It can be terribly disheartening to live in a state that has cut per pupil funding on a percentage basis the most of any state in the years following the 2008 recession just for the negative publicity it creates.
— Center on Budget (@CenterOnBudget) October 20, 2016
Let’s be clear: Overall, the cuts here are mainly the result of Republican extremism and the disproven idea that tax cuts automatically lead to new economic development or trickle down into the economy growing a larger tax base. The tax-cut, trickle-down ideology, still peddled by Republicans here and elsewhere, is directly responsible for the financial mess here in Oklahoma.
In a report released last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Oklahoma has cut per pupil spending in public schools by 26.9 percent from 2008 to 2017, which is the current fiscal budget year. That’s an incredible number.
For some perspective, the state with the second highest cuts to per pupil spending is Alabama, which “only” cut 14.2 percent, during those same years. Contrast that as well with the fact that North Dakota has raised per pupil spending by 27.2 percent from 2008 to 2017.
The report notes that many factors have led to steep declines in school funding in many states, but here’s an important paragraph in the report:
Not only did many states avoid raising new revenue after the recession hit, but some enacted large tax cuts, further reducing revenues. Five of the eight states with the biggest cuts in general school funding since 2008 ― Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin ― have also cut income tax rates in recent years.
Republicans and their apologists here continue to insist that the downturn in the oil and gas industry is to blame for Oklahoma’s current budget nightmare, but the recent income tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich and tax breaks given to energy companies during the fracking mini-boom here has made the real difference in the magnitude of the cuts to education.
What’s perhaps even more disheartening is that some budget experts are predicting Oklahoma will have yet another budget shortfall next fiscal year. What that shortfall will mean to our state’s public educational systems is this: It’s an impending, huge catastrophe.
Many Republicans will always argue that “money isn’t everything” when it comes to education as they push for the privatization of education and as teachers trained here flee to other states to make more money, but Oklahoma’s cuts to education have become so extreme that no reasonable person can argue Republicans here have a sustainable ideology.
The GOP, which dominates state government here, is telling people to leave the state while turning Oklahoma into a right-wing extremist experiment that has taken us to new depths and lows of mediocrity. The world watches us in horror as the bright people here look for escape routes.