In between servings of black-eyed peas and football games featuring far-away teams, the tradition of New Year’s Day is to consider resolutions — plans for self-improvement and weight loss in the coming 12 months that are often as forgotten as the words to “Aulde Lang Syne” by the time everyone heads back to work.
We have a resolution to suggest to members of the Oklahoma Legislature: Let’s make 2020 the year we fund public schools adequately.
In one sense, it isn’t a novel idea. Education advocates have been pleading for it for as long as memory allows. In another sense, it’s as fresh as a spring day, because, campaign rhetoric aside, we’ve never actually tried it, or at least not for long enough to make a difference.
Instead, lawmakers have been lured away by the siren’s call of tax-cutting or other poisonous novelties, such as vouchers and school report cards — a combination designed to make it sound as if the state is doing something good for schools, when in fact it is undercutting them further.
If there is a panacea for society’s ills, it is public education. If you want less poverty, educate people out of their need. If you want political civility, educate people out of their incivility. If you want economic growth, educate people into a higher tax bracket. Other than better roads and the state of the weather, all paths lead to the school door.
Yet when tax returns sag, the first place we look to cut are the schools. And when times are good, we only serve them half portions, usually accompanied with scornful looks for the perceived lack of “accountability,” as if no one knows where the real problem lies, who really is failing the accountability test.
On New Year’s Day, the promises we make to ourselves are often ephemeral. We’ve all read the internet joke: I resolved to lose 10 pounds this year. Only 15 to go.
So, too, are the pledges of politicians. Still, this is one resolution we’d like to see last until May.