Royals Stadium, Kansas City. Oakland Athletics 16 – 4 victory.
My friend, colleague and extraordinary blogger (http://www.viewfromtheedge.net/) Rob Miller alerted me to content in a post by another friend, colleague and extraordinary blogger (https://okeducationtruths.wordpress.com/) Rick Cobb concerning Dave Bond, the OCPA fellow who told Scott Thompson on his fine program “Educate Oklahoma” that the legislature had made $100 million available for teacher raises through legislation sponsored by OCPA in 2015. This time Mr. Bond was using a transaction at the Catoosa school district to demonstrate how there is lots of money available for teacher raises if boards and administrators would just make the right decisions.
But first that $100 million Mr. Bond promised. I emailed him last week just to check in since we’d been away a couple of weeks and hoping to avoid more painful reading on the OCPA site. So far no answer but today I notice this post from September 26:
Teachers Now Benefiting from OCPA Healthcare Proposal Thanks to the efforts of OCPA and some very capable lawmakers, many Oklahoma teachers and state employees will now see significant savings in out-of-pocket medical charges—while also saving money for taxpayers. Read now >> – See more at: http://www.ocpathink.org/post/freedom-flash-sept-26#sthash.UXGz5VOU.dpuf
And when you go to see more, drum roll please, here is what I found:
In 2015, OCPA pushed for the state to create HealthChoice Select, a program that could help teachers and other state employees save up to $30 million annually in out-of-pocket medical charges. Thanks to Rep. Mulready and Sen. Treat, this program is now a reality for 180,000 Oklahomans.
Which does seem to tie back to the House Bill 1567 Mr. Bond referenced in his email to me, see my Post “Something Special”. However, I’m not seeing the $100 million for teacher pay increases. Seems like Mr. Bond just made up “something special” just for Scott Thompson and the people of Oklahoma.
Move forward to Wednesday the 28th and Mr. Bond along with Shawn Hime of OSSBA and a couple of others appeared on the local FOX station in OKC for a forum on SQ 779—the penny sales tax for education/teacher raises. You can access it at Rick Cobb’s October 2 post; I’m not savvy enough to link here. The fun part is at about 1:05 I think. The OCPA’s tact is that absolutely teachers need a $5,000 raise (they’ll forget all about that after November 8), but a tax increase is not needed because the money is already there.
I sure can’t find Mr. Bond’s $100 million and looks like neither can he. But then there’s the grand study I referred to in my “Once Upon a Time” Post that I’m definitely going to get to soon that says school districts have hired bunches of staff, not teachers, over the last 30+ years and all that money could have gone to teacher raises. My informed hunch is that when we examine the data we’ll see that the largest “non-teacher” employee growth has been with teacher assistants—who work directly in classrooms with children.
Back to the FOX forum, Mr. Bond, to show how money is readily available for teacher pay raises, used Catoosa as an example. I’m not fact checking any of this but from his and Shawn Hime’s comments it seems this happened:
- Catoosa sold land for $700,000 and put it in the building fund.
- Catoosa in 2013 voted $900,000 of bonds to erect a press box at the football stadium which they planned to combine with the $700,000 for a $1.6 million project.
- It would cost $700,000 to give Catoosa teachers a $5,000 raise. Or maybe to restore a 5-day week since the 4 day week is only saving $200,000.
So Mr. Bond suggested Catoosa should do that and live with a $900,000 press box. Mr. Hime came back at him saying it’s unconstitutional to use building fund money for teacher raises. And Mr. Bond retorted he didn’t think anyone would sue over that. Wow.
Food for thought:
I can’t cite this off the cuff but if the land sale was of land bought with bonds still outstanding then I believe the sale proceeds would first have to be used to retire the bonds. However, from the comments I don’t think that applies.
Here’s the language in Title 70, Okla. Statutes, Section 1-117:
School districts which receive monies from rental, sale, or lease of buildings, impact aid monies, or grants, gifts or donations for capital purposes, whether from state, federal, or other sources, may place such monies in the building fund authorized by Section 1-118 of this title or the general fund authorized by this section.
So candidly it is not clear to me that Mr. Bond was proposing an “unconstitutional” act. Even if the funds were restricted to building fund uses there is enough overlap in uses between the general and building funds (see Title 70, Okla. Statutes, Section 1-118) that for most school districts the $700,000 could be used to offset teacher pay increases from the general fund.
However, being legal doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea and certainly these facts are unique to Catoosa and cannot readily be applied to all districts. The worst part about his proposal is to use one-time funds to finance a permanent teacher pay raise. Any prudent superintendent and board would ask the question, OK Mr. Bond, your idea may get it done this year, but what about next? Do we then sell the elementary school to keep the raises in place?
Rather it’s just more drivel from the OCPA, an imaginary $100 million here, an unneeded stadium press box there, and just lay off all the teacher assistants, then presto there’s your $5,000 teacher pay raise.
This post photo above is from our vacation through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and back to Oklahoma through Missouri. It’s a great country. The event I was watching was as painful as an OCPA blog. Lunch on me if you are the first to guess.
My good friend Jim Brown nailed the photo. Heard today on NPR a state produced story linking recent and tragic Tulsa police shootings with memories of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Even though I attended Tulsa schools K-12 I did not learn about the riot until I taught at Wilson Junior High where Jim taught Oklahoma History to 9th graders and courageously included a unit on the Tulsa Race Riot. He brought into his classroom riot survivors to share their memories with his students.