Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said today that the leadership of the Oklahoma Education Association is woefully out of touch and again denounced the organization’s lawsuit seeking an additional $1 billion in funding for public schools.
The Senate leader’s comments followed an opinion article by OEA President Roy Bishop in the Daily Oklahoman, in which the top teachers’ union official intimated that schools should not have to explain how state tax dollars are spent.
“In my first nine years in the Legislature the appropriation for schools in Oklahoma has increased by 75 percent. Common education receives more than one out of every three tax dollars collected by the state.
We can and should do more, but the OEA lawsuit is counter productive,” Morgan said.
The teachers union is asking for a blank check at a time when Oklahoma taxpayers are demanding more accountability, the Senate leader explained.
“What exactly does Mr. Bishop mean when he says school leaders are ‘always asked about how much it costs to run our schools’ and that their answer is ‘never appreciated or accepted?’” Morgan asked.
“It sounds to me like the teachers’ union is offended by having to be accountable to the Legislature and the taxpayers of Oklahoma for the money they spend.”
Last year, the Legislature enacted strict accountability reforms with the passage of Governor Henry’s ACE initiative, the Senate leader said.
“The statewide teachers union has reacted, not by accepting the responsibility for providing the academic results Oklahomans expect, but by filing a lawsuit,” Morgan said
Morgan said that the day before OEA filed its ill-conceived lawsuit, Senate Democrats announced a plan to increase public school funding by another $200 million in the next fiscal year – a plan which puts a premium on personal responsibility and accountability.
He said the public schools funding plan proposed by Senate Democrats provides a more responsible blueprint for increasing state spending on education.
A better way to improve education in Oklahoma is to encourage educators to take personal responsibility for better equipping themselves to lead Oklahoma’s classrooms, Morgan said.
“I believe Oklahomans want more accountability and personal responsibility from the people who are charged with educating our children. We need to spend more money on education in Oklahoma, but the taxpayers deserve to see some results – a measurable return on their investment,” Morgan said.
The Stillwater Democrat explained that a national survey recently ranked Oklahoma’s teachers as the seventh best in the country. One of the key reasons credited for the lofty ranking of Oklahoma’s teachers was the high number of teachers in the state who have earned National Board Certification.
Two years ago, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a measure that will raise Oklahoma’s teachers’ salaries to the regional average over five years. The Senate Democrats plan will help the state reach that goal faster with a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers next year.
Morgan explained, however, that the real opportunity for increasing teacher pay in Oklahoma can be found the Quality Instruction Pay component of the Senate Democrats’ funding plan.
“Our plan will raise the pay of every teacher in the state and offers an incentive for teachers who are willing to earn their master’s degree and complete the rigorous process to become National Board certified. Every teacher in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to increase their salary by $10,000 a year by taking personal responsibility for making themselves a better educator,” Morgan said.
“That’s how our state should go about increasing the quality of education, not by holding Oklahoma students hostage for a billion dollars.”