BY World's Editorial Writers
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
8/10/11 at 3:50 AM
State Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, an Oklahoma City suburb, wants to call a summit to cut down on what he calls Oklahoma's "bloated" education system.
He wants Gov. Mary Fallin, state public instruction Superintendent Janet Barresi, higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson and CareerTech Director Phil Berkenbile to meet and, apparently, find more ways to cut an education system that already has suffered millions of dollars in cuts over the past few years.
The fact that Moore believes a system that already has been cut nearly to the bone is "bloated" suggests that his version of an education summit would not be friendly to public education.
Moore is in particular critical of the number of higher education facilities in the state, and enumerates 25 universities and colleges in 55 locations. Last year he sought a legislative interim study on the feasibility of operating that many facilities.
"They have gone from going away to college," he said then. "Now all you have to do is go down the street."
That's an interesting position to take in a state that lags the national average in percentage of population with college degrees by about the same as it trails the national average personal income.
It is unlikely Oklahoma will ever increase its number of college graduates by making higher education less accessible.
Moore also complains about the number of public school districts, 532 statewide. He seems unaware that the number of districts has been cut by several hundred over the years, and though a few more consolidations might be warranted, there is no certainty that many more would save money or improve education.
More than half of the state's $6.5 billion budget goes to common, higher and CareerTech education. Most of that, about $2.3 billion, goes to common education. The largest single expense, by far, is teacher pay. That means that any significant cut to education means reducing the number of teachers in the classroom.
Oklahoma does indeed need to take a thorough look at education. But the focus should be restoring money that has been taken from the system in the past couple of years, not making more cuts.