Climate-Change-Denier-in-Chief Donald Trump – who Friday extended federal flood insurance plans to cover his low-lying, forced-to-evacuate Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and who wanted a sea wall to protect Irish properties threatened by rising global oceans – has chosen another apostle of ignorance to lead NASA.

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine falsely claimed in 2013 that “Global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago,” according to a Newsweek article, which notes that Bridenstine’s nomination falls into line with “Chair of the House Science Committee Bob Walker (who) has advocated for Trump to stop NASA’s climate change studies.”  NASA’s satellites have served as constant monitors and recorders of the changing conditions on the planet. NASA even (gasp) publishes  the results that make liars of all the climate-change deniers.  As we might expect, Bridenstine was immediately endorsed by fellow Oklahoman Sen. Jim Inhofe, who once brought a snowball into the U.S. Senate chamber in February as proof that the planet is not warming.  If approved, Bridenstine would join EPA Director Scott Pruitt, another Oklahoman, as a key player in establishing 19th century science as the working model to push 21stcentury America toward Third World status and maximize profits for the big polluters.

That’s a lot of ignorance representing one state. One might ponder the connection between this sorry state of affairs and the equally sorry state of education funding in Oklahoma.  “For four years running, the state has led the nation in tax cuts to education, outpacing second-place Alabama by double digits. Years of tax cuts and budget shortfalls mean that Oklahoma has fallen to 49th in teacher pay. Spending per pupil has dropped by 26.9% since 2008,” according to Russell Cobb, writing for The Guardian last week.  He is impolite enough to mention the Tulsa teacher captured for national TV panhandling for class supply funds on the side the road and the teacher exodus toward better salaries in other jobs or out of state.

Then, Cobb cites the report by Emory Bryan report on Tulsa’s Channel 6 from January of this year:

          ”In Oklahoma, a teacher with a Bachelors degree and 13 years experience, or a Masters and 11 years experience, can expect to make the same as someone with a high school diploma and no experience starting work at QuikTrip Corporation. At least for six months, until the QT employee gets a pay raise.”

Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated Legislature will reconvene Sept. 25 to tackle budget problems it ignored last spring. I’d say they’d be getting back to work – at a cost of about $30,000 a day – but debauchery seemed to be the main order of business for a lot of them last time.  Legislators need to fix the budget shortfall and then put the needs of students and their dedicated, under-funded teachers ahead of feathering the biggest nests in the state. Without a decent educational system, we will continue to turn out the likes of Bridenstine, Pruitt and Inhofe – uninformed and uneducable pawns of rapacious industries.

Or is that the electorate the Republicans want?

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)

Fund education; end ignorance

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