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Thursday, August 17th, 2017Last Update: Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 01:57:38 PM

Solving School Funding and Overcrowding Problems

By: Charlie Meadows

Solving School Funding and Overcrowding Problems

It appears legislation during this year’s session to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) was the trigger that set in motion a huge effort to put more educators in the state legislature.

Could the educators be responsible for funding and overcrowding problems in the government schools? The short answer is YES, they are PARTLY to blame. In my opinion, it really is time for the people of Oklahoma to understand far more about our education problems than they will ever learn by watching a Toby Kieth commercial or listening to David Boren, Sean Hime of the State School Boards Association, or the many other apologists for the government schools.

Unrest has been brewing in recent years, caused by the teachers not receiving an across the board increase in the minimum amounts that teachers must be paid. In recent years we have seen thousands of teachers abandon their classrooms to “rally” at the Capitol, demanding more money for education. We are also fed a steady diet in the local media of the “dire funding problems” in education.

It appears legislation during this year’s session to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) was the trigger that set in motion a huge effort to put more educators in the state legislature. It has been estimated that up to 80 candidates are a part of a loosely organized group of education candidates running for office. Following the primary elections, there are about 50 of these candidates left in the process for the November 8th election, most of the other 30 have already been defeated.

In an attempt to get the legislation passed, House author Jason Nelson, (R-Oklahoma City) altered his ESA bill numerous times to try and solve the education industry’s opposition to the legislation. The final version of the bill would have done three things. First it would have increased per-pupil funding, second, it would have reduced overcrowding, and third, it would have empowered parents who believe their children could receive a better education in a private school to do so with some education funding help.

Here is how the legislation would have worked. Let’s say parents (A) pretty much live on the edge of poverty, but believe their child would do better in a private school. That is if they could just somehow afford the tuition. Let us say that the state aid going to their local government school to educate their child was $7,000 per year. Under the ESA plan, if they “removed” the child from their local school they would have 80% of the state aid ($5,600) available for tuition to a private school. Private school tuition ranges from about $3,500 per year on the low end to $15,000 per year on the high end.

However, the government school would still receive 20% ($1,400) of the funding for the child that was no longer in the school. With the child no longer in the school, that would cut down on overcrowding, and the $1,400 could be spread around for the benefit of the other children still in the school. That would increase the per pupil funding. Then of course, parents (A) would now be able to afford a better education for their child. This would be a win, win, win situation, but guess who opposed the measure? None other than the educators and their many lackeys that currently hold office at the legislature.

Now, if we were to consider parents (B) at the upper end of the income scale, the situation would be the same, with the only difference being in the numbers. Parents (B) would only receive 50% ($3,500) of the state aid and the school would have received the other $3,500. Again, it was the educators that opposed this legislation which is why I say they are partly to blame for overcrowding. They also need to put their big boy and girl panties on and own up to the fact that their opposition meant rejecting higher per pupil funding for the remaining children in their local government school.

Ultimately, there are many problems in our government schools that lead to an inferior education for our children. I have contended for a long time now, that the number one problem in education is a “monopoly” on school funding. Charter schools are a little improvement on that problem, but until we can pry away the death grip the educators have on their funding monopoly, I don’t care how much more money you pour into education, it will not improve. To eliminate the government education monopoly, we need fewer educators, spouses of educators, and rabid fans of the government schools in the legislature, not more of them.

Charlie Meadows is the founder and former president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC).

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