May 12, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY—According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the state’s public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate Oklahoma’s children in the upcoming fiscal year.
A spokesperson for Senate Pro Temp Mike Schulz’s office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $400 million earmarked for state testing vendors, turnpike repaving, tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, and future income tax cuts for Oklahoma’s millionaires was accidentally appropriated to the Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year’s education funding formula. To compound matters, $160 million was mistakenly appropriated to provide Oklahoma teachers with an across-the-board $3,000 raise.
According to a source from Governor Fallin’s office, speaking under the condition of anonymity, “This money will likely be wasted by schools to increase teacher salaries, reduce class sizes, buy new textbooks, increase technology integration, offer more academic courses, and promote educational excellence”—an oversight that apologetic officials called a “major SNAFU.”
“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to correct the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said one senior member of the House Budget and Appropriations committee while expressing remorse for the error. “I want to apologize to the people of Oklahoma. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Oklahomans.”
“That’s the type of irresponsible misspending that I’ve been focused on eliminating for my entire political career,” the representative added.
Former House Speaker Jeff Hickman told reporters from the Daily Oklahoman that “this kind of reckless decision-making would never have happened under my watch,” adding “I just don’t understand this new breed of Republican that prioritizes essential state services and schools over the fiscal well-being of corporations and millionaires.”
Hickman continued his rant: “This is an embarrassment to our state. Fortunately, we still have some leaders like Representative Mike Ritze doing things to shed a more positive light on Oklahoma conservatives. His idea of rounding up children of illegal immigrants and shipping them home is nothing short of brilliant and represents the type of creative budgeting we need more of in Oklahoma.”
Another embarrassed member of the Republican Platform Caucus angrily acknowledged the $400 million budget slip-up will “unfortunately” help schools statewide retain more qualified teachers as well as supply students with modernized classrooms and instructional materials. Struggling to control his frustration, the representative said he prayed the costly mistake would not result in allowing thousands of Oklahoma’s students to graduate with strong technology and higher order thinking skills.
Ironically, former State Senator Kyle Loveless (R-OKC) called for a full investigation into how the state’s schools were able to secure the necessary funds to adequately compensate teachers at the regional average. “Hell, if we weren’t wasting time and money on personal witch hunts against highly respected legislators, this kind of crap wouldn’t be going on right under our noses.”
Loveless updated his statement a few hours later: “Never mind, I don’t really give a s*!@ anymore.”
Jason Nelson, former state representative (and potential candidate for something in 2018), called into a local talk radio station so angry he could barely get his words out: “This careless mistake may result in fewer teachers retiring or leaving the state. It will have a highly deleterious effect on the growth of our state’s promising charter and virtual school movement just when we’re making real progress. It may also end up financing new teacher training programs and collaboration time, allowing educators to become more than just glorified babysitters. It is just outrageous!”
Nelson continued, “Now we are left with a situation where schools can attract talented professionals who really want to teach our children, which will, in turn, create smarter and more motivated students who wish to one day make a contribution to society. What kind of future is that for our state?”
Current House Minority Leader and 2018 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Scott Inman (Dist-94), smiled coyly and winked when asked about the budget snafu. “I just have no idea what might have happened. No idea whatsoever. It is just one of those things that happens when people are in a hurry to start their four-day weekend. I can say that when you play shell games long enough, it can be easy to lose track of the ball.”
Representative Inman was later seen giggling with colleagues and doing a cart-wheel on the fourth floor rotunda of the Capitol building.
During an impromptu press conference on Thursday afternoon, Governor Fallin stated, “I know I’ve talked about increasing revenues and helping out our schools for years but I assumed the legislature knew it was all just political pandering. It never occurred to me they might take me seriously. In all my years in government I have never seen such a shameful error.”
“Our appropriations process has gone horribly awry and I for one demand to know how it happened. I thought I was signing an additional tax cut for Oklahoma’s beleaguered upper class,” explained Fallin. “When I realized I had just signed a bill to appropriate more money to public schools, I was crushed.”
Senate Finance Vice-Chair, Josh Brecheen, echoed his fellow legislative leaders and vowed to do “everything in his power” to resolve the costly error that could lead to schools updating their curriculum to emphasize STEM initiatives and 21st century skills by providing students with instruction on how to use newly purchased computers and connect with the world outside of Oklahoma.
“Once these kids learn to read and think critically, you can never undo that,” Brecheen said. “In 20 years, we could be looking at a nightmare scenario in which vast segments of our populace are fully prepared to compete in the new global marketplace.” “It could take a whole generation to cancel out the effects of this error,” Brecheen added.
Congressional leaders also stressed that providing the state’s students with an adequate education that prepared them for college and 21st-century jobs could also have a devastating impact on the economy by creating a new class of citizens uninterested in working at Wal-Mart or settling for fast food meals.
“Politicians will be adversely affected as well,” Brecheen later remarked. “What will our state do if the next generation knows that all we care about is our own selfish interests and pandering to corporations, the religious right, and the wealthy elite? We will be creating a generation of young people able to think for themselves. Is that the future you want for Oklahoma? I certainly don’t.”