By September 20, 2015 Uncategorized 7 Comments

If there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that we can’t fix what’s wrong with education in Oklahoma and our nation simply by throwing money at the problem. Well, at least that’s what some people keep saying.

The most recent Oklahoma official to make this claim was Preston Doerflinger, the State Secretary of Finance and Director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

In a recent article for the Tulsa World, Mr. Doerflinger made this comment about public education in the context of the upcoming budget shortfall:

“I’m a firm believer that there is a lot of reform that could occur in common ed and higher ed,” said Doerflinger. “Education is 52 percent of the budget. At some point, you have to ask if it’s really about throwing more money at education.”

I’ll pause for just a second for you to recall that glorious time when our government was just throwing money at our schools. Those sure were the days, weren’t they?

In his article, our chief state budget officer made a plea for calm, claiming the state was “well-prepared” for the looming revenue skid.

Yeah. And this kid is well-prepared for the next food shortage.

On face value, Doerflinger’s comment makes perfect sense, right? “Throwing money” doesn’t sound like a good course of action. It sounds reckless, wasteful, and futile, especially when in the midst of a severe state revenue crisis.

That being said, there are many other ways that Doerflinger could have phrased this same sentiment.

He could have simply said, “With the current fiscal outlook, it is not the right time to increase education funding.”

He might have even said, “We need ensure that our state is effectively allocating its education dollars before increasing them.”

But, no .  .  . instead, Doerflinger decided to play into the reformers’ narrative that we spend too much on education already and that increasing funding for schools is a waste of money because schools are doing a lousy job.

Doerflinger purposefully tried to frame this as a ridiculous situation. He wasn’t just trying to make an argument. He wanted to paint anyone who might disagree with him as a fool.

This is just a throw-away line. The phrase is coated with ideological bias and malicious intent. Doerflinger is attempting to put an end to the debate about education funding before a full argument is even offered.

The message seems to be: “Can you believe these guys crying about public school funding?”  “They’re having money thrown at them and they actually want more?”

Here’s the odd thing about “throwing money.” The phrase only seems to be used when people are talking about education.

Have you ever heard this argument in any business context? Nobody talks about “throwing money.” Instead, we either call it investing (if you have the money) or financing (if you have an initiative that needs funding).

Of course, it is about money and what that money can buy to make sure our students have the best chance in life.

What would happen if we really did throw money at the serious shortcomings within the education system? The entire enterprise of public education in our state is so shamefully underfunded, it would be hard to find an area where more funding wouldn’t yield a positive return on the investment.

But, maybe Mr. Doerflinger is simply not aware of how “throwing money” at schools could make a huge impact.

This is where we can help him out.

For Mr. Doerflinger’s benefit, here is a short list of what increased recurrent funding for Oklahoma’s schools could purchase:

  • Increased pay for teachers to make our state competitive with neighboring states
  • Lower class sizes so we could actually adhere to HB1017 mandates
  • New textbooks and access to technology
  • Remediation resources to support existing programs like RSA and ACE.
  • Increased funding for alternative programs
  • Increased funding for school safety initiatives (e.g. tornado safe rooms)
  • Increased media center services in all schools
  • Additional school psychologists, counselors and paraprofessionals to work with students with challenging behaviors
  • More wraparound services (medical, dental, counseling) for students at risk
  • Greater investment in community preschool programs
  • Drug and alcohol education programs
  • Character education and bullying prevention programs
  • School to home liaison officers to tackle truancy and attendance issues
  • Increased access to rigorous coursework for students in rural schools
  • Increased support for performing arts including quality music, drama and art programs in all schools
  • Additional supports for students with English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Mentoring programs for beginning teachers including additional release time and professional development opportunities
  • After school programs for students
  • Updated technology and increased IT support for schools
  • More technology training centers and support of STEM initiatives
  • Additional enrichment programs for gifted and talented students
  • Increased funding for professional development and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

This list is certainly not all-inclusive.

Take a minute to think of the unique needs of your school and community. Can you think of any school needs that would benefit from having even a little more money thrown at them? Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

Then, keep this list handy for the next time some politician asks why we would possibly throw any more money at public education.

Image courtesy of gadflyonthewall blog.

This Post Has Been Viewed 648 Times

Share this: