The Edmond Sun

Opinion

October 5, 2010

SQ744 a Hail Mary for education

EDMOND — It’s the fourth quarter, and you’re behind by five points. It’s fourth down and long yardage for a first down, much less a touchdown. The clock is ticking. Your only chance is to throw a “Hail Mary” pass. Throw it deep, throw it long. The chance your opponent will intercept the ball is literally a toss-up. But it’s possible that, just maybe, one of your teammates will catch it, hang on to it and stumble across the end zone for victory.

That kind of last-ditch effort to pull off a miracle is exciting football. But it’s also an apt description for State Question 744, the best-known proposition on Oklahoma’s Nov. 2 ballot.

SQ744 is the only question on the ballot that came from an initiative petition; all the rest are creatures of the Republican Legislature. The petition was signed by 234,446 voters, nearly 100,000 more than the required 138,970 signatures. State questions on the ballot four years ago needed about 440,000 votes to be approved, so there appears to be strong support for SQ744 among voters.

This is, after all, the people’s government. “All political power is inherent in the people; and government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and to promote their general welfare; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it,” reads the Oklahoma Constitution.

The people have every right to set priorities for public officials. If they want public schools to be funded at the regional average, they should fix that bar and force public officials to construct state government around it.

According to SQ744 supporters, Oklahoma is currently dead last and $1,627 per student behind the regional average. We’re also 49th in the nation. The status quo is obviously not working.

SQ744 would mandate that the Legislature must fund public schools at a rate at least equal to the average spent per pupil by the six states surrounding Oklahoma. If the average from the bordering states drops, Oklahoma must spend the amount it spent the year before.

But we also would deal with the Lake Wobegon effect. In Garrison Keillor’s mythical Minnesota community, all the children are above average, a statistical absurdity. As Oklahoma raises its spending, the regional average would also rise. It’s not just a matter of spending $1,627 more per pupil; it will cost more than that, and even more as other states increase their expenditures to avoid losing ground. It would be an interesting dilemma if each of our neighbors committed themselves to spend more than the regional average.  

Aren’t we spending enough on education? After all, Brad Henry’s principal campaign promise was to bring Oklahoma up to the regional average in teacher pay. Surprisingly, over the past two years we’ve cut funding for common education by over $200 million.

Will this mean raising taxes? Probably, along with a good stiff kick in the pants toward reform in state government. But that’s not part of the Republican agenda. So, after SQ744 was circulated, legislators put State Question 754 on the ballot. Edmond Sen. Todd Lamb was the primary Senate author of the measure. That proposal would cause a constitutional crisis by banning what SQ744 seeks to accomplish. Check. Checkmate.

Interestingly, despite the quote above, SQ754 includes a provision that claims it cannot be repealed or amended, even if Oklahoma voters unanimously wanted it changed. By doing so, Republican lawmakers seek to strip Oklahoma voters of their fundamental right of self-governance. That’s how little they trust the voters.

The mix of State Questions 744 and 754 on the same ballot guarantees protracted and expensive litigation if they both pass. With one mandate pitted against another, eventually the Supreme Court will have to untangle the mess. Voters would be wise to stand up for their right to govern themselves and save a lot of taxpayer dollars by voting no on State Question 754.

As for 744, it’s a good idea. Republican lawmakers have already strangled Oklahoma education too far. We need to educate our children, to give them a solid foundation on which they can begin their lives, so this state can be a better place in which to live. A decent education is one of the fundamental expectations we should have for state government.

But lab equipment and textbooks and computers cost money. SQ744 should end Oklahoma’s cottage industry of bake sales and car washes to pay for pencils and paper.

This is indeed a “Hail Mary” attempt to score a touchdown in the education game. Lawmakers have had 103 years to get it right, and they’ve failed miserably. It’s time for the voters to make their priorities clear by voting yes on State Question 744, and forcing lawmakers to play the game of government by the people’s rules instead of their own.

WALTER JENNY JR. is an Edmond resident and community activist. He is a former secretary of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Is English getting dissed?

    Is the English language being massacred by the young, the linguistically untidy and anyone who uses the Internet? Absolutely.
    Is that anything new? Hardly.
    Many words and expressions in common parlance today would have raised the hackles of language scolds in the not-so-distant past. For evidence, let’s look at some examples from recent newspaper articles.

    July 31, 2014

  • 'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'

    Four years ago this month, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would “put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that “the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008.”
    Who’s right?

    July 30, 2014

  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results