Home > 744, education, Oklahoma, politics > 744 is a bad idea – epilogue: alternatives to 744

744 is a bad idea – epilogue: alternatives to 744

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sociologists are often accused of spending all of their time and energy pointing out problems without offering solutions. In this final (I promise) state question 744 post, I want to buck that stereotype by offering some alternatives to 744.

It seems that the (well-intentioned) purpose of sq744 is twofold: 1) to improve education in OK and 2) to provide the funding necessary to make that happen. Setting aside the question of whether or not increased spending would make a significant difference in educational outcomes, I offer thoughts on how we accomplish these tasks without handcuffing the state to a system that looks to be nothing but trouble down the line.

Funding:

1. Consolidate. I know this is a touchy subject and that it’s easy for those  that it would not affect to say it should happen, but it seems nuts to me that we have 537 school districts in a state of 3.7 million people. Other states at around this population have 195 (Connecticut), 196 (Kentucky), and 221 (Oregon). (source) Even if only administrative offices were consolidated, it seems like that would free up a significant amount of money. Do we need that many superintendents?

2. Corporate partnerships. I know there is already some of this taking place, but it seems that there is a lot more that could be done. Oklahoma companies partnering with Oklahoma schools seems like a win for everyone. Companies get the positive reputation (not to mention a better educated workforce), kids get the help they need. Are there problems with the plan? Sure. Is it better than 744? Definitely.

3. Use a regional average that makes sense – and let it move naturally. For all of the 744 supporters who think pegging spending to a regional average is the best way to go, let’s at least use one that makes sense. What if we tied spending to the regional average of percent of total budget spent on common education? This allows OK to compare to a regional average while staying within the reasonable bounds of our specific economy. I still don’t like this option because it may still lead to difficult choices about cuts in other areas, but it seems better than the per pupil spending average. Whatever measure is used, it has to be allowed to decrease if the regional average goes down.

4. Fire your congressperson. One of the big issues for the yes on 744 folk is taking funding out of the hands of politicians. What about taking politicians out of the position to make choices about funding? If education is the most important thing to you, then stop electing people based on what church they attend or how much they hate homosexuality or how strongly they oppose the Taco Bell menu being printed in Spanish. Elect people who are committed to funding education. And if they don’t do it – fire them too.
4a. Cut legislative pay. It is beyond offensive that we pay legislators more ($38,400) than we pay teachers with 14 years of experience ($37,650). It won’t generate a ton of money, but it’s the right thing to do.

Some ideas on improving the state of education in Oklahoma humbly offered by someone on the outside looking in.

1. Create incentives. Good teachers should be paid more. Great teachers even more. Find a way to reward teachers, schools, and districts that are doing a great job so that we can a) keep those teachers in the state (and in education) and b) encourage creativity and excellence in the classroom. If implemented, standards need to be based on reasonable criteria (beyond test scores) and pegged to previous performance as a baseline. Reward progress, not maintenance.

2. Create an emergency fund. There are schools and districts in the state that could greatly benefit from an one-time infusion of money. The state needs to develop and maintain a fund that can address those needs as they occur without having to up the budget for every school in the state.

3. Bring the parents in. This may be the biggest key. Again, I know there are a lot of schools doing great things to keep parents involved and partnering with the school (my kids are fortunate enough to go to two of them), but could more be done? What if schools held tutoring sessions where parents and kids came together to learn? What if parents were held responsible for their kids’ test scores and/or grades? What if parents and teachers operated as partners in the education of our kids? It would involve a change of mindset – particularly on the part of parents – to make some of these things happen. The laissez faire (or adversarial) attitude about schools and teachers would have to change. Schedules would have to change to make room for school opportunities. If we really believe that the education of our kids is of the utmost importance, even to the point of being willing to back a really bad proposal like 744, we’ be willing to make those changes. Right?

Education in OK is broken. Something needs to be done so that our kids can have the best possible education. But 744 is not the right way to go. I’ll be voting no on Nov. 2 – what about you?

Read previous thoughts on the problems with 744: Part 1 – the conceptPart 2 – paying for itPart 3 – unintended consequences.

Advertisements
Categories: 744, education, Oklahoma, politics
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: