Does a new poll commissioned by Oklahoma’s largest teachers union show that Oklahomans want their taxes raised? From the press release, op-ed, and media coverage, you might think so. Except that the poll itself says just about the opposite.
While Oklahomans are concerned about education and about education funding, the OEA’s own poll shows respondents pouncing on “accountability” as the most important value when “thinking about the issue of public education here in Oklahoma.” Second was “personal responsibility.” Coming in last? “Investment.”
This is unsurprising given the financial scandals and other accusations in the news over the past few years.
- School superintendent gets bonuses, full retirement, and then a payout when he resigns amid a police investigation for failing to report multiple student sexual assaults at his home.
- School treasurer and clerk together steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from a rural school district.
- District facing serious lawsuits for protecting a sexual predator.
- After years of fraud, a school superintendent and treasurer get busted stealing district funds.
- School district pays out-of-state firm linked to fraud charges nearly $70,000 to conduct superintendent search (then fires superintendent after less than two years—see next item).
- Top-paid school superintendent rarely comes to work, lives out of state, flies around the country, finally gets fired—with a big payout.
- When nepotism is not enough ... school superintendent and husband/employee caught casually using school resources for personal and political purchases.
- School districts pass audits with flying colors—despite years of serious fraud.
Every dollar stolen here was “education funding.” And there are many more mundane stories of school districts wasting resources by grandstanding against Trump Administration policies, building a million-dollar press box, and renaming schools against the will of school staff and families. Oklahoma taxpayers might also be nervous when they hear about districts avoiding open government laws.
Every scandal or instance of waste is a reminder that simply planting a flag that says “education” in a pile of money tells us nothing about whether that money is actually used to help kids learn.
The OEA poll suggests Oklahoma voters know this. The poll shows voters want Oklahoma teachers to be paid better, and would be willing to raise certain taxes if the money actually goes to teachers and other real education priorities. The poll also reveals that most voters don’t believe their own taxes should go up.
A final curious point about the marketing of the OEA poll is how it has been used to attack the legislature as an institution. It is true, and this poll among many other shows, that the Oklahoma legislature is remarkably unpopular. Left out of the stories is that the Governor is, by some measures at least, even less popular than the legislature (spelling mistake in the original document).
Who is popular in Oklahoma? The executive branch official who recently signed a major tax cut....