Summing up what options lay in front of Oklahoma, there’s a lot that can be done. But there are no quick fixes.
- We could raise taxes on current businesses, but that will have a lot of costs associated with it, like driving out one of the few industries remaining.
- We could cannibalize other programs, from other state programs to programs in the school, which sucks but it is probably what we will have to settle with.
- We could deregulate education. I really wish we would, but that will do nothing for the state’s broader budget problems.
- We need to look to our administration costs and if technological innovations make it possible to rethink how it’s always been done.
- We could rewrite our current immigration policy to ease the burden on schools.
- Or we can open up school choice that will force the responses from schools to make better choices themselves.
There are many ideas. What won’t help is making demands without understanding where the resources for them are going to come from. Currently, teachers are threatening to walk out if demands totally some $1.5 billion in new funding isn’t allocated to Oklahoma schools. That amounts to about a third of Oklahoma’s annual appropriation budget. It won’t happen. The money doesn’t exist to be given.
So when we come to the table, we need to acknowledge that. Most of our problems aren’t Republican or Democrat in nature. They aren’t because of greedy corporations, corrupt politicians, or extortionist educators. Oklahoma just got the short end of the stick in a lot of ways. We’re just poor. Life’s not fair. And making matters worse, we’ve gone long enough without making reforms that now those reforms seem impossible to overcome. But blaming won’t solve our problems. Acknowledging the hardships on all sides first to meet the demands of everyone else, that’s the first step, then to come to the table looking for real solutions for everyone.
Oklahoma is a stiff-necked people. We aren’t quick to compromise or budge. But we are extraordinarily good at doing things which are hard. That’ what we are all going to have to solve this crisis. We’re going to have to come to the table and have some very, very hard conversations. I have full confidence we will, as Oklahoma is a culture of character, hard work, and determination. So long as we remember that about each other, and work to what is best for everyone, I have full faith and confidence my daughter’s future will be brighter than my own.
This concludes The War Elephant’s series on Education in Oklahoma. If you haven’t read from the beginning, you can do so here: What’s with the Oklahoma Education Crisis?
I want to thank everyone who read the series and all the teachers who shared it. As I said I used to be a teacher, but left the industry to pursue writing full time. I also said that you should know the motivations of those you allow to influence you. Most of my new income comes through funding from patrons and sponsors through the social funding site Patreon. That means that my only motivation is to educate people with integrity, to tell the truth as best as I can see it, and to make this truth available for free. I do that so that as many people as possible volunteer their support by becoming my patrons.
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