The Oklahoman blames Democrats for impending teachers strike…
1:33 PM EDT on March 16, 2018
If you were going to blame one group for Oklahoma teachers not receiving a pay raise in over a decade, the best and most obvious choice would be the Oklahoma Republican Party.
Since 2012, the Oklahoma GOP has controlled the executive branch with Mary Fallin, and held a supermajority in both the Oklahoma House and Senate. They currently hold 73% of all seats in the Oklahoma House, 84% of the seats in the Senate and 92% of bullets! Basically, they can do just about whatever they want, and for the most part, they have.
During this near-decade long reign of unprecedented power and authority, a Republican-led Oklahoma government has not once given any sort of pay raise to teachers, support staff, or other school personnel. Instead, they've repeatedly cut education and health care funding, set gross production taxes at their current record-lows, and slashed income taxes for some of the wealthiest Oklahomans. As a result of these policies, Oklahoma has experienced multiple budget crises, revenue failures, and dropped to 50th in the country in teacher pay.
Knowing those basic, fundamental facts, The Oklahoman Editorial Board – a group of white conservatives who blindly support the Oklahoma GOP at all-costs – naturally blamed Democrats for the impending teacher walkout in an editorial on Tuesday:
Check out this spinsanity:
If Oklahoma teachers walk, House Dems deserve blame
As the Oklahoma Education Association issued its demand for a $6,000 pay raise for teachers this year, and $10,000 over three years, House Democrats let it be known they were fully behind them.
“For longer than any of our current members have been in the House, Democratic Caucus members have stood side-by-side with teachers and have fought to protect funding for our most valuable resource — public education,” declared Rep. Steve Kouplen of Beggs, who leads the caucus.
Yet this support wasn't so evident just five months ago, when a plan to provide teachers with $3,000 raises failed in the House. The bill, which also would have given state employees a $1,000 raise, was backed by 54 Republicans but didn't receive a single “yes” vote from House Democrats.
The reason, ostensibly, was because the bill didn't include an increase in the gross production tax paid by oil and gas companies. When a new bill was presented soon after, increasing that tax from 2 percent to 4 percent, about four-fifths of the 28-member Democratic caucus voted in favor but some Republicans who had voted for the first bill switched course, and the measure failed.
Okay, just to confirm. Approximately 22 or so House Democrats voted to approve a $3,000 teacher pay raise when House leadership agreed to raised a still-too-low GPT to 4%. As a result, the anti-everything Republicans who suck the teat of Oil Overlords pulled their support and the bill didn't pass... and it's Democrats who deserve the blame? That makes perfect, rational sense, especially if you live in parallel universe where up is down, left is right, and The Oklahoman is a thriving, growing newspaper.
House Democrats like to point to that second vote as a way to criticize Republicans and say, “We were willing to do our part.” And it was certainly true that some Republican members peeled off on that vote. But then in February, when the Step Up Oklahoma plan was presented that would have provided teachers with $5,000 across-the-board raises, Democrats bailed again.
The original Step Up plan sought to raise $790 million through a variety of tax increases, including on gross production of oil and gas, and on tobacco — two things House Democrats had long sought. Concerns about some aspects of the proposal resulted in their removal, making the price tag $581 million.
Yes. Even though a good chunk of sellout Dems voted for Step Up Oklahoma, it's the Democrats fault the package failed. Unlike the Republicans who voted against the plan, Democrats should have rejected their core principles and blindly supported a bad proposal that would have funded teacher pay raises on the backs of lower-income and middle-class Oklahomans, all while protecting the pocketbooks of wealthier Oklahomans, out-of-state corporate shareholders and oil overlords.
On Feb. 12, the day of the vote on Step Up, teachers and students flooded the Capitol urging the bill's passage. When it came time to vote, 53 of the 72 members of the Republican caucus supported Step Up. That's one vote short of 75 percent of a caucus that philosophically opposes higher taxes.
Yet only 10 of the 28 House Democrats (36 percent) did the same. Why? Because among other things, they said, the plan was too hard on lower-income Oklahomans and didn't hit the energy industry and the “wealthy” hard enough. Democrats claimed they wanted the gross production tax increased to 5 percent (it was 4 in the Step Up proposal), and the top income tax rate bumped to 5.25 percent from the current 5 percent. But the reality is their opposition was driven by pure party politics in an election year.
Jesus Christ. This paper is grasping at more straws than an Oklahoma lawmaker trying to explain why he was in a motel room smoking weed with a 17-year-old prostitute.
Step Up Oklahoma is the pure definition of election year party politics. The GOP, Oil Overlords and the Oklahoma political establishment could see the natives are sick and tired of the teacher pay and education funding issues and going to take it out on Republicans at the polls, so they threw together a gimmicky plan to try to placate teachers and save a little face. So far, that attempt has failed.
Also, do you like how the paper is using meaningless percentages and complicated numerical syntax in an attempt to make Democrats look bad? Here are the simple numbers the paper is doing it's best to hide – 21 Republicans and 18 Democrats didn't vote for Step Up Oklahoma. I'm not good at Craig Humphreys' new math, but I believe that means three more Republicans voted against Step Up than Democrats, but you know, it's still the Democrats fault.
And so, teacher pay raises — sizable, meaningful pay raises, something Democrats have railed about for years — went by the board. We're left with the OEA demanding the Legislature come up with $1.4 billion total by April 2, or face a walkout. “Schools will stay closed until we get what we are asking for,” OEA President Alicia Priest said.
That could be a while. And if that happens, Democrats will surely howl about Republican mismanagement, but House Democrats will deserve most of the blame. The OEA, its members and the general public should remember that.
The Oklahoman Editorial Board is right about one thing. Unless Oklahoma Republicans finally show the courage to break up with the oil overlords and admit their anti-tax, anti-government ideology is flawed and unrealistic, schools could be closed for "a while." And despite The Oklahoman's desperate attempts to make people think otherwise, Oklahoma voters are going to know who's at fault.