Better Find Someone to Blame

Lately, I’ve heard some complaints from our legislators that they don’t like the tone we’re using when questioning their policies and motives.

 

The most recent occurred in the comments of a Facebook post on Senator Rob Standridge’s page.  Standridge made so many comments that disturbed and upset me, I’m not even sure what to address first.  You might want to check it out for yourself.

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This query, among many others, elicited no response from the Senator.

 

Senator Standridge wants to perform an audit on every school district in Oklahoma.  I can’t imagine why he wants to pay money for information that all districts provide already.  I can only assume it’s because he believes he can solve our budget issues when he discovers how wasteful we educators are with our ever-shrinking budget.

 

The conversation took a few turns as citizens posed several questions of the Senator, most of which went unanswered.  In fact, to look at the comments, you would think the Senator only wished to validate the statements of those who agree with him, while painting those skeptical of his plans as “Republican bashers” (although Standridge himself brought up partisan politics more than the rest of the commenters combined).  Two people, myself included, who used the word “Republican” in a post, began by stating we are (or at least were) Republicans, and asking for clarification as to why our party has strayed so far from responsible fiscal policy.

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Both those statements are true.  We are 50th in teacher salary, and I CAN make 20K more in any one of a number of TX districts.  I’ve checked.

 

 

 

Several commenters asked the Senator to state his position in favor of or against the low production taxes, particularly for oil and gas industries, that have essentially cost us hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue.  Senator Standridge did not address those questions or concerns.  Not even once.  He did continue to scold his constituents for not offering solutions, even though more than one person suggested capitalizing on our natural resources and taxing oil and gas at the going regional rate.

 

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Senator Standridge wishes more Oklahomans thought medicaid recipients are losers.  A vast majority of medicaid recipient are children.

He did take the time to validate and applaud a citizen who called Oklahomans on Soonercare, “losers”.  Which was surprising, considering his position that the care and education of our children is a “moral imperative”, and 2/3 of Soonercare recipients are children.  He implies educating our children is a “moral imperative”, therefore teachers should require no more than the satisfaction of fulfilling that obligation.  I guess that’s where the “moral imperative” ends, because those slacker children are bleeding us dry with their healthcare.

 

 

Standridge goes on to scold teachers for their passion, and for asking, in most instances, well-articulated questions.  He then makes a few passive aggressive comments questioning whether we are fit to work with children.  It seems the Senator confused “vitriol” with “dissent”, and those who openly challenge him are no longer qualified to educate our youth.file-jan-19-8-01-39-pm

 

Here’s the thing:

 

I for one (and I think I can safely say I speak for a lot of other people here) am sick and tired of excuses.  I’m fed up with the blame game.  Our legislators can’t understand why we get so upset when they try to “help” educators by accusing us of wasteful spending, taking our flexible benefit allowance, or even robbing our retirement.  Can’t you see we’re trying to give you that raise?! This is what you said you wanted, you ungrateful, lazy leeches!

 

Please.  It seems some legislators want to “help”, but only on their own terms and without input from educators.  And even if they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul (taking our FBA in exchange for a raise), we should thank our lucky stars and throw them a tickertape parade.

 

Stop expecting me to thank you for kicking me in the shins because it could have been a punch in the gut.

 

Nobody is willing to step up and admit their irresponsible fiscal policy of recent years is to blame for our budget failure, and we need to get serious about how to fix it.  They’re still convinced we can budget our way out of this hole, and after 8 years of “fat-trimming”, we simply can’t anymore.

 

But in the meantime, don’t engage with those in power who have already invented their own truth.  It doesn’t matter how many facts you give them, how many charts you show them, or how much anecdotal evidence you offer.  Your questions will go unanswered, and instead you will be scolded for daring to challenge the misguided fallacies upon which some legislators justify their harmful fiscal policy.

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Once More into the Fray

It’s officially 2017, and I am standing—or writing, rather—on the precipice of a new school semester.  I had a wonderful break.  A restful break.  Christmas break is sort of like “comp time” for teachers—a chance to catch up at home and recharge in exchange for all the extra hours and days we work above and beyond our contracted time.  I caught up on sleep, saw family, spent extra time with my children.  I did a few projects around the house, played piano for a local church whose usual accompanist was on vacation.  And yes, I still managed not to spend any money in OKC.  I almost avoided politics altogether.

 

I say almost because I met with my state senator, Rob Standridge, over the break.  Several months ago, I called him out on social media for his failure to respond to five separate emails I sent over the course of 2 separate legislative sessions.  A few days later, a response to one of those emails landed in my inbox…from his assistant.  After a weeks-long game of e-mail tag, we finally managed to nail down a time when the Senator could meet with me.

 

Senator Standridge comes off as a nice enough guy.  I mean, he did sit at Panera for nearly an hour-and-a-half the day before Christmas Eve discussing education and other political issues with me.

 

But I walked away from that meeting having confirmed what I suspected:  he really doesn’t understand the plight of teachers, and he will not admit the correlation between poverty and academic success.  These two shortcomings in combination make me leery that he would ever side with public education.

 

As for Oklahoma teacher salaries, which are 50th in the nation, Standridge admitted that teachers need a pay raise.  He also said he would not author any legislation for teacher pay raises, and that he is skeptical it will even be possible when we’re staring down the barrel of a probably BILLION DOLLAR SHORTFALL.

 

Three days after our meeting, Standridge touted his support for vouchers and ESAs, a measure that could cost financially-crippled public schools MILLIONS of dollars.

When I brought up the lack of accountability for such measures, including the lack of academic and fiscal oversight for private and for-profit charters to which public schools must submit, he agreed it’s a problem.

 

Like I said.  He seems like a decent guy.  I just happen to disagree with virtually his entire stance concerning education.

 

I’m curious how many teachers left Oklahoma public education at the semester’s end.  A friend of mine confided that her sons lost BOTH their 5th grade teachers at the semester.  And that was in an upper-middle-class, suburban district.  I know we lost at least one at our feeder middle-school in my district.  I spent some time over the break updating my resume, and contacting my references to prepare for possible applications out of state.

 

But for now, I’m still here.  And I plan to keep fighting.  I intend to keep attempting to educate our legislators, and to call them out when their actions serve an elite few and ignore the vulnerable masses.  We’ve been told to brace for several fights:  against vouchers, to keep teachers insured, for funding, and to limit the damage of unfair and short-sighted school evaluation systems that don’t paint a complete picture.

 

Some of you voted down a teacher pay raise in November, and promised us you would nag your legislators to address this and other problems themselves in session.  It’s time for you to make good on that promise.  We may fail.  We probably will.  Or at most, delay the inevitable.  But 700,000 children, and 40,000 educators in Oklahoma deserve a champion.

Will you be one?