How the Chamber Killed Teacher Raises

 

The cat is officially out of the bag, friends.  You can now see who gave money and how much they gave to Greater OKC Chamber’s successful effort to rob teachers of a fully-funded $5000 pay raise.  Oklahoma’s teacher pay is now 50th in the nation, and Oklahoma’s teachers are paid at 77% the national average.  To view the entire disclosure, head right over here:  odb-donorsfile-feb-05-2-33-56-pm

 

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Chesapeake and Devon gave $20,000 each toward the endeavor.  Although I can imagine the hurt and anger felt by the few thousand people those companies laid off.  They couldn’t pay their employees, but they had money to help make sure Oklahoma teacher salaries would remain 50th in the nation.  And despite having recently emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy, Sandridge Energy managed to contribute $10,000 to the cause.

 

You can add Love’s Travel Company to the list of places I won’t be frequenting.  They gave $40,000 to ODB.  I try not to give my business to any entity that so clearly puts profit ahead of people.  I don’t care how “clean” their bathrooms are.

 

 

Other donations came from individuals.  I noticed one name on the list lives across the street from me, and just down the street from the Norman elementary where my daughter attended kindergarten.  I wonder how he can drive by that place and not think about the fact he cost those teachers $5000.

 

Clay Bennett was rumored to have been one of the big proponents of Oklahoma Deserves Better, and gave $20,000 to the coalition.  Bennett’s net worth is around 400 million, thanks in no small part to his NBA success in Oklahoma City with the Thunder.

 

Another individual donor is the head of the charity, “Fields and Futures”, which works to build athletic facilities for some metro schools.  Tim McLaughlin allowed Edmond North students to raise $350,000 for his charity.  A few months later, he donated $10,000 to deny their teachers a raise.  The defeat of 779 will certainly exacerbate the teacher shortage by expediting the exodus of teachers from our state.  Essentially, Mr. McLaughlin repaid the charity of those benevolent students by jeopardizing the quality of their education.  For somebody who works specifically to provide athletic opportunities for disadvantaged kids to donate to a cause that hurt their teachers is an especially low blow.  I guess for him, when it comes to helping underserved urban students break the cycle of poverty, football fields > teachers.

 

 

The Greater OKC Chamber not only spearheaded the effort, they gave more than $200,000 in cash and in-kind donations.  That number doubles to over 400K if you also count donations from FOKC (Forward Oklahoma City), a chamber-led initiative for economic development in the city.  All-in-all, they solicited nearly $900,000 from Oklahoma businesses and citizens, and spent nearly all of it in the last 10 days leading up to the election, primarily on misleading ads like this one:

 

People who bought the slush fund lie, failed to scrutinize the full language of the bill:

“The common school districts shall use eighty-six and one-third percent (86.33%) of the additional funds provided to them under this Article XIII-C to increase teacher salaries as required by Section 4 of this Article, and to otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages in the manner most suited to local district circumstances and needs…”  (emphasis is my own)

In other words, the money was for teacher pay, not just teacher raises.  It was stipulated that districts would increase all teacher salaries by at least $5000.  But liberty was given to allow districts to use some of the resulting revenue to address other issues with teacher pay.  It would have allowed some districts to rehire positions they were forced to eliminate in a budget crisis.  It would have allowed them to add teachers to their work force to alleviate large class sizes.  It would have allowed them to offer stipends for hard to fill positions, like STEM and Special Education.  And the language explicitly prohibited any of the money going towards superintendent salaries.

 

I’m willing to wager the people at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce actually knew this.  They just bet on the fact that most Oklahomans didn’t know it, and that most wouldn’t even bother to read the bill at all.  They bet big (over $800,000) and they won big.

 

And I think that’s what bothers me most.  They didn’t officially form their coalition until after October 1st so they could keep their donor lists hidden until their first financial disclosure was due in January.  The ads were misleading at best, and flat-out false at worst.  They waited until the last minute so proponents of the measure wouldn’t have time to do damage control.  It was all very underhanded and calculated.  And it appeared suddenly, and with great precision, dropped a bomb on a measure that was polling at over 60% just a month before the election, which leads me to believe it had been in the works for a long time before the organization was “official”.

And now, the GOKC Chamber says teacher pay is their number one educational priority (as opposed to their top priority in general).file-feb-05-2-47-31-pm

 

My question for the Greater OKC Chamber is simple:

How much money do you intend to spend to lobby on behalf of teachers?

 

At this point, words are meaningless.  Making teacher pay their top educational legislative priority is nothing but lip service as far as I’m concerned.  We’ve been there before.  We’ve heard for years that a raise is in the works, that legislators have filed this bill or that bill, and it never comes to fruition.  The GOKC Chamber proved they were willing to put serious money behind their efforts.  Will they reach out to these donors to solicit donations for their “better plan” implementation?  Do they plan to run an ad campaign to rally the people behind our educators?  Do they plan to spend money championing teacher pay?  Have they hired lobbyists to wine and dine legislators on our behalf?  Are they working with a design firm on yard signs and bumper stickers?  How much advertising time has been purchased with local radio and television stations to promote a “better plan” for teacher pay raises, and for increasing per pupil spending for the 700,000 students in our financially crippled public schools?

They solicited and spent almost a million dollars to deny my family a $5,000 raise, and simultaneously endangered the quality of education for 700,000 school children by contributing to the mass exodus of our teachers.

If I had to guess how much money they throw into a campaign for their “better plan”, my guess is somewhere between $0 and $0.

But by all means, Greater OKC Chamber, make a liar out of me.  Put your money where your mouth is.  I dare you.

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