The truth is that it’s highly unlikely Oklahoma teachers, some of the lowest paid educators in the nation, will see their salaries increase significantly anytime soon.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) December 14, 2016
It’s time state legislators, either Republican or Democratic, and Gov. Fallin quit playing games and tell it like it is. I repeat: Quit playing games.
One Democratic legislator, state Rep. Jason Dunnington, an Oklahoma City Democrat, for example, has suggested a plan that’s never going to happen. That plan is to raises taxes on higher income people in the state to pay for teacher raises. That tax-increase plan has already been called “dead on arrival” by one Republican so why even play the card? It’s dishonest because it ignores the recent income-tax cuts in this state and the motivations of the Republican majority in the legislature to defund government. It would be better to just criticize Fallin and the Republican majority in the legislature for not taking action than raising false hopes.
A majority of Oklahoma voters, when they voted down a teacher raise plan, State Question 779, also have sent a powerful message to Republicans about tax increases and teacher salaries.
Here’s that message: We don’t want tax increases, and we don’t care about education. Again, it’s time to be truthful with teachers and state workers, too, so they can make the right decisions for themselves and their families.
Here’s another dishonest ploy. At the same time Fallin announced an expected budget shortfall of up to $600 million next fiscal year she also said teacher raises would be a priority. Note the contradiction.
So in the foreseeable future, many Oklahoma teachers will continue to flock to states that not only will pay them a lot more money but also will provide them more support and encouragement. Oklahoma right now is in an public education death spiral, and nothing short of a miracle in the economy will change that. Throw in a Donald Trump presidential administration, which has already clearly indicated it wants to privatize education as much as possible and the upcoming debacle here in Oklahoma grows clearer. Note as well that Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, may well undermine the teaching of real science as noted in the above article in The New Yorker.
I’m not trying to be blunt for the sake of being blunt or contrarian, but it’s always better to arm people with the truth than give them unrealistic hopes with hollow rhetoric.
And, oh yeah, next time the conservatives at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs or The Oklahoman make that tired argument that Oklahoma has a low cost of living, and thus teachers and state workers really don’t need raises all that much, think about how expensive utilities are in the state because of the extreme weather and how everyone has to maintain a vehicle because of urban sprawl or the fact earthquakes caused by oil and gas companies are damaging our property or how expensive health care is here because of a lack of medical access. Housing may cost more in most other places, but not much else.