These days when Tulsans hear the term “crybaby” many will think about the bicycle race day of Tulsa Tough that includes an ascent from Riverside Drive up Lawton Ave. (this is the Hill) to 13th Street and back to Riverside on Galveston Ave.
The same hill, except ascending on Houston Ave., greeted those of us who were early Tulsa Run participants a little over a mile from the finish line. My father and I were among those who ran the first Tulsa Run in 1978. We ran together at the same pace for most of the race and passed many who were walking up what we called “Houston Hill”. For the record, that first year I ran my personal best of the approximately 25 Runs I participated in over the next 30 years till hanging up my shoes after the 30th Run in 2007—also the year my father passed away. That first year I outpaced my father by only 15 seconds even though he was 25 years my senior. His example of disciplined cardio training and exercise begun in his late forties, after a diagnosis of nearly fatal angina, inspired me to do the same beginning in my late twenties and continuing today. After 10 years Houston Hill was retired and the course re-oriented to a gentler ascent along Boulder Ave.
While Houston Hill never made me a crybaby or a walker—I always enjoyed passing many other runners on the Hill—I must confess to being a crybaby about the Electoral College. Regardless I still read through the gloating messages on the OCPA site, like Jonathan Small’s post on 11/17/2016 “Policymaking Vindication” in which he congratulates the Oklahoma Legislature for rejecting efforts to elect our President by a national majority vote and Trent England’s post on 11/13/2016 “Trump result is a victory for the Electoral College” wherein he makes a tortured argument to rationalize why it is a good thing for our democratic process to have the winner of the popular vote be the loser.
Then my eyes turned to the Education Policy piece by Greg Forster “Why Government governs Its Schools Wrong (And How to Fix It)”, November 1, 2016. He offers five recommendations about how to improve “government schools” by improving their governance. His first recommendation is that school district elections should be held at the same time as presidential elections so that the election of school board members won’t be controlled by the teachers’ unions and others whose interests are primarily financial and selfish. His point is that when an election is stand-alone only those voters who are really interested in subject of the election will turn out to vote and therefore must be bad for our economy and democracy.
Having stood for election eleven times (more including primaries) in Tulsa as a candidate for school board and city offices, always on a date well removed from the presidential election, I have some perspective on his proposition. Most voters in my elections seemed to fall in one of three categories: they were employees of the school district or the city, they were personally interested as parents, contractors or neighborhood/issue activists, or they were just good citizens who took the time to inform themselves and vote. Regardless of their primary motivation at least they were making a reasonably informed decision. Under Mr. Forster’s plan many, if not most, voters would make decisions about our schools and cities as an afterthought, i.e. they would show up to vote for their presidential candidate and find they are also asked to choose among local candidates about whom they’re not informed. It also would become quite expensive to compete for voters’ attention as a school board or city council candidate when advertising media are dominated by the presidential and other higher profile contests.
More importantly why isn’t it enough for Mr. Forster that every registered voter has had the same opportunity to vote? I think it is obvious that he is just another crybaby, namely that he doesn’t like the schools run by locally elected school boards so he wants to blame the school board election dates for thwarting what he believes is the true will of the majority, i.e. to get rid of government schools, just like I want to blame the Electoral College for giving us two presidents, out of the five most recent elections, who lost the popular vote. I’ll believe he is not a crybaby when he also advocates getting rid of midterm elections for all federal and state-wide offices (and while we’re changing the Constitution(s) to do that we can get rid of the Electoral College as well!), because if voting for school boards is important enough to coincide with presidential elections then so too must he want all senators, representatives, governors, etc. to be selected at the same time when maybe at least half of the electorate shows up to vote.
In the future I’ll say more about Mr. Forster’s other recommendations, but here’s a comment on this one: “Transparency is another area of major need, especially in finances. Our government school system is enormous, and almost totally opaque. Its finances are kept in outrageously Byzantine ways. If you doubt it, go try to find out even a simple piece of information, like how much money your state spends per student on special education.” Mr. Forster, someone connected with the OCPA has created a “Data Tool” using Oklahoma’s OCAS data reported by all school districts to the State Department of Education. The Tool captures expenditure detail by Function and Object codes. Oklahoma school district expenditures are also coded by Program code. The program code for special education expenditures is 239. The ‘someone” who created the Data Tool can surely provide you with the statewide total for program code 239 expenditures and then show you how to divide by the number of students (all students or special education students, whichever you mean). That will give you “how much money your state spends per student on special education”. You don’t have to go to Istanbul, or even Constantinople, for that.
Lunch is on me for the first to identify the location of this blog’s “thinker” photo.