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The Guardian publishes brutal profile on “the failing state” of Oklahoma

11:02 AM EDT on August 29, 2017

It's another fine day to be an Oklahoman!

Fresh off the heels of The New York Times' flattering front page coverage of our state's syphilis outbreak, and this US News and World Report story about how our state's largest industry has failed our kids, The Guardian swooped in this morning with a brutally honest piece that documents Oklahoma's status as a broken, failing, dystopian hell hole.

Check it out:

Oklahoma isn't working. Can anyone fix this failing American state?

A teacher panhandles on a roadside to buy supplies for her third-grade classroom. Entire school districts resort to four-day school weeks. Nearly one in four children struggle with hunger.

A city overpass crumbles and swarms of earthquakes shake the region – the underground disposal of oil and gas industry wastes have caused the tremors. Wildfires burn out of control: cuts to state forestry services mean that out-of-state firefighting crews must be called in.

A paralyzed and mentally ill veteran is left on the floor of a county jail. Guards watch for days until the prisoner dies. A death row inmate violently convulses on the gurney as prison officials experiment with an untested cocktail for execution.

Do these snapshots of Oklahoma show a failing state?

I'll answer that for Chris. Yes, these snapshots do show a failing state. Unfortunately, they're just snapshots. There's a whole photo album of other problems that make us look even worse. Naturally, The Guardian makes sure to bring most of them up:

Added up, the facts evoke a social breakdown across the board. Not only does Oklahoma lead the country in cuts to education, it’s also number one in rates of female incarceration, places second in male incarceration, and also leads in school expulsion rates. One in twelve Oklahomans have a felony conviction.

Rosa Brooks of Georgetown University Law Center wrote in an essay that states begin to fail when the contract between citizens and public institutions breaks down. States “lose control over the means of violence, and cannot create peace or stability for their populations or control their territories. They cannot ensure economic growth or any reasonable distribution of social goods.”

It may be hard to believe, but entry-level employees with a high school diploma at the popular convenience store QuikTrip make more than teachers in Oklahoma.

Hard to believe? Has this writer ever been to a QuikTrip? It takes a smart, intelligent, well-paid person to make sure these bastions of comfort and convenience are clean and well it, and that the Blueberry Pigs in a Blanket are hot and yummy. Also, it's not just QuikTrip employees who earn more than teachers. Bounty hunters, megachurch pastors and even webcam models pull better salaries. Leave QuikTrip out of this and I'll leave this out of your mom. They're an Oklahoma success story.

Back to the article:

For four years running, the state has led the nation in tax cuts to education, outpacing second-place Alabama by double digits. Years of tax cuts and budget shortfalls mean that Oklahoma has fallen to 49th in teacher pay. Spending per pupil has dropped by 26.9% since 2008.

Things have become so bad that the Cherokee nation, a tribe systematically cheated out of its land allotments in the creation of the modern state of Oklahoma, recently donated $5m to the state’s education fund.

I'm not disagreeing with any of the stuff mentioned above. It's the plain and simple truth, but isn't this whole piece starting to feel like one unnecessary giant kick to the nuts? We get it. We suck, but do you really have to beat us while we're down? The answer is "yes." Cue the teacher testimonials:

Lisa Newman, a high school teacher from El Reno, for instance, recounts a history of cutbacks, increases in class sizes, and her stagnant salary. She takes in less than $1,000 a month after all her bills are paid.

Newman, who recently moved back into her parents’ house at age 39, contemplates a declining standard of living while she raises two boys and works about 50 hours a week.

Shelby Eagan, Mitchell elementary school’s 2016 teacher of the year, decided she’d had enough after a referendum to raise teacher pay through an increase in state sales tax was defeated in last November’s election.

“I would like to have kids some day,” she says. But that’s unlikely for now: her rent has gone up. She also buys her own supplies for her classroom.

Eagan is originally from Kansas City but she loves Oklahoma. She found her calling teaching in an urban elementary school. She teaches the children “how to tie their shoes, blow their nose, have superhero fights that don’t turn violent”, among other things. All of her students are on free or reduced-fee lunch programs.

After the referendum defeat of SQ 779, Eagan decided to look elsewhere for a better gig. Eagan found a job in the area that would increase her salary by $10,000 right off the bat.

I'll be the first to agree that what Oklahoma pays teachers is insulting, and that education funding in general is at red alert levels, but let's not blame it on the defeat of SQ 779. I'm a liberal whacko and even I voted against that thing. It was a bad fix to a bad problem. It was pushed and promoted by a Board Member for Continental Resources, protected the profits of the energy industry, and raised taxes on the people it was supposed to help.

That's not the only issue I have with the piece. Check out this garbage:

Of course, many would not recognize their state in this description. One of the most respected bloggers in Tulsa, Michael Bates, said the whole idea of Oklahoma as a failing state was “hysterical and overwrought”.

Wait a minute. Respected blogger? HAHAHA. That's an oxymoron, because bloggers around here don't get any respect. Well, unless they live an entitled life on a multi-million dollar ranch making buttery casseroles and pan-fried whatever for mercantiled moms on television.

But seriously, they really went with Michael Bates for the Oklahoma blogger hot take? I didn't even know that hermit was still around! Last I heard, he moved out to an old abandoned amusement park in Bartlesville to wait for the Scooby Doo gang. The Guardian should have sought the opinion of a more credible and widely read obscure local social blogger for this story. I think we can all agree their failure to do so was a major oversight, and damages the credibility of the entire piece... right?

Anyway, I guess you can read the rest of the piece here. They also touch on the prison crisis, dishonest local law enforcement, the political pandering to oil companies, etc. Basically, it's a long, sad and very depressing read that will make you want to open Zillow to look a for a new home in a different state. But it's not all bad! The writer did forget to mention the syphilis outbreak, so we go that going for us, which is nice.

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