I was impolite enough to point out during the primary season that Republican candidates for governor all gave lip service to supporting education, but that most of them favored protecting the petroleum industry over providing the funds needed to finance educational reforms. So, Republicans chose Kevin Stitt, who stated flatly that, if governor, he would have vetoed the emergency funding bill that outraged teachers dragged out of the GOP-dominated Lege with their historic strike last spring.
I guess when you send your kids to a private school, as Stitt does, preserving public education is not so important. But, it does reflect the national Republican assault on education, where heiress and private schools grad Betsy DeVoss has been given the power to destroy public education so that only good, rich folks like herself can afford to educate their children – civic responsibility not in the curriculum.
Fourth District GOP Chair Steve Fair echoed this sentiment recently when he castigated Republican teachers running as Lege candidates for not being fiscal conservatives. “Their stated goal is to increase funding for common education by raising taxes.” Fair cites the state GOP platform’s preamble that “states that revenues collected at all levels of government should be used only for well defined, legitimate government functions.”
I suggest that providing decent education to Oklahoma’s next generations might be a “legitimate government function.”
Endorsing efficiency as if some would defend inefficiency, the preamble gets to the GOP mantra “that tax rates may be kept as low as possible.” Somehow, Mr. Fair overlooks Stitt’s own view on tax increases when The Oklahoman reported that Stitt told the Oklahoma Municipal League “that he would back legislation allowing cities and towns to levy a property tax to help finance their public safety obligations.” Well, we must protect the good people from the (GOP-deliberately) uneducated masses.
Raising renewable revenue is the key to financing education in Oklahoma. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson realizes this, as does John Cox, vying on the same ticket for superintendent of public instruction against a done-nothing incumbent. The main interest of the Republicans concerning education funding is how to divert as much public school money as possible toward private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and education saving accounts. What’s the good of being rich and powerful if you can’t get the public to foot the bills for your exclusivity?
If oil patch profiteers pay the same gross production tax in Oklahoma as they do in other states – and once did here – then they will be the most likely beneficiaries when we can present them with a properly educated work force. But, is that the goal of Republicans? In 2014, the cheerful, self-appointed (and much appreciated) ombudsmen at The Lost Ogle captured the sentiments of one Pam Pollard, who took her current spot as Republican State Party Chairman the next year. The one-paragraph spewing spiel is her style, not mine: ”Just an idea – Let’s do away with public schools and put the responsibility of raising our children back on the family!!! Mothers can stay home with their children and no longer earn the second incomes which means we have to move to a smaller house – kinda like grandmas instead of Taj Mahal – we do projects with the kids and teach them science and geography by raising a garden and taking family trips. We have music class and even some physical education for our children and take field trips to the State Capital to teach them how to be involved in the governmental system. For their school service project, we visit the Veterans homes and hospitals and teach our children the history and the sacrifice of men and women to keep America free. Send the boys to help daddy and learn what it means to work and let the girls help mama in the kitchen cook for the family that sits together at the dinner table at 5:30 every night. You can save a lot of money on textbooks by using the family Bible which teaches a LOT of science, history, geography, psychology, sociology, and even grammar and vocabulary! Don’t worry about the children being secluded or not sociable with other kids as they will get plenty of time with other adults and children at church and Sunday school every Sunday and Wednesday. I think if we get back to this type of education our children will not only be “workforce ready” but they just may be ‘kingdom ready.’”
No!!! Don’t look to the Republicans to improve public education in 21st century Oklahoma.
Education matters: to students we are trying to prepare for the future; to parents who want the best for their children; to proud grandparents who hope for the best for those they love; to dedicated public servants who are doing their best under depressing conditions; to old guys such as I, whose skepticism is not cynicism and hope for a better world for all.
In fact, education matters too much to everyone to be entrusted to the same party that offers only rhetoric and abysmal results.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party, which meets Thursday at 7 p.m. in Room 112 of the Morris Building at Red River Vo-Tech on West Bois D’Arc.)