Rep. George Faught got the 'green light' to present it with just minutes of notice. The amended shell bill (HB2405) was reworked & was published at around 10:30pm on May 22nd; and the Joint Committee on Appropriations & Budget (JCAB) voted on it around 11pm. The Democrats were furious that the Republicans gave no proper notification to members. It was obviously being rushed. The measure failed miserably (5-21). All 7 Democrats on the committee voted 'Nay' as a protest to the miserable lack of transparency.
A couple weeks later I had breakfast with a leading Democrat on that committee. He said he doesn't regret his protest, yet he now wishes he had that vote over again and even desires to cosponsor the basic idea, now. It could serve as a beginning of some refreshing bipartisanship.
2. Means Testing On Higher Ed. Support
The state would have had a budget surplus in each of the last 5 years if we weren't giving 1/7 of our revenues to universities. Historically, we have spent nearly $1 Billion each year on higher education public institutions in our state. Even the cooks and janitors at our state's private colleges are having money taken out of their checks, to give to competing colleges. The poorer citizens still pay a lot of money in sales taxes, which largely goes to college subsidies.
We don't lack for higher ed. opportunities, but the way we're throwing money around is actually harming our poorer families so we can give a 'half price' college experience to thousands of wealthy families.
The federal govt. does a better job of making higher ed. accessible through a 'means-tested' PAL grant program. If the state targeted this support to a sliding scale, based upon family need, we could create a level playing field for all families and encourage fair competition among institutions to compete for our enrollment. We could still make higher ed. accessible, while saving $400 million per year, in the appropriations budget.
TU, ORU, SNU, OKWU, Randall, OBU, and other private higher ed. institutions should be relieved of the punitive treatment that our legislature is imposing on them. It's important that the funds go with the student. This is how we make government accountable to, and responsive to our ever-changing culture and innovative improvements.
3. Adjust Common Ed. Class Sizes
One of the worst outcomes of the massive 1991 overhaul of our common education policy (HB1017) is the mandate that schools hire a huge army of teachers and keep classes small. This mandate leads to teacher shortages, less money for teacher salaries, and no real difference in test scores.
My baby-boomer generation commonly had 30 kids in each classroom for core subjects. Today Oklahoma's public schools have about 16 students, on average. I studied the San Diego public schools and found that they have at least 21 per class. They are able to pay their teachers $10,000 more while spending less per student on teacher pay. San Diego spends $2500 per student on teacher pay. Oklahoma averages $2700 per student.
Rep. Todd Russ has already written a bill which rewards good teachers for having more students in the room. This would make Oklahoma the envy of the heartland and attract great educators. Yes, we would need 23% less teaching faculty. That's where our state would save over $100 million, while giving teachers a massive raise in pay.
4. Line Item Mandates
Sometimes our state agencies just don't want to do some things. Sometimes they withhold services just to make a statement and demand more money. Often the legislators have expressed great frustration that their constituents are being denied essential services because agencies just decide not to. Agencies divert those funds to their own pet projects and let the people suffer.
Senators AJ Griffin & Roger Thompson have presented a key legislative reform which needs to be looked at and implimented where sensibly justified.
5. Stop Paying For Train Tickets To Dallas
Our state transportation funds are raided by the passenger railroad dreamers every year. More than $5 million was diverted to subsidize the one AmTrak ride available each morning, to take folks to Dallas, TX. With less than 80k tickets purchased annually, that computes to a state subsidy of $60 per ticket in addition to the $40 that a retail customer pays. American Airlines offers air travel for $59, to Dallas.
The passenger train lobby now wants to expand the crony capital idea to Tulsa. But Greyhound Bus already offers 3 daily options with tickets starting at $15, and getting you there faster than a train can.
Opinion of the Editor
We recently moved our blog. Our archives are still partially stored at our old site.
David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...