The state of education in Oklahoma is positively shameful. This is not news. Time and again Oklahoma legislators have cut funding, decreased salaries, and fought against the measures necessary to improve our state’s public education system.
SB 1187 has recently been passed. These measures will drastically decrease the quality of education in Oklahoma, if such a thing were even possible. Standards will no longer apply, teachers could legally get paid less than minimum wage (in a state already facing a teacher shortage) and, worst of all, nothing will be done to increase the funding for schools that desperately need it.
It’s easy to point the finger at our state government. After all, a $1.3 billion budget hole doesn’t happen overnight, and it is their responsibility to make sure that these sorts of situations don’t happen. So why haven’t legislators faced reality, bitten the bullet and raised taxes?
I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it occurs to me that if the state were purposefully trying to make education as bad as possible it would look a lot like it does now.
It’s no secret that the Republican party has a stranglehold on Oklahoma politics. It’s also no secret that Republicans get elected by promising lower taxes. Pew Research Center shows that those who attend college, especially those who receive post-graduate degrees, are more likely to vote Democrat. If I were in the Republican party, the temptation to create fewer college-bound individuals would certainly exist.
Now, before you break out your tinfoil hats and start researching chemtrails, no, I’m not actually suggesting that Republicans want us to be stupid, but that the state of education in Oklahoma is so bad that it looks like it was designed this way.
But a large part of the blame lies with us. Yes, us, the voters. The thing about Oklahoma is that we are deathly afraid of taxes. Oklahoma is the sort of place where it’s relatively easy for some people to get a nice house in the suburbs and promptly stop caring about what happens to everyone else who isn’t in their range of vision.
To people like this, taxes don’t correlate with better schools, better roads or a better life for anyone. They just mean less money.
If we are to change the nature of education in this state, we have to start caring about what happens to people we can’t see. Our entire state is made worse because entire generations of young people are not receiving adequate education. Everyone is worse off. We have to stop electing people who cut funding to education. We have to accept that sometimes raising taxes is necessary in order to help ourselves and our fellow man. We have to grow less attached to money and short-term comfort at the expense of our entire state’s well being.
I would urge anyone reading this to keep up with election cycles, to vote in local elections and to pick responsible leaders at a local level, even if it isn’t easy to do. The future of our state depends on it.