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22 Jul
0

Oklahoma Republicans Have Failed Our Educators, Pt 2

Welcome to the second installment of our series on education, where we examine how the mishandling of the state academic standards has affected teachers and classrooms across the state.  This past session saw the new Oklahoma Academic Standards pass, but the path our legislature took to get there was long, risky, and harmful to students and teachers alike. Stability is an underrated element of a student’s education, oft overlooked but incredibly vital. Continuity is what allows a classroom to function properly, and for the past six years our educators have been robbed of that continuity.

Oklahoma Republicans have played havoc with our state’s academic standards, beginning with the move to Common Core in 2010. Implementing Common Core was expensive process that would take several years to complete, but a change was probably necessary.[1] Necessary because four years later the federal government would decree that Oklahoma’s P.A.S.S (Priority Academic Student Skills) state standards were not rigorous enough- backed up by the 39% of Oklahoma students taking remedial classes in college.[2] After Governor Fallin decided to nix Common Core English and Math standards in 2014, the failure of the P.A.S.S. standards meant that Oklahoma would have to develop new standards to continue receiving a waiver from No Child Left Behind.

The state Board of Education presented the new Oklahoma Academic Standards to the state legislature earlier this year, but not without controversy.[3] The new standards have been endorsed by the Oklahoma Writing Project and the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Math, among others. They have also drawn criticism from Professors Larry Gray and Sandra Stotsky, referred to by Superintendent Joy Hofmeister as “experts who were instrumental in developing academic standards in other states” only last year.[4]  Achieve, a nationwide educational nonprofit that specializes in evaluating state academic standards and a key player in the development of Common Core, conducted an analysis of the new standards. The organization concluded that the ELA standards “will likely cause confusion for Oklahoma’s teachers because they aren’t sufficiently clear” and that “key concepts are missing across grades” from the Math standards.[5]

After a bizarre saga that included Superintendent Joy Hofmeister vacillating between tacit approval and public condemnation of a resolution approving the new standards with specific revisions, the Oklahoma legislature finally changed the state’s academic standards for the third time in six years.[6] Every time academic standards change, teachers have to develop new curriculum, schools have to buy new textbooks, and students have to prepare for new tests. Adjusting to new academic standards is an arduous process for teachers that should not be undertaken lightly, particularly when there is uncertainty as to how acceptable these standards truly are. By accepting and then rejecting Common Core, Oklahoma Republicans have forced that arduous process on our educators time and time again.

By now, it looks like Oklahoma finally has its new academic standards, providing a small amount of stability that couldn’t be coming at a better time. That’s because some Oklahoma school districts are being forced to move to four day weeks to cut down on expenses, necessary frugality brought on by the steadfast obstinacy of Oklahoma Republicans refusing to fund public education.[7] These four day weeks put even more pressure on our teachers, who now have one less day a week to prepare their students for the standardized testing that can make or break both a teacher’s career and a student’s educational opportunities and job prospects.[8]

Oklahoma teachers are forced to deal with large class sizes, fickle academic standards, forced retirements in higher education and layoffs in public education, and four day school weeks. They have been charged with educating the future of our state, and yet they are continually expected to do more with less. Our teachers are paid poorly, subject to unceasing and unwarranted interference from our legislature, and then denied the funding that their schools and students unequivocally require. How can you stop this? Vote for the 30+ educators running for state office this year.[9] Vote Democrat.

 

[1] “The price of Common Core repeal,” last modified August 29th, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/oklahoma-common-core-no-child-left-behind-waiver-110421

[2] “Diploma in Hand, Many College-Bound Students Must Backtrack,” last modified January 4th, 2016, http://oklahomawatch.org/2016/01/04/diploma-in-hand-many-college-bound-students-must-backtrack/

[3] “Controversial bill dealing with Common Core passes Oklahoma Senate,” last modified April 1st, 2014 http://kfor.com/2014/04/01/controversial-bill-dealing-with-common-core-passes-oklahoma-senate/

[4] Contradictions abound in OK academic standards process,” last modified April 1st, 2016, http://newsok.com/article/5488774

[5] “State Superintendent defends new academic standards,” last modified March 20th, 2016, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/state-superintendent-joy-hofmeister-defends-new-academic-standards-for-public/article_224f3155-c1d3-502c-880b-d8a4d12dc46b.html

[6] “Contradictions abound in OK academic standards process,” last modified April 1st, 2016, http://newsok.com/article/5488774

[7] “Four-day school week is a consequence of unwillingness to fund public schools,” last modified November 25th, 2015, http://okpolicy.org/four-day-school-week-consequence-unwillingness-fund-public-schools-capitol-updates/

[8] Four-day school weeks,” last modified November 29th, 2015, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/four-day-school-weeks-districts-weighing-benefits-but-hofmeister-says/

[9] “Many Oklahoma educators plan to run for Legislature,” last modified April 13th, 2016, http://newsok.com/article/5491321

20 Jul
0

Oklahoma Republicans Have Failed Our Educators, Pt 1

47 states have a better education system than Oklahoma.[1] Thanks in part to a $1.3 billion deficit- that only continues to grow thanks to revenue continually failing to meet previous projections- Oklahoma schools simply aren’t receiving anywhere near the funding that they need to stay solvent.[2] While our legislature is busy offering up public education on a silver platter to a ravenous deficit, Oklahoma Republicans have been hard at work drafting laughably inane proposals to “fix” public education. As Oklahoma Democrats struggle to keep harmful things like vouchers and school district deregulation at bay, Oklahoma education has been suffering even more than usual. Already previously unthinkable solutions have been brought up- ending the semester earlier than planned, switching to four day weeks, and other disastrous ideas. Oklahoma legislators have a responsibility to Oklahoma students, parents, educators, and voters to find a solution to the education funding crisis.

Today we’re taking a look at how Oklahoma Republicans are hurting our educators, both teachers in public schools and professors in higher education. By now most have probably heard that Oklahoma teachers have the third lowest average salary in the nation, but their checkbooks aren’t the only thing Oklahoma Republicans are taking aim at.[3] Enter Senator Clark Jolley, a Republican legislator from Edmond in District 41 who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Jolley is the proud author of the worst education bill of the year in consecutive years, with SB 609 in 2015 and SB 1187 this year.

SB 1187 is the “School District Empowerment Act,” where “empowerment” refers to the ability of school districts that meet a certain criterion- a depressingly low 75% of students demonstrating mastery of state academic standards- to rid themselves of all the tedious, harmful regulations that so afflict public schools.[4] Regulations like the Oklahoma Teacher’s Retirement System, which could suffer drastic consequences from schools opting out, as it relies on contributions from all school districts. Regulations like minimum salary schedules, which might be all that stand between Oklahoma’s status as the 48th state in teacher pay and a rock bottom ranking. Thankfully, SB 1187 died an ignominious death in a House committee, as did SB 609 the year before.

Sadly, HB 1746, authored by Republican Senator Nathan Dahm out of Broken Arrow in District 33, did not die, instead being signed into law by Governor Fallin in 2015.[5] Intended to hurt membership for teacher unions, the bill prohibits school districts from automatically deducting dues for both the Oklahoma Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers from teacher pay checks. That doesn’t keep teachers from joining unions, but it makes it significantly less convenient, something Oklahoma Republicans are counting on to weaken the teacher unions that staunchly oppose their desiccation of public education in Oklahoma that is already well underway.

That desiccation is exemplified by a teacher pay plan that would allow pay raises of $5,000 to $10,000 dollars- funded by cutting health insurance benefits.[6] Apologies for the syntactical chicanery; “pay raises” should have been in quotations from the start. That’s because Oklahoma Republicans have mishandled the budget far too drastically to have any hope of actually offering an honest-to-goodness teacher pay raise, even though Oklahoma already offers $12,750 less than the national average to its teachers.[7]

You read that correctly. That’s 12,750 reasons that a shocking-yet-unsurprising 35% of new teachers in Oklahoma leave their school after the first year.[8] Our educators are under constant threat of siege by their own legislature, yet they care deeply enough to stage rallies at the state Capitol in desperate attempts to procure needed funding.[9] They are rewarded for their supernatural patience, grace, and motivation with a paycheck that is heart-wrenchingly incommensurate with all of the difficulties that come from being an educator in a state that is almost openly antagonistic to the profession. Oklahoma Republicans are rapidly chipping away at the educational bedrock that our state’s economy is built on, harming teachers, students, and everyone else in the process. How can you stop it? Vote for the 30+ educators running for office this year.[10] Vote Democrat.
[1] “Oklahoma ranks 48th,” last modified January 8th, 2015, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/oklahoma-ranks-th-in-education-week-s-annual-education-quality/

[2] “Oklahoma’s budget shortfall grows to $1.3 billion,” last modified February 11th, 2016, http://kfor.com/2016/02/11/officials-oklahomas-budget-shortfall-grows-to-1-3-billion/

[3] Teacher pay raise proposals probably going nowhere this session,” last modified February 18th, 2016, http://okpolicy.org/teacher-pay-raise-proposals-probably-going-nowhere-session/

[4] “Bill Information for SB 1187,” last modified March 3rd, 2016, http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=sb%201187

[5] “Bill Information for SB 1749,” last modified April 4th, 2015, http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb1749

[6] “Educators furious over plan to cap health care benefits in pay raise proposal,” last modified May 12th, 2016, http://kfor.com/2016/05/12/house-leaders-propose-plan-to-cap-health-benefits-for-oklahoma-teachers/

[7] Teacher pay raise proposals probably going nowhere this session,” last modified February 18th, 2016, http://okpolicy.org/teacher-pay-raise-proposals-probably-going-nowhere-session/

[8] Raises For OK Teachers Would Help Attract, Retain Educations,” last modified November 2nd, 2015, http://www.news9.com/story/30413303/new-study-raises-for-ok-teachers-would-help-attract-retain-educators

[9] “Educators rally at the Capitol to stand up for public education funding,” March 15th, 2016, http://kfor.com/2016/03/15/educators-rally-at-the-capitol-to-stand-up-for-public-education-funding/

[10] “Many Oklahoma educators plan to run for Legislature,” last modified April 13th, 2016, http://newsok.com/article/5491321

06 Jul
0

Please, Do Something

By Daniel Holland, ODP Summer Intern, University of Oklahoma

There was a time when crimes were met with retribution, an offender punished not to prevent future wrongdoing but to exact the requisite amount of pain deserved for his misdeed. After this, there came about the idea of preventative justice – Hammurabi took an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth because this brutality would serve as a deterrent from future crime. As our society has evolved, so has our criminal justice system; now things like the death penalty are some of the last vestiges of the preventative justice system. In its place, civilization has developed the notion of rehabilitative justice, of punishments fitting crimes in ways that make it possible for an offender to not only adequately compensate society for his crime, but also learn and grow from his punishment, to become a productive and law abiding member of society. In many ways the US prison system is still absurdly outdated, but nevertheless the American court system has been founded and operated under the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Once proven guilty, a person is then obligated to undergo both punitive and rehabilitative measures to right the wrongs that he has perpetrated.

In the case of Brock Turner, the rapist from Stanford, none of this has happened. Turner is a sex offender, a man so privileged, so entitled, that he thinks that neither law nor basic morality applies to him. [1] Unfortunately, it appears he must have learned this mindset in part from his family, seeing the way his father describes the horror of his son repeatedly and unapologetically violating another human being as “twenty minutes of action” for which his son shouldn’t pay a “steep price”. [2] Leniency, his family calls for, when the woman he violated will never truly shed the massive and inhumane burden that he callously forced upon her. I say again, Turner is the rapist, and the woman he assaulted is the victim. I feel I must repeat that because, looking from the outside in, it may be a little hard to tell who the person being punished is. Turner is not a monster, no, but no longer is he first a college student, son, swimmer, or any other basic identifier. He is a rapist, a man that we must keep society safe from, and yet because he is rich, or white, or athletic, or simply born with a Y chromosome, he will lose a maximum of six short months of his life. As punishment, this is laughably ineffective. As rehabilitation, this is a charade. As recompense, this is worse than useless.

Innocent until proven guilty: these are strong words, powerful words, words our laws and courts are built on. Except there’s a twist when a woman has the courage to face the odds and let it be known that she has been victimized (I would like to take a second here to acknowledge that men can be the victim of rape as well. The statistics given here are not applicable for these cases, but in many ways male rape victims face more social pressure than women do). Suddenly, no longer is the suspect innocent until proven guilty, but the victim instead considered unreliable until proven raped. Studies have been done, statistics compiled, databases perused, and the evidence is overwhelming that the majority of sexual assault cases are not even reported- around 60%.[3] Of those 40% of rapes and assaults that do end up reported, somewhere between an estimated 19.5% and 40% result in prosecution, arrest, or trial. At the high end, this means that only 16% of rape cases have any chance whatsoever at being addressed by our criminal justice system. Keep in mind that, at maximum, being generous with the numbers, around 7% of rape cases are false alarms. [4] That leaves 93% of cases that had very, very real sexual violence, and nothing is done for the vast majority of them.

Those are numbers. Numbers, at the end of the day, don’t mean very much. People do. For every 100 women raped, 16 might have a shot at getting the pathetically small amount of consolation that a successful prosecution can bring. 84 women will not. But that’s their fault, right? I mean, 60% of rapes don’t even get reported and suddenly it’s our fault that these women aren’t getting the protection and justice that they both need and deserve? Well, yes, it is.

Take another look at the Brock Turner case. This has been twisted into a discussion of both racial and class privilege, but that’s honestly more a particularly perverted symptom of a long-running epidemic in America. We don’t trust the women courageous enough to report their trauma, we laugh and we pry and we paste their names and clothes and texts all over our media. We make excuses for their rapists and ask if they’re sure they didn’t like it. Are you sure you were raped? I mean, are you sure you’re sure? Come on, look at this guy, he’s a swimmer, he’s rich, he’s smart, you’re probably exaggerating. A woman has to relieve her trauma, again and again and again, at the precinct and in the courtroom and behind closed doors and in the media and with her family and with her friends and with her partners and it never stops. All that has to happen, and then she gets to be one of the 16%, one of the few who actually has a chance to look the man who raped her in the eye and tell him how he hurt her, what he did and how she will never be the same again.

Then, after ALL of that, after all of the questions and news articles and concerned text messages and inquisitive eyes and hateful mail, after all of the bullshit that we make women go through, her assailant might still go free. Or he might get six months in jail, like Big Bad Brock Turner did. RAINN estimates that 3% of rapes result in jail time for the rapist.[5] Three percent. Oh, maybe that number is too low, it’s certainly true that rape isn’t reported nearly enough to have truly comprehensive, reliable rape statistics. But how high can that number get before you feel like we don’t need to take any action? For me, it’s 100%. And a little basic math tells you that it’s pretty impossible to have 100% of rapists put where they belong when 60% of rapes don’t even get reported.

So, we know that rape happens, and we realistically know roughly how often it happens- the statistic that people like to give is that 1 out of 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college.[6] No, sexual assault doesn’t always mean rape- but I’m pretty sure you don’t want your sister or daughter or mother assaulted regardless of how the incident is legally classified. We know rape happens, and we know it doesn’t get reported, and we know why that is. An unceasing spotlight on victims that cross-analyzes every hazy memory of a traumatic incident, prosecutors combing through testimony looking for every “gotcha!” discrepancy. Reporting a rape means that there will be concerned friends and family helpless to help, and strangers who will know every intimate detail of a horrific, life-shattering event. Low conviction rates, public ridicule, court fees, appeals, dredging up past trauma every time a new attorney or judge or jury needs to hear exactly where you were touched or penetrated or groped or abused. Can you blame a woman who either cannot or will not subject herself to the gauntlet that we call a criminal justice system?

We know all of this, and now that we know, we have a duty that goes far beyond a mere obligation to do the right thing. We have a responsibility to not only protect the victims of rape from their assailants, but to insulate them from the demands and gossip and additional trauma that our society and our current criminal justice system rain down on them the second they try to seek help. How can we do this? We can start by enforcing laws already on the books. We can start by giving rapists convicted of their heinous crime by a judge or jury of their peers an actual sentence, not a slap on the wrist. None of this six month bullshit, but a sentence that will give a convicted rapist cause for remorse, a sentence that will force a potential rapist to pause and consider if he really should risk everything for “twenty minutes of action”. [7] A six month sentence is how you punish someone for shoplifting, not how you protect a woman from trauma that could reverberate throughout her entire life.

It doesn’t stop there, though. The focus is not only on the rapist, but on the cultures that support them. We need to root these enablers out. Art Briles and his staff at Baylor, Joe Paterno and his staff at PSU, fraternity members on nearly any campus you care to name; anyone else who would rather turn off the lights and shut the door than scream bloody murder at the top of their lungs.[8] We need follow the laws on the books, destroy the support systems that rapists too often enjoy, and then the job will have been started. We have to educate our sons and daughters on how utterly important, how unequivocally paramount it is that rape not be allowed in our society. Excuses may not be made, rapes may not be mitigated, and rapists may not be absolved. Rape culture must be stamped out, completely, entirely, razed to the ground and then burned again.

All that is the first step, it is the literal bare minimum for a society that could possibly be considered fair, just, or humane. But this is not a job that can be accomplished without Congressional action. We need to tackle the backlog of rape kits that have yet to be tested, each and every one of which could hold the key to taking another rapist off the streets- the Debbie Smith Act of 2004 was meant to address this, but as of FY2015 Congress has underfunded it by almost $55 million.[9] We need to ensure that rapes and assaults committed on campus receive the high degree of scrutiny that they demand- the Clery Act of 1990 is one of many that is intended to provide this scrutiny, but all too often colleges, athletic departments, and fraternities shirk from their duty of reporting and aiding the prosecution of rapes that happen on campus.[10] We need to offer the financial help and compensation needed for victims of rape and sexual assault need to move on- something that the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 is meant to address, but with maximum benefits averaging about $25,000, it should be clear that additional legislation in this area is needed as well.[11]

Most of all, we need to do something. Contact your legislator and voice your support for the legislation mentioned above or propose ideas for new laws, volunteer at a home dedicated to serving victims of rape and sexual abuse, stand up and say something the next time you see something that you know in your heart is wrong. Do something, because this isn’t a problem that will just go away. This is a problem that needs YOU to say something; do something; take action. Next time, it could be one of your loved ones in the media, shamed and shaken and helpless, taken behind a dumpster or left on a bathroom floor. Before it is, please, do something.


[1] “Brock Turner’s sentence is another sad case of leniency,” last modified June 2016, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-brock-turner-stanford-assault-affluenza-20160615-snap-story.html

[2] “Stanford swimmer convicted of sex assault,” last modified June 10th, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-stanford-rape-case-documents-release-20160610-snap-htmlstory.html

[3] “The truth about a viral graphic on rape statistics,” last modified December 9th, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/12/09/the-truth-about-a-viral-graphic-on-rape-statistics/

[4] “False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue,” last modified 2009, http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_3_no_1_2009.pdf

[5] “97 of Every 100 Rapists Receive No Punishment,” last modified May 27th, 2012, https://www.rainn.org/news/97-every-100-rapists-receive-no-punishment-rainn-analysis-shows

[6] “Statistics About Sexual Violence,” last modified 2015, http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf

[7] “Light Sentence for Brock Turner,” last modified June 6th, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/us/outrage-in-stanford-rape-case-over-dueling-statements-of-victim-and-attackers-father.html?_r=0

[8] “Frat brothers rape 300% more,” September 24th, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/rape-sexual-assault-ban-frats

[9] “Debbie Smith Act,” https://www.rainn.org/articles/debbie-smith-act

[10] “Clery Act,” https://www.rainn.org/articles/clery-act

[11] “Crime Victim Compensation,” https://www.rainn.org/articles/crime-victim-compensation

13 Jun
0

Statement on Orlando Terrorist Attack

[Oklahoma City, OK, June 13, 2016] In response to the terrorist attack this weekend at an Orlando gay nightclub, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair, Mark Hammons, released the following statement:

“We offer our deepest sympathy to the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families and friends. We grieve with members of the LGBT community, not only in Orlando, but across the country.

“This is not a time of partisanship, rather it is a time of somber reflection. The horror committed must awaken a sense of responsibility in our citizens and leaders that hateful speech begets hateful actions. We cannot ostracize members of our society because of their sexual preference, gender identification, nationality, race, or religion but instead value all individuals as our fellow citizens worthy of love and respect. We have to work together to counter the extremist, radical ideology that perverts religion and encourages acts of terror and hatred.

“To merely condemn this crime is not enough. Today we offer comfort and support for those affected by this horrific act, and look to the coming days in which we must dedicate ourselves to addressing the root of the problem. We must reaffirm our shared commitment to the values of equality and dignity that define us as Americans. We must stand united and not allow terrorists and murderers to tear us down or divide us.

“The Oklahoma Democratic Party stands with the LGBT community with continued dedication to fight for the protection and rights of all individuals.”

###

09 Jun
0

Oklahoma Republicans Have Failed Our Municipalities

By Daniel Holland, ODP Summer Intern, University of Oklahoma

“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” As he delivered his first inaugural address, it’s easy to imagine that Ronald Reagan was channeling vintage Thoreau – “that government is best which governs least.” After all, the Republican Party is the champion of small government, the All-American bulwark against governmental tyranny and universal healthcare. The Democrats, so the narrative goes, want to steal your hard earned money because they’re either sinister or dumb, but the Grand Ol’ Party is here to protect you from the feds.

It’s a great narrative, delivered so consistently over the years that the GOP has managed to brand itself as the party of small government through sheer persistence, even though the facts don’t always justify the nomenclature. Do you buy their facade? You certainly shouldn’t, not if you’re an Oklahoman who has seen firsthand exactly what Republican “governance” means for the municipalities under their control. You know; the municipalities that should be benefitting from all that devolved power Republicans never stop going on about.

The reality is that “small government” has become just another way of saying “the feds can’t tell us to do things that we don’t want to do”. You don’t like gay marriage? No problem, just steep your argument in the small-government-teakettle for a few minutes, throw in a pinch of states-rights spice, and you’ll be good to go! Sniff around a little more, however, and you’ll find that this small-government methodology gets thrown out with the bathwater as soon as any smaller governments fail to pass the muster of conservative orthodoxy. Nationally, we’ve had more than a few of these little glitches recently- the North Carolina legislature’s decision to disallow Charlotte, NC’s progressive bathroom legislation stands out as one example.[1] This kind of stuff is already old hat in Oklahoma though, where it has become fairly commonplace for our Republican legislators to run roughshod over the needs and wants of Oklahoma municipalities.

Take SB 809, signed into law by Governor Fallin a little more than a year ago. Prior to 2009, Oklahoma had an annual average of two earthquakes magnitude 3 or greater. In 2015, there were 907, part of a rash of earthquakes in the Central US that was enough for Oklahoma to top California as the most earthquake-prone state in the US. The US Geological Survey refers to these earthquakes as “injection induced seismicity”, which refers to the way the hydraulic fracking produces wastewater that causes earthquakes when it is injected back into the earth after the fracking process is done.[2][3] Last year several Oklahoma municipalities felt strongly enough over these earthquakes that they attempted to issue drilling ordinances to regulate the fracking that was going on in their jurisdictions.[4] The will of those municipalities was quickly disregarded, however, when Republican legislators started hearing from their oil and gas patrons, leading to SB 809, which states that municipalities “may not effectively prohibit or ban any oil and gas operations.”[5] Our Oklahoma Republicans love small government, until angry donors start calling.

Realistically, it’s not going to surprise anyone that oil and gas lobbyists wield outsized influence in Oklahoma- at this point, that’s pretty much par for the course. One thing that a Republican legislature definitely would not do, though, is raise taxes on municipalities. After all, that’s basically what the small government mentality is- don’t take our money, and we’ll take care of ourselves. Oklahoma Republicans are really good at cutting taxes. Really, really good, so good that a state with a current budget deficit of $1.3 billion is estimated to lose over $1 billion annually because of income tax cuts.[6] That deficit is why State Question 779 has been proposed as a way of funding education, since Republicans aren’t offering any other ways to get public education the funds that it needs.

Proposed by OU President and former Oklahoma Senator David Boren, SQ 779 is projected to generate $615 million a year via a one percent increase in the state sales tax.[7] That’s a regressive policy that hurts those in lower income brackets more, because a higher portion of their income is dedicated to consumption, and in normal years it probably wouldn’t stand a chance of passing. In 2016 though, it needs to pass, because otherwise we’ll have hundreds of teacher vacancies and dozens of school districts on four-day weeks. It needs to pass, even though the sales tax is one of the primary and only sources of revenue for municipalities, and even though raising the state sales tax means that municipalities will now be working with less revenue and less ways to bring in revenue. The only other option our Republican legislators have left us with is to watch Oklahoma education drive off the same cliff that Kansas Republicans just steered their own education system over.[8][9] Remember, we’re in this position because our Republican-controlled legislature failed to find a legislative solution to the budget crisis, with the Senate refusing to even consider a bill that would avert a scheduled income tax cut projected to lose the state around $150 million in FY2017.[10]

There are plenty of other examples to point to, sadly. While Oklahoma Republicans steadfastly refuse a Medicaid expansion that would save the Oklahoma healthcare system an estimated $464 million over the next ten years, 56% of rural Oklahoma hospitals operated at a financial loss between 2009 and 2013.[11][12] Instead of finding new revenue sources this past session, Oklahoma Republicans wasted all of our time with doomed-from-the-start HB 1552, which would have criminalized doctors who performed legal abortions and cost Oklahoma taxpayers millions in court fees, if Governor Fallin had not had the good sense to veto a clearly unconstitutional bill.[13] There’s a well-established precedent in Oklahoma that puts the conservative orthodoxy of Republican legislators over the well-being of their Oklahoman constituents. How can you fight that? Vote Democrat.

 


Citations:

[1] “North Carolina Bans Local Anti-Discrimination Policies,” last modified March 23rd, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/us/north-carolina-to-limit-bathroom-use-by-birth-gender.html

[2] “Injection-Induced Seismicity,” last modified December 2nd, 2013, http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/seminars/2013-12-02/

[3] “Oklahoma’s Rise in Quakes Linked to Man-Made Causes,” last modified May 8th, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-oklahoma-rise-in-quakes-linked-to-man-made-causes/

[4] “Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote To Outlaw Fracking Bans,” last modified April 23rd, 2015, http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/04/23/3650316/oklahoma-local-drilling-bans/

[5] “Bill Information for SB 809,” last modified May 25th, 2016, http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=sb809&Session=1600

[6] “The Cost of Tac Cuts in Oklahoma,” last modified January 12th, 2016, http://okpolicy.org/the-cost-of-tax-cuts-in-oklahoma/

[7] “Oklahoma One Percent Sales Tax,” last modified Spring 2016, https://ballotpedia.org/Oklahoma_One_Percent_Sales_Tax,_State_Question_779_(2016)

[8] “Revenue from Taxes,” last modified 2013, http://www.nlc.org/build-skills-and-networks/resources/cities-101/city-finances/local-revenue-structures/revenue-from-taxes

[9] “Kansas Supreme Court Rejects Lawmakers’ Bid To Fix Education Funding,” last modified May 27th, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/27/479792843/kansas-supreme-court-rejects-lawmakers-bid-to-fix-education-funding

[10] “Roll Back the Income Tax Cut,” last modified April 22nd, 2016, http://okpolicy.org/56315-2/

[11] “Medicaid expansion gets no tractions in state Legislature,” last modified February 9th, 2015, http://newsok.com/article/5391585

[12] “Oklahoma rural hospitals in critical condition,” last modified August 3rd, 2015, http://newsok.com/article/5437748

[13] “Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Charge Abortion Doctors,” last modified May 20th, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/us/oklahoma-governor-mary-fallin-vetoes-abortion-bill.html?_r=0

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