School Consolidation

All Generalizations Are False

All Generalizations Are False - November 26, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Mark Twain often quipped that, “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, and if you do you are misinformed.” Along these same lines, he remarked that, “All generalizations are false, including this one.”

Americans are a better people because of Mark Twain and the slightly cynical, but always spirited insight that he relayed to us. His observations make us engage in critical thinking and realize the danger of closing the book on any subject.

A favorite quote often attributed to Mark Twain is that, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Well, Oklahoma is in trouble and Twain the philosopher hit the nail on the head.

This past week Governor Fallin perpetuated the false narrative that Oklahoma’s Public Schools are somehow to blame for the state’s budget crisis. Her Executive Order directing annexation or consolidation of public school districts and district administration is the classic example of repeating an untrue statement long enough that people start to believe it.

The constant battering of Oklahoma’s schools is a favorite pastime of those groups who have longed sought to undermine public education in favor of private schools, charter schools and voucher programs that direct public tax dollars to corporate interests.

Those anti-public education forces continue to allege that Oklahoma has too many school districts; or too much of Oklahoma’s education budget goes toward the costs of administration; or school administration consolidation and school district annexation is the solution to increasing teacher pay. There is no factual basis for those statements. In fact, those statements are unequivocally false.

We need not go further than the Red River to discover the truth. Time and again, Texas is held up as an example of educational efficiency. While Texas does have 5.1 Million students and only 1233 school districts that has little to do with efficiency. More than half (2.6 Million) Texas students are in only 49 school districts while the other 2.5 million students are in 1178 districts and 35% of all Texas school districts have an enrollment of less than 500 students.

A February 2006 post-consolidation study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding the relationship between school district consolidation and public school efficiency was weak at best and antithetical at worst. Research furnished little evidence that consolidation controls costs or improves academic achievement.

The most enlightening part of the study concluded that small schools provide greater educational benefit than their large school counterparts and that researchers found that large schools and districts have more bureaucratic and administrative costs while experiencing lower attendance, lower grade point averages, lower standardized test scores, higher dropout rates, and more problems with violence, security, and drug abuse.

The study cited a 2005 Deloitte Research and Reason Foundation paper that found that nationwide as the number of school districts declined more than 60 percent from 1960 to 1984, the need for school administration grew 500 percent. The need for additional principals grew 79 percent while the number of classroom teachers only grew 57 percent.

One can easily conclude that Oklahoma’s public school models and the costs of administration  for our 681,848 students attending 517 schools tend to be much preferable to the Texas plan and we don’t even have to cross state lines to find our efficiencies. Oklahoma’s rural schools (the ones targeted by the false narrative that our state has too many school districts) educate students much more economically, in some cases 35 to 40 % less in per pupil expenditures than metropolitan large school districts.

Finally, Oklahoma’s public schools graduate 85% of its students, nearly 5% greater than the national average, while education spending remains at 48th among all states and the District of Columbia.

Educating children is expensive. In fact, about the only thing more expensive than educating children is not educating them. This is not a new concept. Mark Twain famously 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.”

If Oklahoma wants to improve the efficiencies and performance of its schools, then it needs to elect legislators who are willing to fund them at levels that will return qualified teachers to the classroom and provide textbooks that are not obsolete and ragged.

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

Special Session Update - Week Two

Special Session Update – Week Two - October 8, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

The Oklahoma Legislative Special Session just concluded its second week. While negotiations continued, there were no committee meetings to consider Bills and no Floor Session. For a few hours in the middle of the week, it did appear that there was a glimmer of hope for a budget deal. The Governor’s office communicated tentative approval of an agreement between her office and Senate Republicans and House and Senate Democrats.

The substance of the deal was that some of the Gross Production Tax cuts and state income tax cuts that have been made over the past 8 to 10 years would be reversed. GPT would be restored to 5% on new oil and gas wells and high income earners would see two new income tax brackets created: one for earners of more than $250K/$500K and one for earners of more than $500K/$1M.

The two new brackets would affect just 26,071 taxpayers (1.48% of all Oklahoma taxpayers) and would cause the income tax bill of those who earn between $200,000 and $499,999 to go increase by an average of $6 per year while those who earn between $500,000 and $1,000,000 would see an average increase of $189 per year. Those who earn more than $1,000,000 would pay an average increase of $1,843 per year.

While all parties agreed that those changes would affect higher income taxpayers, it seemed to be the fair thing to do since it would partially reverse some of the tax cuts that have been more beneficial to wealthier taxpayers over the past decade.  Legislators who were hesitant to reverse the GPT and income tax cuts were promised an increase in cigarette taxes and a reduction of the cigarette discount and a six cent per gallon fuel tax increase as well as a removal of the sales tax exemption on things like long term car rental, air craft rental, fur storage and landscaping and yard care services. The terms of the deal as summarized in a power point produced by the Governor’s office also eliminated the sales tax exemption on wind turbine parts purchased for use in their construction.

The plan was structured to provide teachers with a $2,000 per year salary increase and to substantially fill what was expected to be a $400M to $500M budget hole next spring. It was a classic “nobody likes everything but everybody likes something” compromise.

Unfortunately, the glimmer of hope was abruptly extinguished on Thursday afternoon when the power of lobbyists and legislative liaisons of three groups became too strong for conservative legislators. Those groups were 1) the oil and gas industry; 2) Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform who are holding “no tax increase” pledges signed by 23 legislators and Governor Fallin; and 3) the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs who believe with all their being that Oklahoma does not have a revenue problem.

Negotiations are ongoing and I will continue to keep you informed as we try to meet the needs of the State of Oklahoma and its people.

Two pending bills that have not yet been heard in committee are bothersome. HB1065 by Echols (R-Oklahoma City) and SB9 by Bice (R-Edmond) are both aimed at rural school annexation and administrative consolidation. Both of these legislators are from urban areas and continue to labor under the mistaken assumption that smaller schools need to be consolidated.

They are not in tune with the reality that rural schools have long been consolidated and are the model of economic efficiency and the shining success story in Oklahoma’s public education system. The truth is that rural administrators rarely function solely as administrators because of their classroom and/or support personnel duties. According to the Oklahoma Education Coalition, a consortium of nearly a dozen education organizations, the administrator to student ratio for Oklahoma is the lowest in the seven state region and only eight states in the country have a lower administrator to student ratio. This is important information that can dissuade fair minded legislators.

A few years ago, I could count on Republican legislators to assist me in preserving local control and pushing back against school consolidation and rural charter schools, however, legislation like these Bills and the passage of SB782 in 2015 raise questions about whether rural Oklahoma legislators are more interested in campaign contributions from charter and private school proponents than they are in serving constituents and the communities in their districts.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma in the House of Representatives. I will continue to keep you informed of any developments. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

School Consolidation: This Ain't No New Deal

School Consolidation: This Ain’t No New Deal - February 28, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

The impact of the Great Depression was most severe on the elderly and the young. For instance, while one-third of the nation was ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished, 42 percent of all of the poverty stricken Americans were under sixteen years old.

In Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters From Children of the Great Depression, Robert Cohen compiled the thousands of letters that Eleanor Roosevelt received from despondent children and teens writing to ask for shoes, clothing, books, and transportation they so badly needed to attend school.

The letters underscore that the economic crisis of the Depression was wrapped around an educational crisis that threatened the very fabric of our country. Diminishing tax revenues closed some 20,000 schools in rural America in 1934 and shortened school terms.

President Roosevelt’s conviction that a just society affords all—not just the affluent—access to education was the reason that from 1933 to 1939 New Deal funds assisted 70 percent of all new school construction and prevented tens of thousands of school closures by providing emergency funding to pay teachers. By the end of the Depression, needy students had received more than a billion free school lunches.

In February, Superintendent Hofmeister and the State Board of Education proposed changes to the Administrative Rules relating to “Mandatory Annexation.” Many Oklahomans believed that rural schools had avoided “forced consolidation” for this legislative term. However, with these changes, all public schools are at risk of being closed by the State Board of Education simply because the state legislature fails to properly fund public education.

The threats in the new rules appear in Rule 210:1-3-2 (b)(1) and allow the State Board to bypass local school districts and force the consolidation of school districts when a school is 1) determined to be in need of improvement, 2) is nonaccredited by the State Board, 3) is unable to commence a school year, except for a normal delay beyond the control of the school, 4) is financially unable to keep the school open for the entire year, or 5) the subject of an audit finding that some person associated with the school mismanaged funds.

Oklahoma’s public schools have weathered hostile consolidation legislation this year. Parents and teachers across the state banded together to protect the local control of their students’ education. Now, not only are public school parents and students still faced with the harmful effect of Voucher legislation, if these rules become effective, anti-public school legislators will be capable of placing public schools at risk of consolidation merely by failing to properly fund them. This ain’t no new deal, it’s more of the same.

If you are concerned about protecting public education, you may make comments on these proposed rule changes by email to rules@sde.ok.gov or by fax to the Legal Services Office at 405-521-6256. Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on March 17, 2016. A public hearing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, at the Hodge Education Building, State Board Room - Room 1-20, 2500 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Persons wishing to speak must sign in at the door of the State Board Room prior to the start of the hearing and time limitations may be imposed to ensure that all persons who wish to speak will have an opportunity to do so.

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.