BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, February 04, 2013
2/04/13 at 8:14 AM
State House Republicans revealed their agenda for the 2013 session on Thursday. Prominent among their goals is a "commitment to quality education."
Of course the agenda also includes another cut in the state personal income tax rate, to 5 percent from the current 5.25 percent.
How does that work, exactly?
A big problem with public education in Oklahoma is that state funding, inadequate to begin with, has been cut by 20 percent since 2008. That's due in part to the economic recession and in part to years of reckless cuts to the income tax, which provides about a third of the state's revenue. Oklahoma is pulling out of the recession and sales and energy taxes are up a bit but the recovery hasn't yet been reflected in increased funding for education.
Funding to local districts through the state school aid formula mostly goes to pay teachers. So when funds are cut, local schools have to make do with fewer teachers. That means course offerings shrink and class sizes grow.
The education picture was further clouded when Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, announced that the "political will" doesn't exist to pass a state bond issue to repair the Capitol building and make other crying infrastructure needs. Shannon, of course, is the leader to whom the rank and file turn to find their political will.
Shannon said the Capitol fix and other needs would be on a pay-as-you-go basis. That's another way of saying that operating revenues that might otherwise go to education will go instead to capital investment needs.
House leaders are committed to quality education; they're just not committed to paying for it.