Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, New Mexico. ID’d by Shane Matson
Actually I don’t believe that (“takes one to know one”), at least with respect to discerning the facts about matters of public policy, but given that one of the authors of the Tulsa World Readers Forum piece in today’s Sunday edition is Frank Keating, the former governor who famously referred to Oklahoma teachers as “slugs”, it’s hard to resist using playground language. Frank and two other board members at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs lent their names to the writing that was most likely penned by one of the fellows at the OCPA. Its arguments were regurgitations of the same faulty policy proposals I’ve been critiquing for the last year and a half in this blog, namely:
1. Presenting teacher pay proposals that are either demonstrably stupid or politically impossible, see The Glib, The Bad and The Ugly ;
2. Distorting the amount of revenue available for discretionary pay raises either intentionally or out of willful misunderstanding of school law and finance, see Where to Begin? , Unbelievable! and A Rise By Any Other Name ;
3. Defending the cockamamie silliness, namely State Question 640, that has turned our legislature into a joke by requiring a 75% super majority to raise revenue for state services, Brown Boys Dump Plan B on Oklahoma ; and
4. Advocating a massive reduction in support staff at our schools without considering the legislative mandates that require their services or that the dedicated funding that supports their jobs cannot be used for teacher pay raises, A Dirge for a Surge , Purging the Surge and Return of the Surge.
I’ll get to a couple of other jewels in future posts. You can read “Thinking differently about Oklahoma public school spending” if you want.
So, encouraged on by my friend and veteran Letter to the Editor writer Carlton (Looking for Mr. James), I sent this letter off to The World:
The Sunday Readers Forum rant by Frank Keating and others complaining that a recent article about Oklahoma’s state budget crisis in the Economist was “full of distortions and…demonstrably outright falsehoods” reminds me of the playground taunt “takes one to know one”. Keating falsely asserts that in 2016 Oklahoma schools received $9.2 billion in revenue when the correct, undistorted, number is $6.012 billion according to the data published on the OSDE website. He also peddles the research by Benjamin Scafidi who advocates funding teacher pay raises by laying off teacher assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, based, apparently, on the premise that schools nationwide were properly staffed in 1992. Keating appears oblivious to the policy decisions behind the “65-year binge in non-teaching staff hiring” such as the legislative mandates to provide special education services (teacher assistants and bus drivers), early childhood education (more teacher assistants) and school breakfast programs (cafeteria workers), to name those that readily come to mind. Based on these and other distortions and falsehoods routinely promulgated by the fellows at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs who wrote Frank’s rant, readers should be skeptical of the rest of it as well.
As I mention above I’ve written many posts on Scafidi’s work so I won’t repeat my critique here. I’ve also written several, some linked above, about the many times the Limited Thinkers at our state’s Stink Tanks have distorted the amount of revenue available to schools in Oklahoma, but let’s do it yet again. Here’s what they say:
Revenue shortfalls are not the cause of Oklahoma’s education troubles. In fact, through fiscal year 2016, Oklahoma public schools received more than $9.2 billion in revenue, a near record high. Since 2006, inflation-adjusted public school revenues have risen by more than $1.6 billion, or 21 percent.
The first sentence is opinion which is to be supported by the “facts” that follow. All I’ll say now about the third sentence is that calculating a percentage increase is all about the base year where you begin. They pick FY2006 which preceded three straight years (Brad Henry was governor) of solid revenue growth. Our funding woes began at the end of FY2009 with the Great Recession which is the base year any fair measure of how our state has recovered since would use. If I had their data the “21%” would melt away.
The data I do have is from the Oklahoma State Department of Education website showing this for all school districts’ statewide revenue for FY2016, the year they use and the most recent available on the site:
Their revenue number is $9.2 billion. You can’t get there from here. My number is $6.012 billion which is clearly shown as all “new revenue” received by schools in FY 2016. You can make a falsely higher number by adding in the fund balances in the 6000 sources, but for many reasons that is not a wise or helpful source for recurring expenditures like teacher pay raises; still you only get to $8.061 billion, even with that distortion. The last category, clearly labeled “non-revenue receipts”, has often been added in by the limited thinkers at the OCPA to exaggerate the amount of funding available, but even adding in that $750 million leaves you several hundred million shy of their $9.2 billion. So I’m stumped, but not surprised. As I’ve shown before, my faves being limited thinkers Bond (Done Waiting for Mr. Bond) and Anderson ( You’re Not in Kansas Anymore ) these fellows just make stuff up if it suits their fancy.
So once again, Tulsa World, you need to Fact Check your contributors.
As always lunch is on me for the first to ID the photo location.