crisis in Oklahoma.”
This little smirk of right-wing whackery appeared over the weekend in the newspaper’s Oklahoma ScissorTales column:
The more things change . . .
There’s been much talk of a teacher crisis in Oklahoma, with calls to raise teacher salaries by as much as $5,000 annually, regardless of performance. Based on the rhetoric, one might think Oklahoma faces an unprecedented teacher-pay issue. But a look at the platform of former Oklahoma Gov. E.W. Marland suggests otherwise. Among other things, when Marland ran for governor in 1934, he vowed to provide “prompt pay, better salaries for teachers.” In 1935, the Oklahoma City Classroom Teachers Association called for withholding state aid from districts that paid teachers less than $720 (or $12,505 in 2015 dollars). As that indicates, teacher pay is an issue that never goes away, and today’s situation is less severe than in the past. The average teacher receives over $44,000 today (with benefits) and no one campaigns on the need for “prompt” payment of teachers, because that’s no longer an issue.
So here’s the logic behind this stretch of sophomoric argumentation: In the 1930s Great Depression, teachers in Oklahoma were not paid well or promptly. Consequently, there’s no real “teacher crisis in Oklahoma” these days because teachers do get paid on a regular basis now and their salaries are much higher these days.
How can one even respond to such nonsensical drivel? Things were different here in Oklahoma during the Great Depression? Oklahoma had only been a state for 27 years in 1934? The cost and standard of living is much different today than it was in 1934? The world, and even Oklahoma, has evolved since 1934? The argument doesn’t compute? That dog don’t hunt?
Of course, the mini-editorial doesn’t mention any of the information I bring up in the second paragraph of this post nor does it go into detail about school districts facing teacher shortages. This is called a fallacy or the error of omission. The low teacher salaries here in comparison to other states is crucial to any discussion about education in Oklahoma.
What’s even worse is that the paragraph is a disingenuous—I would even say immoral—piece of deceit and subterfuge. The real issue here is that there’s an ongoing initiative petition drive to place a measure on the 2016 general election ballot that would allow voters to raise the state’s sale tax by one penny to raise money for our underfunded education systems. University of Oklahoma President David Boren is leading the effort, which would raise teacher salaries here by $5,000 a year. Editorial writers at The Oklahoman need to just say upfront they oppose the sales tax increase instead of trying to appeal to the lowest common denominators here with ridiculous comparisons and huge omissions of fact. The paragraph combines hicksville stupidity with right-wing extremism or are they just the same thing?