Fat Cat Oklahoma School Districts Are Sitting On $1.9-Billion In Cash!
9:11 AM EDT on August 9, 2016
Earlier today, Marisa told you how the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs – the local field office for ALEC and current home to our state's much-maligned 10 Commandments Monument – denies that a gender pay gap exists, and suggests that women, despite popular belief, should be able to think and ask questions for themselves.
Well, I guess coming up with misleading cartoons and inadvertently condescending articles that attempt to convince women they should be okay with not making as much as men isn’t OCPA's only cup of tea. Now they’re going after those Oklahoma school districts that hoard millions upon millions of dollars...
A local policy institute is questioning the management and priorities of schools across the state, after examining financial data.
The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs published an article Friday afternoon titled 'Why are school districts sitting on so much cash?'
Before we continue, I should probably inform you that the guy who published the article for OCPA is Koch brothers shill Steve Anderson. From 2011 to 2013, he served as a key advisor and state budget director for Kansas governor Sam Brownback, which looks about as good on a resume as being Mary Fallin's Botox Clinician.
Under Brownback and Anderson's regime, the state slashed income taxes for the rich in an attempt to spur economic growth. Sound familiar? As you probably know, the plan backfired. Kansas faced a revenue shortage, made drastic budget cuts to education and transportation, and eventually landed in a recession. Once again, sound familiar?
Anyway, I'm just pointing out that important tidbit of information about the author because KFOR doesn't mention it in their story. Back to the report:
“We didn't think there would be almost $1.9 billion of revenue,” said OCPA President Jonathan Small. “I do think, when you look at the way our funding is spent in K-12 education in Oklahoma, that it's clear that the priority is not first the most important person, which is the teacher in the classroom.”
The OCPA found schools reported about 23 percent more in revenue than they did in expenditures, with many districts reporting six-figure bank accounts.
Oklahoma City Public Schools and Edmond Public Schools top the list with balances of more than $100 million.
“Are the dollars going to the right place?” Small asked in an interview with NewsChannel 4. “I think, when you see how much is being set aside for building and equipment as opposed to dire needs that teachers have, I think it's a very fair question.”
Ha ha ha! Who cares that numbers can easily be manipulated and twisted to prove any point! You're busted you rich, conniving teachers and educators! I knew all that talk about slashed budgets, layoffs and shortened school weeks were nothing but phoney baloney! The ruse is up! Put down the wagyu steaks, truffle caviar creme and Dom Perignon! Instead of finding ways to increase education funding, we should cut more of it! Let's put those billions of dollars to work. As Mr. Video Vigilante says, "You're busted!"
That being said, KFOR was able to locate a couple of educators and administrators to get their logical, matter-of-fact thoughts on the subject. Here's how they responded:
Educators though don’t see it the same way and call the article “disheartening.”
“It's not fair to say to teachers or the public that schools are sitting on cash,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “It's false to say they have the money available to do the things that they should, because they would if they could.”
Putnam City Spokesman Steve Lindley showed NewsChannel 4 the district’s finances and the “$83 million surplus” the OCPA reported.
About $14 million (which has since shrunk to about $10 million) is available for use in the general fund, he said, though much of it is being saved to pay bills that will be due before property taxes are collected at the end of the year.
Other money is saved in reserves to deal with emergency situations.
“In the financial situation we're in now, we don't know what's coming or when it's coming,” Lindley said. “We manage our resources very carefully and make the best use of them that we can. And, why would we do anything else?”
Another $11 million was raised with a specific purpose like MAPS or child nutrition or by a specific group like an activity fund or a gift.
That money can not be used for general operations.
And, the lions share of the Putnam City “surplus,” $57 million, are dedicated to paying off voter-approved bond issues.
Lindley said it’s money allocated, even if all the details haven’t been worked out.
He equates it to living on a budget.
“A certain amount of your salary is obligated toward food,” for example, he said. “You don't know which grocery store you're going to, you don't know which restaurant you're going to eat at, but you know you need food."
“Those funds are for those projects,” Lindley said of money allocated for bond issues. “They're not for other things. By law, you can't send them on salaries. And, in fact, we need to spend them on the things we said we need to spend them on.”
Oh, so there's actually a logical explanation as to why our schools have money in the bank while in the midst of a drastic funding crisis? Knowing that, what's the point of the OCPA article other than twisting and packaging data in an effort to make government look more inefficient and wasteful than it actually is?
The OCPA would like to see lawmakers remove restrictions on schools, allowing them to direct money where it’s needed most.
Small questions the emphasis placed on taxpayer-funded projects in the first place, citing state-of-the-art athletic facilities as an example.
“A lot of our money ends up going more toward bonds and buildings than it does toward teacher salaries,” he said. “Often, school districts are going to voters asking for increased property tax levies for the purpose of bonding instead of for the purpose of teacher salaries.”
That makes sense. Unlike other states that have good schools and well paid teachers, we can't have both in Oklahoma. It's either one or the other. Also, guvment is bad! Lower taxes! Close public schools! Cut teacher pay!
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