Public Education

Pig in a Poke

Pig in a Poke - April 28, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

The English colloquialisms “turn out to be a pig in a poke” or “buy a pig in a poke” mean that something is sold or bought without the buyer knowing its true nature or value. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis.

In the middle ages, con artists would often put a dog or a cat in a bag, commonly called a “poke” and sell it as a suckling pig to an unsuspecting customer. This past week, legislators were placed in a similar situation regarding Senate Bill 441.

As you will recall, SB441 originated in the Senate when legislators who had imposed the nations deepest cuts on Oklahoma’s public schools became embarrassed after the national news carried stories about Oklahoma’s four day school weeks and the lack of emphasis that Oklahoma places on public education.

The Bill added no funding to public schools but was a dictatorially arrogant legislative directive that the nearly 100 financially strapped state school districts that had resourcefully found a way to educate students despite draconian cuts, return to a five day per week calendar.

Then things got messy. Apparently fearing that legislators on the Common Education Committee would not vote in favor of a stand-alone directive for five day school weeks, the Speaker of the House sent the Bill to the Rules Committee, twice. The Rules Committee, fearing that the full house would not vote in favor of the mandate, sweetened the pot by adding a section granting every teacher in the state a $1200 per year raise.

What the Speaker and the Rules Committee forgot was that the drafters of Oklahoma’s Constitution foresaw the danger of passing a bad bill by attaching a good bill to it. In Oklahoma that is referred to as violating the constitutional single subject rule and reminds me of the family whose baby was so ugly that they had to tie a piece of bacon around his neck to get the dog to play with him.

Thus, during an evening session last week Senate Bill 441 came to the house floor. Representatives who didn’t want to vote for the unfunded mandate were enticed to hold their noses and vote for a teacher pay raise. Likewise, legislators who did not want to take away from local school boards the ability to tailor class hours, days and school calendars to the best benefit of the local school district were assured by their leadership that rural communities would be forgiving if teacher pay in Oklahoma was increased.

Proponents of Senate Bill 441 also claimed that certain schools might be able to avoid the five day week mandate if they could meet the guidelines of the Oklahoma Department of Education. Frustratingly, the rules and guidelines of the Oklahoma Department of Education have not yet been written. Rural schools across the state were skeptical about the unwritten standards. After all, the future, unknown rules would be written by the same State Department of Education that has been trying to close and consolidate successful and economical rural school districts for years.

As the Bill was debated and examined on the floor, the tension rose. Many legislators expressed concern about their conflicted positions. Finally as the vote was about to be taken, a Motion was made to Divide the Question and to allow the five day school week mandate to be voted on separately from the teacher pay raise. So much for the legislators who had claimed to be conflicted. Scores of legislators voted in the best interest of the Speaker of the House and against the best interest of their local school districts.

When the dust cleared, the Senate Bill passed the house with both subjects intact. The House Amendments have now been returned to the Senate.

Although the President Pro Tem of the Senate has indicated that the House Amendments may violate the Oklahoma Constitution, Oklahoma’s rural school districts are hanging their hats on a hope and a prayer that, if the Governor ultimately signs the SB441, the “pig in a poke” rules drafted on some future date by a hostile State Department of Education will legitimately allow them to justify that until the legislature properly funds public education, four day school weeks are a resourceful, frugal and effective way to educate students in financially strapped districts.

Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.org.

Lipstick on a Pig

Lipstick on a Pig - April 21, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

There are a number of phrases and rhetorical statements that may be used to describe the vanity that exists when one wants to exude an image for which there is simply no underlying basis. A British sitcom of the mid 1990’s named “Keeping Up Appearances” captured that idea. In that show, Hyacinth Bucket (which she insisted be pronounced ‘Bouquet’) was a snobbish lower middle class social climber who was forever attempting to prove her social superiority and gain favor with those whom she considered upper class.

A similar concept is captured by the phrase "Keeping up with the Joneses" and the often unsustainable situation where an individual strives at great length to appear to be as affluent as the proverbial well-to-do neighbor.

As a state, Oklahoma is in the midst of a similar personal crisis.

Over the past nine or ten years, the Oklahoma legislature with full cooperation of the state's governors, hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut from the state's K-12 budget. In fact, prior to last year's teacher pay raise, Oklahoma's K-12 education funding had been cut by more than 28%, representing the deepest cuts of any state in the union.

Coupled with those cuts were a number of policy bills that diverted additional dollars from traditional public schools. Those policy bills set up state wide charter schools, education savings accounts, private and charter school scholarships and other voucher like bills that harmed schools across the state by diluting the scarce amount of funds that were not cut.

The natural consequence was that a number of school boards and administrators across the state took immediate steps to make certain that their students remained well educated even in the wake of drastic budget cuts. One of the more common cost saving responses was to change the format of the school week from five days per week to four days per week. Those schools adapted well and recognized fiscal saving while also taking care that academics were not compromised.

Then came the blowback. National media outlets widely publicized Oklahoma's budget cuts and used the four day school week format as clear evidence that Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature did not value education and were satisfied with relegating our state (and its population) to a less than promising future.

So how would Oklahoma's leaders respond?

The answer became abundantly clear when this year's legislation was filed. Instead of properly funding education so that schools could afford to return to five day school weeks or otherwise improve the quality of education available to our youth, legislation filed this year included additional voucher type legislation and tax credits for private school scholarships.

Those bills and others like them further diluted funding that would otherwise be available for public education. Adding insult to injury, in response to bruised pride related to their neglect of education Senate Bill 441 was filed that mandated that all schools return to five day school week.

Some would say that they were just trying to "Keep Up Appearances" but the situation goes much deeper than that. By mandating that schools return to a five day week without properly funding public education and by continuing to dilute the funds available to public education, the legislature that is overly concerned about appearances could be described as putting Lipstick on a Pig to salve their own feelings of inferiority.

Many schools across Oklahoma are seeing the academic, economic, disciplinary and teacher retention benefits of four day school weeks. This is an area where local control and the wisdom of local administrators, parents and school boards should prevail.

This week, SB441 may be heard and possibly sent to the Governor. Proper public school funding and not a thick layer of lipstick should be the legislature's response.

Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.org.

Where Do the Trains Meet?

Where Do The Trains Meet? - September 2, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

We all remember those pesky Algebra I questions from school: Locomotive A and Locomotive B began traveling towards each other from opposite ends of a 500 mile long track at 1:00 p.m. If Locomotive A traveled at 35 miles per hour and Locomotive B traveled at 25 miles per hour, at what point did the engines meet?

Ranking Oklahoma’s public school educational funding and educational policy involves a similar exercise. According to a report published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, aptly named “A Punishing Decade for School Funding,” Oklahoma was one of 29 states that was providing less funding for public education in 2018 than it was in 2008. Of those 29, eight had cut public education funding by double digits. Only one, Oklahoma, had cut education so deeply that its cuts had exceeded THE NEXT HIGHEST STATE’S CUTS by double digits.

As a result, Oklahoma is a leading state in all the bad education categories: 92.2% of our teachers spend personal funds for school supplies; Top 18 in the amount of money spent by teachers for those supplies; Number one in school districts on four day school weeks…the list goes on and on.

It is true that after a hard fought battle, we were able to win an increase in the teachers salary scale, but that raise did little to replace dog-eared text books, reduce the teacher-student ratio in overcrowded classrooms or stop another 9% increase this fall over last year’s record shattering number of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma’s classrooms.

It has indeed been a “punishing decade for school funding” in Oklahoma. Frustratingly, the cuts to Oklahoma’s public schools and the outcomes of Oklahoma’s public school students tell only half the story. Over that same decade, while Oklahoma’s legislature left Oklahoma teachers and students to “fend for themselves,” they were busy feathering the nests of corporations and other private and charter school proponents.

According to the National Alliance for Charter Schools, Oklahoma legislators were enacting legislation that made Oklahoma a leader in the charter school industry. In fact, in 2015 alone, Oklahoma’s charter school favorability ranking jumped from 36th  to 19th in the country because of an overhaul of state law in such areas as statewide expansion of charter schools even over the objection of locally elected school boards.

Other legislation aiding charter schools included providing generous exemptions from state law on educational standards such as teacher qualifications. The legislation that was most damaging to public schools and state services was the structured tax exemptions and credits that pull literally a Billion dollars a year out of the budget, much of which would otherwise go to the funding of public education.

For instance, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has reviewed what it calls Oklahoma’s supercharged incentives that amount to neo-voucher laws which “fleece the public till.” By offering generous tax subsidies in exchange for donations to private school scholarship programs, Oklahoma uses corporations and wealthy individuals as middlemen. Instead of appropriating funds to charter schools or outright funding voucher programs, Legislators allow potential tax revenue to be diverted into the coffers of charters and private schools in return for a generous tax give-away.

By combining Oklahoma’s lucrative tax credits, incentives and deductions, and also claiming a federal charitable tax deduction, some corporations and wealthy tax payers receive as much as $1.35 for each dollar donated.

Best in worst categories, worst in best categories and all the tax credits diverted to charter schools. Is there any doubt that the train wreck that the state legislature has dealt public education could have been avoided if we had only had five day school weeks, adequate textbooks and an teacher that was certified to teach Algebra I.

Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

One Dip or Two

One Dip or Two - June 17, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

A venture into Haskell Head’s Pharmacy in the early 1960’s was an amazing experience. Not only did the small storefront have that feeling that it had been there since statehood collecting and retaining all sorts of unique merchandise, it was a dimly lit cavern of curiosity. Items hung from the walls and ceiling and spilled off of tables and shelves into narrow aisles that at one time may have been organized.

Each item had a use, everything was for sale and Mr. Head was one of the kindest and most essential men that I had ever met. Doctors whose offices were often on the second floor of a bank building as well as their patients trusted him to serve up, “just what the doctor ordered” whether it be elixirs, syrups, compounded creams or some other concoction.

Aside from the area where pharmaceuticals were dispensed, the brightest area in the building was the soda fountain where cherry phosphates, crème sodas and strawberry shake were on tap. The most frequent delicacy was a simple hand dipped ice cream cone served up after the obligatory question, “one dip or two?” was followed by “one, please.”

Today, in the arena of private school financing, no one stops at one dip.

For years, wealthy Oklahomans have sought to direct public education tax dollars toward their children’s private school tuition. For years, Oklahoma protected public education tax dollars for public schools. Over the past decade however private school patrons have funded campaigns and legislators who are willing to provide a path toward using tax dollars for private school tuition have been elected.

Thanks to a 2011 law called “Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships” launched in 2013, millions of tax dollars are being redirected to fund the private education of children of parents earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In its inaugural year, 38 students participated. This past school year that number rose to 2,209 and the income cap has literally been removed.

The double dipping comes in when an individual or corporation donates money to a non-profit Scholarship Granting Organization or SGO. Not only does the donation allow the donor to claim a charitable contribution, they also receive a tax credit of 50% of the amount of the donation. So while the charitable contribution reduces taxable income, the tax credit reduces the amount of income tax due dollar for dollar.

Oklahoma’s anti-public school legislature has made additional tweaks to the law that further exacerbates the misdirection of education funding. The amount of tax credits that could be claimed increased in 2015. Assuming a taxpayer made a $200,000 donation to an SGO, they would receive a tax credit of $100,000 unless they promised to make the same donation for three consecutive years in which case they would receive a $150,000 tax credit for year one and $100,000 in each of years two and three.

Originally, parents could not earn more than $136,530 per year but legislators carved out an exception that disregarded the income eligibility requirements for students living in a public school district designated as “in need of improvement.” Consequently, private school families could financially benefit even when education funding cuts are the cause of a public school’s problems and private school scholarships undermine public education funding.

Perhaps the most egregious component of the plan harming public education is the provision that, “Once a student has received a scholarship, that student and his or her siblings remain eligible until high school graduation.” So regardless of the future performance of the public school or whether private school parents earn millions of dollars per year, public tax dollar financed scholarships will continue to be channeled into the pockets of private school families.

Mr. Head had no elixir for this problem. It can only be solved with an informed and engaged electorate.

Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.org.

Seeing the Light

Seeing the Light - January 14, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

In the wee hours of a January 1947 morning, Lilly Williams was driving toward Montgomery, Alabama. Her passengers were her son and his band who a few months earlier had been rejected by the Grand Old Opry. As Lily neared the city, she saw the distant lights of Dannelly Field, the local airport.

Lily attempted to wake up the sleeping band members to report that she had “seen the light.” Her son, Hank, stirred from a deep sleep to hear the phrase, “I saw the light.” Within hours Hank Williams had completed the lyrics and less than 90 days later, recorded for MGM Records, “I Saw The Light,” a gospel song for the ages.

Over the past several weeks, I have been one of about eight legislators (two from each party from each house) who were summoned to meet with a group of Oklahoma City business leaders who also are claiming to have “seen the light.” The gist of their presentation was that Oklahoma cannot sustain an educational system or health care without additional recurring revenue sources.

An epiphany is defined as a “sudden or striking realization.” Any group of Oklahomans whose list of recent epiphanies include the realization that public education in every corner of the state needs adequate funding or that the current devastation of rural health care is the direct result of destructive, politically-driven decisions of state leaders, has either been overly focused on their corporate balance sheet or is so blindly committed to partisan dogma that reality takes a back seat to rhetoric in their world.

As I looked around, I saw men who had fought for years to shift money from public education to private schools, to reduce the tax burden on corporations and high wage earners, to suppress wages, stifle equal pay and block working Oklahomans access to healthcare.

So therefore, it was refreshing to hear men in expensive suits and whose cufflinks cost more than my first car say that they were there to help. It was refreshing to hear them propose a plan that incorporated many of the proposals that the House Democrats had repeatedly put forth in our “Restore Oklahoma” plan.

It was refreshing to watch as their “solutions” displayed recognition that Oklahoma’s cuts to oil and gas Gross Production Tax and income tax cuts for high wage earners had devastated Oklahoma’s ability to educate its children and neglected the needs of health care providers and compromised the ability of state agencies like the Department of Health to perform statutory duties directed by law.

There is much common ground upon which we can build. The group proposed changes to the state’s income tax system and offered a comparatively modest increase in the gross production tax rate in an attempt to stave off a citizens’ initiative petition that will, according to most polls, increase the GPT to 7%. Perhaps the most promising aspect of the meetings is that the House Democrats (82% of whom voted for a similar plan in this year’s first special session) and Step Up Oklahoma seem unified in the belief that if we don’t invest in Oklahoma’s teachers, public employees, healthcare, education, roads and corrections, our entire state economy is left in peril.

While the devil is always in the details, the most serious non-fiscal impediments to the plan’s success is the businessmen’s demand for school voucher expansion, rural school consolidation and privatization of Medicaid.    

In short, it is past time that these businessmen “see the light” and we are ready to work with them to build on common ground and form a budget solution that works for all Oklahomans.

It is interesting to note that when his mother woke Hank Williams to tell him that she had “seen the light,” he was inebriated in the back seat. That incident changed Hank and changed both country and gospel music. Wouldn’t it be magnificent if this group’s epiphany actually changed them and changed Oklahoma.

Thanks for allowing me to serve. If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

As Hard to Kill as a Cow Killer Ant

As Hard to Kill as a Cow Killer Ant - March 13, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

My parents taught me at an early age that two wrongs don’t make a right. Neither do three or four or five. I’m not one to believe in black helicopters and conspiracy theories, but the evidence that there is a plan to torch public education has been piling up for several years.

Milwaukee adopted the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), the nation’s first voucher program in 1990, allowing public tax dollars to be used to subsidize secular private schools. Eight years later, the program was expanded to allow those tax dollars to be used in private schools run by churches and synagogues.

So with more than 25 years of data, one would think that voucher proponents would have a plethora of evidence upon which to base stories of success. They haven’t for one very important reason. There has been no improvement in educational outcomes of students and Milwaukee’s voucher program failed to meet the goals that it claimed would benefit the state.

According to a February 2013 research brief prepared by the Public Policy Forum, the 24,941 Milwaukee students attending taxpayer subsidized private schools had much in common with the 79,130 Milwaukee students attending public schools, including student performance. In many cases, the public school students performed better than the whiter, wealthier private school students.

Frustratingly, the voucher programs were not required to report statistics until 2010-11 and little was known about performance. Now that voucher schools are required to report, their students tend to be slightly below the proficiency rates of the students in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

According to a report by Margie Pitroff of Milwaukee Public Radio, vouchers had taken $1.7 Billion from the Milwaukee Public Schools between 1990 and 2014 and continue to do so at a rate exceeding $150 Million per year. All the while, students in the public schools have become increasingly poor, more in need of special education programs and art, music and physical education has been cut and the teacher mentoring program has been scaled back.

So, except for a financial rescue of parochial schools, about the only benefit that Milwaukee’s voucher program can claim is that it has single handedly generated dozens of research grants and kept that many professors and graduate assistants off the soup line.

Despite the inability of charter schools, voucher programs and school choice to improve educational outcomes, groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); The Heartland Institute; The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) continue in their endeavors to direct money and resources away from public schools.

These groups and their predecessors have attempted for years to vilify teachers and public schools. Remember in the mid 1990’s when Governor Keating referred to teachers as “slugs” and “finger painters” and in 2000 when he said “homicide” was the manner in which to handle the state teacher’s union? The governor later apologized for the 2000 remark, but not the name calling.

Through all that, teachers continued to sacrifice for the benefit of children. The more difficult the task, the harder teachers worked. The more voucher proponents attempted to undermine public schools and public school teachers, the more determined teachers were to have their students succeed.

It is no surprise that in 2015 HB 1749 was introduced by an ALEC member to strike at teachers and the protections they had through the professional organizations to which they belonged. That same year, HB 1696 and SB 782 were introduced by ALEC members and supported by OPSRC and others to allow the State Department of Education to place charter schools in any school district statewide, even over the objection of the locally elected school board.

Likewise, this year, the House Speaker and ALEC members introduced HB 3156 and SB 1187 to deregulate public school districts and SB 609 and HB 2949 to allow Vouchers to be used to transfer public tax dollars to private and religious schools.

Those Bills coupled with the attempt by the State Department of Education to adopt new administrative rules to allow the State Board to bypass local school districts and force the consolidation of school districts when a school is financially unable to keep the school open for the entire year are setting public schools up to fail.

Questions and comments are welcome. David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Please Sir, I Want Some More

Please Sir, I Want Some More - February 21, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Oliver, the title character in Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” was born in a workhouse and orphaned at birth. Living in 18th century England that was grappling with an impoverished and disenfranchised population, Oliver was one of hundreds who were “despised by all, and pitied by none.”

At nine years old, Oliver was moved to a workhouse whose governing board was composed of portly but philosophical men who were careful to make certain that, under their watch, paupers never became comfortable.

Consequently, workhouse rations were “three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week and half a roll on Sundays.” The operation was rather expensive at first, due to the increase in funeral expenses and the need to alter the clothing of the paupers as they rapidly lost weight. However, as the paupers got thin and attrition decreased the number of inmates, the board was in ecstasy at its success.

It was against this backdrop that lots were cast and young Oliver was selected to approach the master for additional gruel. When he pleaded, “Please, sir, I want some more,” the master was horrified at his insolence and the board sentenced the troublemaker to instant confinement until such time that they could rid themselves of such an unappreciative urchin.

Oklahoma educators are increasingly finding themselves in an Oliver Twist scenario. Teachers literally live on the cusp of food stamp eligibility and are continually being strung along by promises and pie in the sky plans for better pay.

Frustratingly, those promises were not fulfilled when oil was over $100 per barrel and they surely are not going to happen now that the state Board of Equalization has certified next budget year (FY 2017) appropriations to be $1.1 billion less (-15.9%) than was appropriated for FY 2016. That is especially true since the real numbers will be $1.3 billion less (-19.1%) since last year’s Rainy Day Fund appropriations and Revolving Fund authorizations are not factored into the FY 2016 baseline amount used by the board. That equates to a decrease of $1 next year for every $5 appropriated last year.

On top of that the revenue failure declared in December that resulted in a 3% reduction to agencies beginning in January has been revised as the Board now projects that Oklahoma’s General Revenue collections THIS FISCAL YEAR will be down $549.2 million, or 9.6 percent, below the official estimate upon which the FY 2016 appropriated state budget is based.

That means that on top of January’s 3% reduction, a deepened reduction will be made in March after February’s revenue collections are received.

Guess what? Oil and gas prices are cyclical. Always have been and always will be. The way our state planned for this drop in oil prices is sort of like building a house on top of a railroad track and then cursing the train when it knocks it down.

Writing about Oklahoma’s educational system, Dickens would have observed, “The operation was rather expensive at first, due to the increase in funeral expenses and the vouchers handed out, but as the public school classroom size increased and the number of Oklahoma teachers decreased, the legislature was in ecstasy at its success.

Questions and comments are welcome. David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Fair Market Value and the Cost of a High School Diploma

Fair Market Value and the Cost of a High School Diploma - February 14, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Fair Market Value is defined as an estimate of the market value of an item based upon what an informed, willing and unpressured buyer would likely pay to an informed, willing and unpressured seller in the market. Willing Oklahoma buyers meet willing Oklahoma sellers every day in thousands of different types of transactions, even into the education marketplace.

So what are Oklahomans willing to pay for a K-12 education? On one hand, we all agree that an educated citizenry is essential to the survival of our society, but on the other, it is entirely understandable that the value that we place on a child’s education is directly proportional to how close we are to the student.

It is interesting to note how this factors into the amount spent on a K-12 education in Oklahoma.

According to Governing Magazine and based on Census statistics updated in June 2015, Oklahoma spent $7,672 per pupil in 2013 inflation adjusted dollars to educate K-12 students. Theoretically, the value that Oklahoma was willing to place on a student’s education over a 13 year period is $99,736 (which includes the cost of books and transportation and a high percentage of hot meals) for the student to attain a high school diploma.

The website of Casady, a private school in Oklahoma City, states that its tuition is $18,990 per year for high school students. And based upon all Casady tuition rates, the value that Casady parents place on a Casady education is $215,790 paid over a thirteen year period.

Similarly, according to its website, the tuition paid by parents who send their high school student to Heritage Hall, a private school in Oklahoma City, was $18,400 assigning the value of a Heritage Hall education to be $208,035.

However, an “Educational Support” surcharge would increase Heritage Hall’s tuition by $53,425 to $261,460, over 13 years, if the student had average to above average intelligence but needed tutoring due to a “diagnosed mild or moderate learning difference.”

Neither private schools’ tuition included the cost of books, lunches or transportation.

No one should begrudge any parent’s decision to send their child to a private school or the value that the parent places on a private school education. Some people drive expensive cars and others do not. Some live in expensive homes in upscale neighborhoods and others do not. Those decisions are personal and are absolute entitlements.

The injustice comes when persons who value private schools more highly than public schools seek to pull tax dollars away from public education. Up to Five Million Dollars per year of tax dollars are already being funneled to private schools in the form of tax credits authorized by SB969 in 2011. Vouchers for more than Two and a Half Million of tax dollars have been issued to kids in private schools who are on Individualized Educational Plans.

This session, private school proponents want to pass Voucher, Educational Saving Account and Tax Credit legislation that will divert millions more dollars from public education to private schools. Bills to watch include SB609, SB1280, SB1401, HB2003, HB2949, and HB3067.

Some or all of these Bills may pass, but the public needs to decide what is truly fair when it comes to the value of our children.

Questions and comments are welcome. David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Rural Oklahoma's Blue Light Special

Rural Oklahoma’s Blue Light Special - January 31, 2016
State Representative David Perryman

In the 1960’s corporate chain stores displaced Main Street merchants and altered the way that Americans shopped. They promised lower prices, but sometimes lacked quality merchandise or service.

The “bargain bin” in the basement of a multi-story department store was no longer the place where merchants sent discontinued or obsolete merchandise for quick sale.

The new marketing model involved a loud speaker and “Attention shoppers, we have a Blue Light Special on Aisle 9.”

Today, opponents from every direction are undermining public education, trying to make it fail and treating it as if it needs to be placed in the bargain bin.

“Voucher” and “Education Savings Account” proponents are salivating to divert public education dollars to private and religious schools. Charter school proponents were not satisfied with just raiding public school funds in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Last year they controlled enough legislators to get them to pass Senate Bill 782 by Senator Jolley (R-Edmond) and Representative Denney (R-Cushing) to let corporate charter schools set up anywhere in the state, even over the objection of the local citizens.

Those same groups appear to have enough votes to continue their assault on rural schools.

Senator Treat (R-Oklahoma City) has filed Senate Bill 1324 that will cut funding for Oklahoma’s Pre-K early childhood education programs.

Senator Bingman (R-Sapulpa) has filed Senate Bill 1382 to eliminate all of the state’s dependent or elementary school districts by July 2017.

Senator Ford (R-Bartlesville) has filed Senate Bill 1384 to consolidate all 297 school districts having enrollment of less than 500 students within the next four years and eliminating the right of local citizens to vote on the consolidation.

These are three Bills that Oklahoma does NOT NEED.

Oklahoma’s Early Education programs are just about the only education thing that the legislature has done right in the last 10 years. Oklahoma’s Pre-K enrollment and curriculum are the envy of the nation. Senate Bill 1324 will cripple the state’s ability to get Pre-K children started off on the right foot.

Senate Bills 1382 and 1384 pander to a misconception that Oklahoma’s dependent and independent rural schools are inefficient and wasteful. Those who trumpet rural school consolidation have no research to back up their claim and they are DEAD WRONG.

State Department of Education records show that most smaller schools spend a lot less per pupil than their urban counterparts. For instance, Oklahoma City and Tulsa Public Schools spend nearly identical amounts per pupil educating their students. However, Hobart Public Schools spend $4,913 less per pupil than Tulsa spends and Pioneer School, a small dependent district located in my legislative district spends $4,648 less per pupil than does Tulsa.

Similar savings are evident all across the rural Oklahoma. For instance, the average per pupil expenditure of all school districts that are located wholly or partially in my rural legislative district is $2,467 less per pupil than Tulsa spends and $2,307 less than Oklahoma City spends.

So, there really are Blue Light Specials in Oklahoma’s rural schools and it is not because they are discontinued or obsolete. It is because that despite being undermined and underfunded, they are delivering a real bargain to Oklahoma. Rural schools provide quality education and turn out quality graduates. The next time someone tells you that consolidation is the answer, remind them that if Oklahoma City and Tulsa schools were as efficient as the 13 rural schools in and around House District 56, there would be a savings of more than $191 Million.

For comments and questions, David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Duck and Cover

Duck and Cover - January 24, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Will Rogers said, “This country has come to feel the same way when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. It’s just a question of how much damage he can do with it before you can take it away from him.”

Well, the state legislature is scheduled to reconvene next week and Oklahoma parents and teachers are sincerely concerned that the “help” that public schools have received over the past few years will continue. For instance, the legislature has “helped” by cutting funding to K-12 schools by almost 25%, after inflation, since 2008.

Other “helps” have been making sure that teacher pay stays low, passing legislation to allow corporate charter schools in rural school districts over the objection of the local school board and local citizens and “assisting” teachers by making it inconvenient to pay professional dues.

While the damage the legislature has done in recent years is not limited to public education, it seems that during this year of “double” revenue failure and next year’s Billion Dollar budget hole, “plans” by “helpful” legislators are a dime a dozen.

With all the coming “help,” now would be a good time for television stations to start running “Duck and Cover” as a public service announcement. “Duck and Cover” is a civil defense film created during the Cold War era to teach about personal protection in the event of an atomic bomb explosion.

The opening animation in the 1951 film shows Bert the Turtle sauntering peacefully along a road. As Bert walks past a monkey dangling from a tree and holding a stick of dynamite, the narrator begins to sing, “There was a turtle by the name of Bert and Bert the turtle was very alert; When danger threatened him he never got hurt; He knew just what to do...He'd Duck! and Cover!...Duck! and Cover!... He did just what we all must do…Duck, and Cover!”

A Senator from Oklahoma City wants to “help” by consolidating rural schools, eliminating “some” tax credits and diverting up to $200 million per year of new “phantom” revenue growth into a fund for teacher pay.

A powerful Senator from the Bartlesville area floated the immediate forced merger of 34 of our smallest schools. Within three years 99 more schools having up to 250 students would be forced to merge within three years and finally within four years 164 more schools with enrollments up to 500 would be force merged. These forced mergers would affect 297 school districts, 79,000 students and countless rural communities over a four year period.

A Senator from Guthrie and a Representative from Tecumseh plan to help teacher pay by diverting money from other agencies, making government more efficient and eliminating a few “overly generous tax credits.”

Of course, the Speaker of the House has made it clear that K-12 funding cannot be protected because that protection would “devastate” all other government functions. Some school districts even fear that cuts may decrease the amount paid by the state for employee health insurance premiums.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma personal income tax rate cuts since 2005 have resulted in an ANNUAL state revenue decrease of $1.022 Billion. In return, the median Oklahoma household has received an Oklahoma income tax cut of $19 per month.

Even if “Duck and Cover” fails to protect us from “helpful” legislators, the drill may actually save lives protecting students from the ever increasing number of earthquakes and from tornadoes in those schools that do not have funding for storm shelters.

How long is baby going to have the hammer?

For comments and questions, David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Well That's Too Long

Well That’s Too Long - January 17, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers was what you might call a chili connoisseur. Even as a world traveler, he knew that when it came to chili, there were two places on earth that delivered the best of what he called “bowls of blessedness” and both were in Texas.

One was a little café in Coleman and the other was a small cannery in the back of the Lyman T. Davis Meat Market in Corsicana. Mr. Davis had begun marketing his chili as Lyman’s Famous Home Made Chili in 1895, but in 1921 he started canning it using the trade name Wolf Brand Chili in honor of his pet wolf, Kaiser Bill.

Even though the delicacy was not sold outside Texas during Will Rogers’ lifetime, Will was a good neighbor and to maintain his dietary intake of big, thick, steaming bowls of Wolf Brand Chili, he often stopped off at the Corsicana airport to pick up cases of the canned “blessedness.”

Unfortunately, voters in the Sooner State don’t exercise the same urgency in making sure that Oklahoma children are properly educated that Will Rogers had in making sure that he kept a good stock of chili on hand.

Neighbor, how long has it been since Oklahoma teachers were paid a fair wage? How long has it been since teachers had the professional respect that they deserve?

Well that’s too long.…and sadly nothing’s going to change anytime soon.

Over the past eight years, Oklahoma has cut per pupil state aid funding for public schools more than any other state (nearly 25% after inflation) and Oklahoma has not increased the pay schedule for teachers since 2009. In 2016, the average pay for Oklahoma teachers is now third lowest in the nation and well below that of neighboring states, all according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

So, when teacher vacancies grew beyond 1,000, did the supply and demand gurus in state government respond by paying more for a scarce commodity? Nope.

Instead, they further disrespected the teaching profession by recruiting “teachers” who were conditionally certified or provisionally uncertified or temporarily certified or emergency uncertified or conditionally uncertified or provisionally untrained or just plain old warm bodies.

This year, the state has issued close to 1,000 emergency teaching certifications resulting in more than one in six Oklahoma teachers being educationally unqualified, untrained in the teaching profession and teaching without a standard certificate.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma’s public schools were told that they would have to cut $47 million from their current budgets. Now an additional $19 million cut is possible as early as February. That translates to each school in the state having to cut current spending by about $39 per student.

It is just a coincidence, but if the Governor would have agreed to delay the January 1, 2016, income tax cut, $47 million more revenue would have been available between January 1 and June 30, 2016 to help offset the current revenue failure.

Neighbor, how long has it been since Oklahoma voters have taken the time to hold the governor and their legislators accountable?

Well that’s too long. 2016 is an important year. Register to vote Republican, Independent or Democrat. Study the issues. Vote in the best interest of the future of Oklahoma.

For comments and questions, David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Missing Mayberry

Missing Mayberry - December 27, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Rascal Flatts’ 2003 release “Mayberry” laments our society’s constant toil and unmoderated pursuit of more, which is really less.  It reminisces of a slower time where houses had porches that were actually used to visit with friends and neighbors.

Most of us remember parents who toiled to make things better for us and society’s structure and shared values actually directed us toward social mobility and the American Dream.

Today, our culture faces an economic and societal crisis that places those goals at risk, but this is not the first time in our nation’s history that young Americans have been cut-off.

A bedrock principle of America is equality yet our history shows that we constantly migrate away from actions that provide equal access to opportunity and often need to be redirected.

America was relatively young when it became apparent that our republic would not survive if our citizenry did not possess the educational skills to be effective citizens. Class divisions and regional interests threatened the fabric of this young nation. Horace Mann argued that universal, non-sectarian, free public education was essential to turn the nation’s unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.

Mann’s vision produced a cohesive society by convincing the American people that education must have a goal of social efficiency, civic virtue and character, and not merely involve learning or advance purely sectarian ends.

Leading up to the 20th century, unchecked industrialism imposed income inequalities to a degree that social order was threatened by stagnated social mobility. Again, through the collective courage of civic minded Americans, universal and free high schools were established and the dream was restored.

Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, income inequality is higher than at any time in Oklahoma’s 108 year history with data from the Economic Policy Institute showing that the average income of the top 1% of Oklahomans is 26 times greater than the average income of the other 99%.

In the 33 years between 1979 and 2012, while the top 1 percent’s income grew by 143.2% and the top 0.1 percent of Oklahomans saw their average income swell to $28,439,334, the average income of the entire rest of the state grew by just 8%, placing many parents in a situation to be more concerned about making ends than mentoring or guiding their children.

Robert Putnam, author of “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” and who will be speaking next month on the campus of the University of Oklahoma asks, “When did poor kids stop being “our” kids?”

Dr. Putnam’s extensive research is focused on the web of formal and informal supports that help students in poverty succeed academically and in life. His premise is that income inequality, poverty, and a generation or more of lost dreams are intractably interwoven into what he refers to as a “connection gap” resulting in the intense isolation of poor children who are robbed of the ability to function at any productive level in our society because there is no resource to put them “back on track.”

We all have our own version of Mayberry. Mine involves loving parents who frequently helped “adjust my direction” and never for a moment left me without a vision for the future.

When the “life guidance” that occurs without fanfare in wealthier homes is absent in the lives of poor children, they are left without second or third chances and doors that were never functionally open are slammed in their faces.

Your comments are welcome at 1-800-522-8502 or at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

The Lexus Perception

The Lexus Perception - August 9, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

While grilling burgers a few days ago, I retreated inside to escape the heat and caught the end of a story about an air conditioner in a car. Although the vehicle was fundamentally sound except for the a/c, the cost of the repair was excessive. The real story was that there was something fundamentally wrong about driving a Lexus without cool air.

I envisioned a family trying to avoid the “humiliation” of being seen in a Lexus with the windows down, trying to foster the perception of wealth by driving around in the heat with the windows up. That would be a foolish, uncomfortable charade.

However, as our children return to school this month, groups that want to divert tax money to private and charter schools are working non-stop to give you a perception that vouchers and education savings accounts do not harm public schools. As illustrated by Diane Ravitch in her recent national bestseller, “Reign of Error” the privatization movement is perpetuating a hoax that is endangering America’s public schools.

Ms. Ravitch, appointed by both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to educational posts, concisely shows how school “choice” and “privatization” movements are diverting funding from our public schools and exposes “manufactured agenda” of corporate reformers who juggle statistics in an attempt to discredit public schools and fabricate a false perception that private and charter schools are better at educating children.

In reality, National Assessment of Education Progress “NAEP” tests show that public schools have steadily and consistently improved math and reading scores over the past 45 years. NAEP data also shows that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and more than 46 percent of the variation in average math scores is associated with variation in child poverty rates.

Of course, private schools and corporate charter school sponsors would be unable to motivate voters to elect anti-public education officials if voters knew the truth. So the voucher and choice folks hype private schools as superior and charter schools as more efficient while bashing public schools and never realizing the harm that is done to students across the state voters line up and elect their candidates.

The anti-public education legislature allows vouchers and education savings accounts to be used to divert millions of tax dollars to private or quasi-private institutions whose students are not reflective of the community, whose teachers are not certified and earn even less than public school teachers and are run by highly paid corporate executives as administrators whose bosses are not elected and who are not accountable to voters.

                In 1907, John Dewey, noted American philosopher and educational reformer, said “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.”

                According to a November 2014 article in the Atlantic, private high school tuition ranges from $18,600 per year in the south to over $35,000 in New England. If those who support diverting funds from Oklahoma’s public schools believe that is the cost of a “quality” education, then why do they insist on further suppressing Oklahoma’s $7,600 per pupil public school expenditure?                             

Oklahoma’s public teachers are doing a great job teaching in woefully underfunded schools. Some groups want to convince you otherwise so that they can divert tax dollars. False perceptions destroy democracy. It doesn’t matter if they use it for private school tuition or to repair the a/c in their Lexus, it is money that is needed for public education.

Questions or comments, call 405-557-7401 or email David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Supposing is Good, But Finding Out is Better

Supposing is Good, But Finding Out is Better…for the Common Good - December 1, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

West of Tuttletown, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Yosemite National Park and the San Joaquin Valley, my wife and I discovered a faded and weathered sign pointing up a dirt trail to “Mark Twain’s Cabin.” We eased off the narrow highway into the ruts that our GPS identified as Jackass Hill Road with the hill itself as our destination.

After a short distance, wondering if the name of our destination was actually a clue for what awaited us, we found a tiny cabin that had served as the winter shelter for one Samuel Langhorne Clemens and his friends, the Gillis brothers from December 4, 1864, to the end of February, 1865. Located between Virginia City and San Francisco in a region, like Sutter’s Mill, where gold mining had been the name of the game, the site had recently been restored by the Sonora Sunrise Rotary Club.

It has long been said, “There are no new stories, just endless ways to tell them.”  Like Shakespeare who used history and mythology as the fabric to be woven into great plays, Sam Clemens had spent endless hours in public libraries in those cities across the Midwest where he found work as a newspaper typesetter.   Parlaying his literary knowledge with real world experiences in those communities and later piloting a steamboat up and down the Mississippi River, Clemens honed his unique storytelling skills.  His stories were not new, but were uniquely spun.  Even the pen name, Mark Twain, referring to the depth of navigable waters, was borrowed from earlier writers along the river.

Twain was a traveler, and the American literary importance of the tiny cabin was not the Gillis brothers or the gold mines in the area but instead was its close proximity to a community named Angel Camp.  Angel Camp had sprung out of the mountains during the gold rush era and was base camp for the seedy underbelly of a society that was course and reckless.  Men who frequented the camp were not virtuous, and the women who resided there were anything but angels.

Nonetheless, a trip into Angel Camp that winter jump-started a faltering writing career and changed the face of American literature forever.  For you see, Samuel Clemens, later Mark Twain, and his friend Jim Gillis had dodged into a tavern just to get out of the rain and ended up next to an old wood burning stove. Over the course of the next few hours, they listened to the tale that Twain reignited in his first published work and that gave him national recognition.  The story told to the budding literary giant right there in Calaveras County, California, involved a jumping frog named Dan’l Webster and a contest that continues annually each May to this day.

Most importantly, Mark Twain’s notoriety did not end with the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.  Other works followed and Clemens’ wit and wisdom continues to impact the world.  Much like Will Rogers, the timeless sayings of Samuel Clemens give us pause and reflection.  Sometimes they sting, and always they are relevant.

By the middle of this month, Oklahoma legislators will have filed bills for the coming 2014 Regular Session. I have assembled a few Mark Twain quotes that might shed light on what really needs legislative attention in the Sooner state.

With regard to the need for public education, Twain said, “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end, you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.”

The state government seems to be full of elected officials who have little or no experience in anything and what they do have has no relevance to their claimed “expertise.”  Twain made several enlightening comments that sound as if he had spent a week or two at the Oklahoma State Capitol or the State Department of Education.  “It's not what you don't know that kills you; it's what you know for sure that ain't true,”

“That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it,”

 “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners whose opinions are not worth a brass farthing.”

Realistically, those “reformers” who believe that they have the expertise to “foster better government” will not realize that their mentality was the target of Twain’s barbed comments.

Perhaps the best advice to be given to those who create solutions and then go in search of a problem would be to know about the subject they lecture on.  Oklahoma’s teachers are not the problem.  Mark Twain said it best, ““In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”

As for the rest of us, we must continue to realize that “Supposing is good, but finding out is better.”

I appreciate the opportunity to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or eMail me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Do You Hear The People Sing…For the Common Good? - July 21, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

“Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night? It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light.” Long before the Russell Crowe movie and long before it’s 16 year run on Broadway, Les Misérables was a book; a powerful book about the dark consequences of ignorance and poverty and about truth, integrity and personal responsibility.

Les Misérables was written over 150 years ago by Victor Hugo who said to his publisher that he did not know if it would be read by everyone, but that it was written for everyone.  His intent was to publish a novel resulting in comfort to victims of social inequality.  He dreamed that “Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth” that the book would give hope to the downtrodden and also spur the fortunate to recognize the virtue and value of fulfilling civic and social responsibility toward mankind.

Today, we live in a world that we like to believe has overcome the harsh consequences of poverty and social inequality.  We claim to live in civilized countries with social safety nets adequate to lift everyone from the grip of ignorance, pestilence and hunger.

Unfortunately, ignorance and despair persist.  Tragically crimes are sometimes committed in pursuit of subsistence.  Children who yearn for food and knowledge learn through early personal experience that the absence of one is a lifelong impediment in the struggle for the other.

Educational systems are complex organizations.  There is little consensus about the role public education should play in the lives of students.  There are divergent views on curricular content and extracurricular activities.

It is often politically expedient to isolate one aspect of our educational institutions as the scapegoat for a failing society. Allegations of overpaid administrators; lazy teachers, unsupportive parents and children who are not accountable run the gamut of what is wrong with our schools.

Possibly there are overpaid administrators.  Lazy teachers may exist.  It is true that when parents are engaged in the learning process and assist in holding their children accountable, the result is higher student achievement.

Public Education, like all institutions, must continually self-evaluate and identify ways to improve the delivery of its product.  Public Educators should always remember that the beneficiaries of education are not just the students, but society as a whole.  Society must never forget that because everyone benefits from an educated society, public education as a component of the state and federal budget must not be rendered ineffective through budgetary slashing.

Consequently, I have requested, and the Speaker of the House has approved, an interim study to review the benefit and the cost of altering the traditional school calendar that provides for a long summer break and relatively short breaks throughout the school year.  Studies show that students, particularly those in elementary school lose a great deal of knowledge over the summer break.

While there are a number of different models, such as the 45-15 calendar which provides a break consisting of 15 school days at the end of each 45 days of school.  All terms still have the usual holidays, and none increase the total number of school days in a year. All models provide a shorter summer break and contain time for remediation of students when it is needed instead of months later.

These issues and others will be reviewed during the study.  It should be the goal of all legislators and the public as a whole to review these issues in a non-partisan way for the improvement of education in the State of Oklahoma.

Victor Hugo also said “He who opens a schoolhouse door, closes a prison.”

It should be the goal of all of us to eliminate the need for prison beds.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  I look forward to hearing from you at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.