Rural schools
A woman walks out of the McLoud Public Schools office in early May, 2016. (Tres Savage)

If it bleeds, it leads. In Pottawatomie County, public school budgets are bleeding.

Just like everywhere else in Oklahoma, if you follow the #oklaed hashtag.

The state’s ongoing reductions in funding have had tangible results, and not just in the form of many rural schools going to four-day school weeks to save money. Indeed, organizers of the Our Children — Our Future penny sales-tax proposal found public ire so high that they collected more than 300,000 signatures in far less than the allotted time for initiative petitions, an unreal pace to be sure.

While supporters and detractors of that proposal wait for an announcement of which 2016 ballot it will be on, media across Oklahoma continue to report on the struggles of their local school districts. Pottawatomie County is no different.

A purchase of two newspapers there last week (totaling $1.50) bought reports about proposed #oklaed cuts in the communities of McLoud and Dale.

In the Friday, May 13, edition of the McLoud Herald, Brian Blansett reported on the bad luck of the paper’s hometown school district:

McLoud’s school board will consider expense cuts of up to $1.16 million at its monthly meeting Thursday night.

The cuts would be for the 2016-17 fiscal year and could include reductions of up to 16 teacher and staff positions, more than half of which would be accomplished through attrition.

The paper was purchased on Thursday but dated Friday, and while an internet search this weekend has not revealed the results of Thursday’s votes, district leaders and board members seemed to have little choice in the matter.

“Not any of us like it,” interim superintendent Bill Denton was quoted as saying in the story. From the report:

As he has in previous meetings, Denton laid the state’s budget problem squarely at the feet of legislators.

“They’re not touching what has lost this state over a billion dollars,” he said. “The income tax reductions are what caused the billion-dollar deficit. That’s the main reason why we are where we are.

“They have not shown any indication to me that they’re willing to do something about that tax.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d be glad to give my $8 that they saved me to the schools.”

Denton’s $1 billion figure seems pulled from Oklahoma Watch reporting on the topic.

Similarly, in the Thursday, May 12, edition of the Shawnee News-Star, managing editor Kim Morava wrote about Dale Public Schools’ budget cuts, which superintendent Charlie Dickinson said have totaled $75,000 this school year for the small district.

During the previous budget cuts in 2008 and 2012, Dickinson said Dale Public Schools took steps to eliminate programs and staff through retirements and attrition. At that time, several programs were eliminated, including Home Economics and High School Art Classes.

While Dale Public Schools — 2016 high school graduating class of 55, according to pictures in the McLoud paper — is an example of smaller districts that many believe could be consolidated to save state money, larger districts are also shuttering arts, music and finance programs.

School consolidation efforts never got out of the starting gate this year in the Oklahoma Legislature, largely owing to public pushback from rural areas. The implication would be that most small communities don’t want their schools closed in the name of saving money.

Instead, these communities want their schools to receive better funding. From the Shawnee News-Star’s report after the jump:

And while state cuts are having a huge impact on districts, Pottawatomie County is fortunate that voters here passed a county sales tax for schools on Nov. 10.

Collections on the 0.495-cent sales tax increase will begin in July and can be earmarked for school improvements, although the funds cannot be used for some things, such as teacher salaries.

That’s right, Pottawatomie County voters have already added a half-penny sales tax on themselves for education funding. Whether they will vote for another penny this year is anyone’s guess, but months of continued headlines about school cuts will likely continue to affect public opinion.

The budgets are bleeding, and voters may implement their own transfusion.

Things we saw (and heard)

Those pushing ‘Redaction Queen Mary’ as VP choice should read this — Tulsa Frontier

The black conversation around Larry Wilmore’s ‘nigga’ remark was really about something much bigger —

A Texas town is building a $62.8 million high school football stadium —

State takes harder look at tax break for investors costing $115 million a year — Oklahoma Watch

Chaparral Energy files for bankruptcy protection  —

Arkansas judge resigns after thousands of nude photos of defendants found —

Federal scientists worried Oklahomans were getting wrong message on earthquakes, records show — NPR StateImpact

Quotes to note

All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.

— Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, to the New York Times, 5/5/16

Strong remedies are needed to protect the community’s rights, starting with internal investigations that root out misconduct. Willing or not, the sheriff will be made to comply with the law.

— Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio‘s ongoing racial-profiling case, 5/13/16

When it comes to respecting the equal rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, whether they’re transgender or gay or lesbian, although I respect their different viewpoints, I think it’s very important for us not to send signals that anybody is treated differently

— President Barack Obama, on transgender access to restrooms in public schools, 5/12/16

Vine Time


Tom Cole
U.S. Rep Tom Cole listens to a student at Harding Charter Prep High School. (Skyla Parker / HCP Marionette)

Tom Cole: ‘I support the Republican nominee for president’ by William W. Savage III


American Ninja Warrior in OKC
American Ninja Warrior will film this weekend at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (NonDoc)

Pure babbittry: American Ninja Warrior at Okla. Capitol by William W. Savage, Jr.


Daniel Power, Powerhouse Books

Publisher Daniel Power: ‘Arrogant clowns’ run New York Times office by Danny Marroquin