Back in June of 2014, we let everyone know about the husband and wife team of Ray and Jennifer Carter.
If you remember correctly, Ray Carter is the “Opinion Editorial Writer” for The Oklahoman. As a former PR flack, his job is to write the editorials for the mysterious “Oklahoman Editorial Board.” I assume this included the paper’s assertive, resounding, face-palming endorsement of former State School Superintendent Janet Barresi, otherwise known as the King Joffrey of Oklahoma politicians.
Not surprisingly, Ray Carter’s wife, Jennifer, was one of Janet Barresi’s leading cronies and cheerleaders. As Barresi’s chief of staff, she helped the embattled Superintendent try to implement Mary Fallin-endorsed “tough love” policies such as making it more difficult for high school students to graduate, flunking as many fourth graders as possible, and requiring kindergartens who don’t comprehend “Criss-Cross Applesauce” to work in child labor camps. Jennifer now works for the American Federation for Children, where she presumable recruits kids for Janet Barresi’s dental experiments.
Anyway, I bring this up because for several of reasons.
1. The Oklahoman never acknowledged the connection between the two. You would think a reader may want to know that the editorial writer’s wife works for the person the editorial writer is endorsing. Of course, maybe the paper just assumed people knew this. The only way anyone would endorse Janet Barresi was if their wife’s job and income depended on it, right?
2. It’s always fun to expose the conflicts of interest at a paper which tries to brand itself as “The State’s Most Trusted News.”
3. It appears Ray Carter is still doing the dirty work for Janet Barresi.
Earlier this week, The Oklahoman published an editorial imploring Oklahoma’s underpaid teachers to “lower the volume,” and be a little more kind and understanding when it comes griping about their ridiculously low wages. It was so ridiculous you would have thought it was ghostwritten by Janet Barresi.
Check it out:
Lowering the volume may help in Oklahoma teacher pay debate
A survey of school districts conducted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association showed there are about 1,000 teacher vacancies — roughly 2 percent of all teaching positions — even after 600 teaching jobs were eliminated following the 2014-15 school year. This prompted OSSBA Director Shawn Hime to ask, “Are we really OK with 5- and 6-year-olds who will go without a teacher trained to develop young readers? Are we really OK with eliminating high-level science classes because we refuse to pay teachers a competitive wage?”
Refuse to pay. That’s a shot at the Legislature, which is the favorite target of education. Large rallies have been held the past two years to decry common education being “starved” by lawmakers, even though common ed always has and always will get a giant share of the state budget. This year lawmakers held common ed’s budget flat while most agencies were cut.
Take that, you greedy fucking teachers! Education gets more funding than anyone, so just go ahead and be thankful that you get what you get. How dare you have the nerve to criticize a legislature that hasn’t given teachers any sort of raise since 2008! If you’re not careful, we’re going to take away the money you do have and spend it on new prisons.
State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has pushed for across-the-board pay raises for teachers, who haven’t had such a raise since 2008. She and others have noted that Oklahoma teachers’ average salary (about $44,500) ranks near the bottom nationally. On Thursday, the state Board of Education approved 503 requests for emergency teaching certificates in August. The state is “shortchanging our schoolchildren each day we fail to take bold action,” Hofmeister said last week.
These salvos drew strong rebuttals by some lawmakers including House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, who noted that the superintendent had a week earlier announced she would use $1.5 million to pay for all high school juniors to take the ACT this school year.
“Last week, paying for the ACT test for all 11th-grade students was a higher priority than our teacher shortage,” Hickman said. He said that $1.5 million, if used for teacher signing bonuses, might have put a sizable dent in the shortage.
Hickman has a point. You can’t give teachers a well-deserved raise and provide free testing. It’s one or the other. If only we lived in a utopian society and there was a way to raise enough money to show both teachers and students that we care about their futures.
The editorial continues:
Tax incentives on production from Oklahoma oil and gas companies will result in $516 million less in state revenues in this fiscal year, the Oklahoma Policy Institute said Tuesday.
The institute, which opposed changes to gross production tax rates approved during last year’s legislative session, said its projections show the state will miss out on $379 million in revenue due to incentives for horizontal drilling in fiscal year 2015. Another $137 million in revenues would have come if not for various deferred rebates and other tax incentives for oil and gas production.
Oops. My bad. That’s a story in The Oklahoman about all the tax subsidies we roll out to energy companies so they can continue to plunder our state’s natural resources and cause earthquakes. Maybe we should ask them to divert some of the money they’re graciously spending to “prevent” earthquakes to pay for teacher bonuses instead. That would be swell.
Back to the editorial:
Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, acknowledged that teachers need competitive wages, but noted a 33 percent growth in nonteaching staff from fiscal year 1993 to FY 2013. He said that “education lobbyists would have everyone believe that the Legislature is the only group responsible for being efficient with state tax dollars when we should all share in that responsibility.”
In a recent op-ed in The Oklahoman, Jennifer Monies, who heads the business-backed Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, suggested considering a pay schedule that provides higher salaries to teachers in hard-to-fill jobs such as those in inner-city districts and in specialized courses in rural areas. She offered it as one possible solution. “But until we are willing to accept there may be alternative solutions,” Monies wrote, “we will continue to struggle to keep our best teachers where we need them most — in our classrooms.”
In other words, flexibility and creativity are needed in this discussion. We would add that it’s important that this be a discussion among stakeholders, instead of a shouting match. The stronger the rhetoric, the less likely something constructive can be accomplished for Oklahoma’s schoolchildren.
Yes teachers, lower your voices! Be flexible and creative. Don’t engage in a shouting match that brings awareness to an issue that matters to you. Be quiet and take it in the ass like everyone else does in the state. Well, unless you’re a legislator or work for an energy company. Then you get to do the giving.