Fiscal issues necessitate budget cuts. Expenses exceed income, and something has to give.
In Oklahoma’s boom-and-bust economy, our politicians confront fiscal crises all too often. Their response lately has been to snip a little here, snip a little there, and maybe later sew things back together, restoring services somebody once thought essential to maintaining a safe and contented citizenry.
DHS? Snip, snip. OHP? Snip, snip. And education, be it common or higher? Ooooh! Bring bigger scissors, because education is not and never has been a priority in Oklahoma. More important things have taken precedence, e.g. survival.
Pay-raise legislation lacks funding
During the Territorial period in Oklahoma, a school year consisted of 60 days. The rest of the time, children were expected to be at home, helping their families make a living.
Sixty days when weather conditions restricted work outside were all the formal education put upon young Oklahomans. Snow days were school days. If children stuck with the agenda, they could receive a sixth-grade education after only 360 days of school. The basics — the three Rs — were sufficient.
And a bright graduate of the sixth grade might become next year’s teacher at the same school he or she had attended, earning an annual salary of around $75.
Things are different now, of course. Whereas $37.50 a month could be considered pretty good money in, say, 1891, the starting salary for teachers these days is lower than salaries in neighboring states, leading to an Oklahoma teacher exodus. It’s forming a sort of diaspora, not as large as the Okie migration of the 1930s, but given enough time, it could be.
The politicians seem to agree that teachers need a raise: $6,000 spread over three years. Trouble is, they haven’t figured out how to fund it.
How about raising taxes?
Republicans, who are the majority in the Legislature, don’t like to raise taxes, so where to snip, snip, snip?
How about trimming higher ed? Look at all of Oklahoma’s state-supported college and universities, in a system encouraging ju-cos in every Podunk. Take away the Greek system and NCAA sports and tell students they can’t park on campus, and lawmakers would see how much public support for higher ed remains.
Meanwhile, the prisons are overcrowded and dilapidated, and the public votes to let people out. Why not let a few professors out?
Who would you rather see walking the streets: convicted felons, or a bunch of geeks guilty only of intellectual assault and battery?