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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

65% is No Solution

The American journalist H. L. Mencken once wrote, “For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.” The proposed “65 % solution” for Oklahoma public school funding is an example of Mencken’s dictum.

This mandate states that Oklahoma school districts must spend at least 65% of their budgets solely on “classroom instruction” rather than “administrative expenses.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), school districts nationwide devote 61.5% of their budgets for such purposes. However, it is interesting to look at the list of items the NCES considers administrative expenses. These include school counselors, school nurses, libraries, teacher training, food services, school buses and bus drivers, classroom aides and service aides for special needs children. All these are vital components to a child’s education. All would suffer under the 65% solution.

This proposal is no more than an attempt to sooth voters into thinking that its proponents support more efficient public schools, and that this can be achieved without pain or sacrifice. It is a “feel good” scheme that offers no new money for education, no help for Oklahoma’s children. All the “65 per cent solution” does is force yet another mandate on our public schools.

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