A Well Rounded Education

A Well Rounded Education - April 7, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

                There are three principles regarding the role of government in American society that overwhelmingly occupy the majority of our time and resources. Those, in no particular order, are defense, poverty and public education.

                Of course defense is addressed by the men and women who serve our state and country and the military contracts that our federal government let for our national safety.

                Since the 1930’s, Social Security has been in place to prevent an elderly or disabled population from retiring into abject impoverishment. Later, in the 1960’s Medicare was added as a part of the social safety net to improve the quality of life of America’s retirees.

Public Education on the other hand has seen a much longer and more beleaguered existence. As early as 1647, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts mandated that every Township provide a trained teacher and grammar school at taxpayer expense. The concept grew quickly in the northeastern United States and more slowly in the South.

Public education had become the American norm by the time that Oklahoma was admitted to statehood but that had not eliminated opposition based on objections that have existed for centuries.

Those objections revolve around two main factors: 1) use of public funds; and 2) control of curriculum and continue to resurface.

House Bill 1017 was a landmark education funding and reform bill that was championed by Governor Henry Bellmon and passed with broad bipartisan support in 1990. The legislation reduced class size, increased minimum teacher salaries, established alternative teacher certification, funding equity, early childhood programs, statewide curriculum and testing standards.

 Immediately, opponents of public education reform initiated a petition and were able to get State Question 639 on the ballot. Fortunately, by a 46-54 percent vote, the effort to repeal HB1017 was defeated.

Last year, after 12 years of funding neglect, education in Oklahoma had reached a point that it could no longer meet the needs of Oklahoma children. As a result, Oklahoma was suffering socially and economically. Teachers, parents and interested citizens came to the State Capitol to demand that proper resources were devoted to education in Oklahoma.

Citizens, including teachers, exercised a fundamental constitutional right enumerated in both the Article 2, Section 3 of the Oklahoma Constitution and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Oklahoma’s version says, “The people have the right peaceably to assemble for their own good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances by petition, address, or remonstrance.” Likewise, the national version says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,…or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

A number of lawmakers did not like being held accountable to their constituents and others who demanded proper education funding. As a result, bills were filed to prevent teachers from coming to the capitol during session. Some political groups are even now threatening to penalize educators and supporters of education by fining the school districts where they are employed or associated.

Many students from across the state saw concerned citizens peaceably assemble at the state capitol in support of education and will ultimately benefit from additional appropriations. It was not enough and more is needed, but those teachers and those parents provided an excellent example of democracy in action. It would seem that by exercising constitutional principles and constitutional rights, both students and legislators learned a lesson. Perhaps a lesson that will need to be repeated. That is a “Well Rounded Education.”

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

Exes in Texas

Exes in Texas - November 4, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

          George Strait was probably not thinking about the lure of higher wages and the ensuing migration of Oklahoma teachers to Texas when he released the 1987 hit named “All My Exes Live in Texas.” However, that statement could be made by an alarming number of Oklahoma schoolchildren regarding former teachers whose economic reality of low pay pushed them to make the move for the benefit of their families and their personal futures.

The temptation could not have been greater. Huge billboards in Tulsa, OKC, Stillwater and Norman beckoned teachers to find their future in a Fort Worth, Texas classroom. The message promised starting salaries of $52,000 at a time when the AVERAGE teacher pay in Oklahoma was in the low $40,000’s and the hope of a salary in excess of $50,000 was not on the radar, even after a decade or two in the classroom.

The reality of a teacher’s life was that in the decade prior to 2018, Oklahoma’s K-12 Education had been cut by 28%, the deepest of any state in the nation. Low wages, continuing cuts and a lack of professional respect plagued those who had chosen to educate our state’s children.

Thus, it was no surprise that, first border district educators and then those from across the state, took neighboring states up on their offer. It takes a lot to make a person with the heart of an educator, leave their family, their community and their state, but Oklahoma legislators had neglected and cut and isolated our state’s teachers to the point that many educators took the only path to protection that they could find and that involved leaving Oklahoma’s classrooms.

In 2018, pro-public education legislators faced an uphill battle. “Everyone” agreed with them that teachers needed a raise, but few were willing to stand with them to identify and act on a source of revenue to pay for those raises. Repeatedly, teachers were told that the state could not afford to give them a raise, despite the fact that annually hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and credits were being given to the oil and gas industry.

The public pressure intensified and the oil and gas industry saw an organized attempt to increase the Gross Production Tax to 7 to 9 % so that it would be in line with most other energy producing states. In response, the industry gathered a mostly anti-public education group to formulate what they called the StepUp Plan to “resolve Oklahoma’s education crisis.” In reality, it was just a strong arm attempt to set their own tax rate, cap the GPT at an embarrassingly low 4%, throw teachers a bone and relieve public pressure.

Despite that attempt, pro-education legislators were able to push through a 5% GPT bill that for the first time in ten years, not only gave teachers a legitimate raise, but also provided raises to support staff and put an additional $50 Million into textbooks and the classroom.

Teacher morale is improving, but it will take years to reverse the damage. Because a Veto Referendum lawsuit that tried to void the 5% GPT Bill was not dismissed before teachers had to make final plans for this school year, 57% of the state’s superintendents say that the teacher shortage is worse this year than last, and in fact, the state had issued a record 2,153 emergency certifications by the end of September, according to a survey conducted by the Oklahoma State School Board Association.

Because Oklahoma teachers’ salaries have been so low, for so long, I also predict that because of the impact of a belated salary increase, there could be an even greater exodus in three or four years due to retirement benefit computations based on their increased salary. Who can blame them?

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

Super Heroes

Super Heroes - April 15, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

My grandchildren are really in to superheroes. The interest spills over to the books that they choose and the entertainment that they watch. A simple towel or mask can turn them into a crusader for peace, justice and the American way.

Tucker becomes Captain America. Ben is Batman and in Henry’s mind, he can scale tall buildings and fling webs just like Spiderman unless he wants to be Superman and then he simply leaps over them. When Harper is not Super Girl, she is Rey from Star Wars and Peyton chooses to be Black Widow.

Superheroes are always a part of our inner being and help us develop our imagination.

At the legislature this past few weeks, I have seen another kind of superhero. They came from all over the state, walking, running, driving and riding to the Capitol advocating for the future of our great state.

They are the superheroes whose students often come from unspeakable situations and whose students may arrive at school without having eaten at the lunch room the day before. The children that they teach may not have been able to sleep because their parents argued all night if they were lucky enough to have both parents home.

I saw superheroes who first hand deal with children who are the products of broken homes and superheroes who may deliver the only hug that a child receives.

It is important to take a moment to tell those superheroes thank you. One of the handouts that I received in the last few days contained information about the observations of teachers and how their advocacy experience educated them. That handout made me want to acknowledge my appreciation of them.

Thank you not only for what you did for my children but are doing for my grandchildren and the children and grandchildren of others in public schools all across Oklahoma.

Thank you for taking the time to advocate for a better tomorrow and for becoming more knowledgeable about how our state’s political processes function.

Thank you for seeing the need to network as an electorate with a common vision both within and between districts.

Thank you for caring enough about how state government works to understand that the state of severe dysfunction that exists at the Capitol is very similar to the dysfunction that exists in the homes of many of your students.

Thank you for arming yourselves with passion, knowledge and a determination to continue learning about the process, understanding that knowledge is power and being willing to use that new found power.

Thank you for taking the time to realize that a relatively small number of individuals are disproportionately active in the political process, both in campaign efforts and financial support to candidates.

Thank you for understanding that your numbers provide you with the potential to overcome what you lack in financial clout and that the passion of your number can overcome the rule of the few.

Thank you for being educators. We see your superpower. Thank you for using it for the best interest of Oklahoma’s kids and bringing to life the future that we all want to see.

Thank you for endeavoring, against all odds, to make Oklahoma’s system of public education the best in the country. While you toil as the real superheroes, you help our children foster the imagination and vision that propel them to be tomorrow’s superheroes. Thank you for all that you do.

If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Driving By the Rearview Mirror

Driving By the Rearview Mirror - March 18, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

My family included several soldiers and sailors who were members of the “Greatest Generation.” Most have passed on but their stories remain.

For instance, my mother’s first cousin was a nurse who was serving at the Borden Army Hospital in Chickasha. While there she encountered a handsome young Army Private who was recuperating from an injury that he had received. Her name was Dean and his was Clint.

After a few weeks, Clint had recovered sufficiently to go back to active duty and they continued to communicate. When the war ended, they reunited and were married in short order. Clint was eager to provide for his new bride but the hundreds of thousands of returning GI’s made the job market tight and very competitive.

Clint worked odd jobs and was able to supplement the family’s income enough to be able to purchase an old car. Finally, one day, through a friend, Clint received an offer for a full time construction job in the next town about 15 miles away.

Early the next day, Clint got up about 5 a.m. so that he would not be late on the first day of work. He fired up the car, backed out of the drive and discovered to his horror that the transmission was frozen in Reverse. Needless to say, the stakes were too high so Clint drove to work backwards that fifteen miles.

This story has been told many times with slight variation. But the gist is always the same. Clint did what it took to provide for his family time and time again.

The Oklahoma legislature needs to do what it takes to make Oklahoma better for its citizens. While driving backward is not recommended, we could begin by rolling back tax cuts that have been handed out to the oil and gas industry and high wage earners.

Income tax cuts from 7% to 5% for high wage earners over the past ten years have cost the state more than $1.4 Billion per year. That amount alone would more than pay for the teacher pay increase, support personnel pay increase, restoration of classroom funding cuts, state employee pay increase and health care funding called for in the “Together We’re Stronger”  Budget Plan submitted by Oklahoma Teachers.

During that same time, Gross Production Taxes on Oil and Gas Production has been cut from 7% to 2%. Those cuts cost the state$402 Million per year on horizontal wells and $59 Million per year on other wells.  When the depletion allowance that lets oil companies reduce taxable income by up to 22% is added in, the incentives and tax breaks equal around $480 Million per year.

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, a Republican candidate for Governor said it best, “If citizens of Oklahoma have to pay a 5% income tax rate, why shouldn’t oil companies have to at least pay 5% GPT?

There are other plans that will provide the necessary funding. There are some that will not. The Step Up plan which was engineered to keep Gross Production Tax at an unreasonably low rate was a bad plan. Oil companies and their representatives marketed it as a way to get teachers a $5000 raise. Unfortunately, it took money out of teachers left pocket to put it in their right and totally neglected all the other costs of educating children.

The teachers’ “Together We’re Stronger” plan is a great plan and it needs to be paid for.

We don’t need to follow the Step Up Plan that shifts the tax burden from Oil Companies and those with high income to working Oklahomans.

We need to look in the rearview mirror and return the Gross Production Tax Rate to 7% and the Income Tax Rate on persons earning more than $200,000 per year to at least 5.5%.

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

A Holistic Education

A Holistic Education - March 11, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Holistic Medicine is characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease. Likewise, Holistic Philosophy comprehends that a person’s wholeness can be achieved only by recognizing its parts as intimately interconnected.

Most Oklahoma teachers will tell you that the fact that being 50th in the nation in compensation is only part of the problem. The fact that every day teachers see thousands of Oklahoma students come to school hungry, sick and often dealing with emotionally burdensome home situations make educators in the Sooner State weary and worn and exponentially increases their burden.

Without exception, teachers thrive on seeing students succeed. The reward of watching a child gain knowledge or a new skill makes hours of work worthwhile. Unfortunately, demographics beyond the control of public education inhibit the ability of teachers to reach students and the ability of students to succeed.

Fortunately, the plan unveiled by the teachers last week appears to be designed to address Oklahoma’s demographic deficiencies that have become increasingly harmful over the past ten years.

While detractors have portrayed the demands made in the plan as purely a teacher pay proposal, the teachers also asked for increased pay for non-certified support personnel who serve a vital purpose in public education across Oklahoma. Support Staff who also have served school districts without salary increases for in excess of ten years often fill the gap, help distraught children and remove some of the day to day stress experienced by both teachers and students.

Another overlooked part of the demand made by teachers is that the House leadership that is blocking the COLA Bill that passed out of committee earlier this month allows it to be heard on the floor of the Oklahoma House. Allowing retirees to receive a Cost of Living Adjustment would cost Oklahoma’s budget absolutely nothing and while it would directly benefit thousands of existing retirees, it would also signal current employees that their future may not be quite so bleak.

If the state of Oklahoma truly wants to guarantee a bright future for its citizens, it must support and apply this holistic approach to education.  Paraphrased, Samuel Clemens famously said, “Closing a school requires the construction of a prison.”

The plan of the OEA furthers that concept when it incorporates two additional provisions. First, it requests that the deep cuts to non-payroll educational appropriations be reversed so that, among other things, teachers will not be forced to purchase student supplies out of their already meager pay and assist with the leveraging of federal funding.

Second, the plan calls for an increase in health care funding. While some might not see health care funding as related to educational outcomes, teachers do. On a daily basis, they deal with students who are the children of families who are enduring mental illnesses and physical conditions that are normally both chronic and untreated.

In summary, perhaps no members of our citizenry better understand that a holistic approach to education is essential to educational outcomes. With clarity, the plan proposed by teachers last week incorporates that approach. Oklahoma would be well served if legislators approve the plan in its entirety, so long as the revenue plan to fund the plan is based on a reasonable and adequate increase in the Gross Production Tax on oil and gas and does not place a greater burden of taxation on those who are least able to afford it.

You may contact Rep. David Perryman at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov with questions or comments.

Oklahoma's Hurley Burley

Oklahoma’s Hurley Burley - August 30, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

                When will this Hurley Burley be done? When will the battle be lost and won?

The opening dialogue from Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a foreshadow of literary tragedy. Defined as “noisy confusion and tumult”, Hurley Burley aptly describes the dire situation facing Oklahoma’s public schools brought on by those calling the shots at the state capitol.

This weekend’s Dallas Morning News detailed that in 2013 Oklahoma’s average teacher pay was $6000 less than Texas’ average pay. The article made it clear that geographically, it is a no-brainer for an Oklahoma teacher to earn thousands of dollars more by simply driving 20 minutes across the Red River.

The Dallas paper made an even better case for teachers to drive a few miles further or relocate to areas like McKinney where the additional pay will net $10,000 more per year or Frisco where first year teachers with master’s degrees are making $15,000 to $18,000 more per year than in Oklahoma.

Sandi Jacobs, Vice-President of the National Council on Teacher Quality also related that qualified teachers are looking at ending salaries as well. “The idea that someone would end their career making $15,000 more than they started seems very unprofessional. It isn’t what you’d expect in a profession.”

Many Oklahoma teachers, frustrated with the lack of pay increases and the lowest salaries in the region, have started making the drive across a border, exporting our teacher talent while importing a different type of teacher.

So, while Oklahoma teachers are being recruited to teach kids in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas, the legislature responds by enabling residents of those states to obtain “emergency teaching certificates” and teach OUR “treasured” students.

Why would a qualified Arkansas teacher come to the Sooner State when they could stay home and draw a better salary there? Hint: They may not be qualified teachers. For instance, Tony O’Brien, Superintendent of Newcastle Public Schools said, “It’s just brutal right now trying to get people certified. They may have a degree in underwater basket-weaving, and I’m trying to get them a certificate in elementary education.”

Emergency Teaching Certificates issued by the State of Oklahoma are putting Oklahoma kids on the short end of a destructive export-import process.

OKC’s News9 reported a few days ago that Oklahoma’s schools had 1,600 vacant teacher positions, of which 600 were eliminated by increasing class sizes. The State Department of Education is currently considering 664 applications for “emergency teaching certificates” for the remaining 1,000 vacant positions. Shawn Heim, OSSBA’s Executive Director said, “That’s over 2,200 positions that aren’t being filled by highly qualified teachers, the kind of teachers that I want in my child’s classroom.”

Today’s lead editorial in the Daily Oklahoman said that “Lowering the volume may help in teacher pay debate.” That advice ranks right up there with “sticking our head in the ground.”

This is neither a Republican problem nor a Democratic problem. It is an Oklahoma problem that the Legislature and the Governor have failed to solve. It up to the VOTERS. Otherwise, Act 4, Scene 1 will be “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble.”    

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


Malice in the Palace

Malice in the Palace - April 5, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

On September 1, 1949, Columbia Pictures released a short film featuring The Three Stooges and their trademark slapstick comedy set in the palace of a middle-eastern Emir. The name of the movie was Malice in the Palace and the plot revolved around the Stooges, all three dressed as Santa Claus, and their attempt to gain entry to the royal residence to “rescue” a valuable diamond.

The film is replete with scene after scene of slaps, slugs, chokeholds and retaliatory pokes in the eyes. Never to be outdone, the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Senate and the Governor took retaliation to a whole new level this week.

Instead of stealing a diamond, the two houses of the legislative branch conspired with Oklahoma’s executive branch to take from Oklahoma teachers the convenience of having their professional dues withheld from their monthly paychecks.

In an act of crass pettiness, House Bill 1749 was passed and signed into law with the sole intent of preventing local school boards from allowing teachers across Oklahoma to have their POE, OEA or AFT dues broken down into monthly payments and deducted from their gross pay.

During floor discussion and debate, Democrats and the 11 Republicans who joined them in opposition to the Bill pointed out numerous legal and technical problems with the Bill. Debate made it crystal clear that the legislation was nothing more than a retaliatory poke in the eye of Oklahoma’s teachers who regularly proclaim that Oklahoma’s children deserve better than 49th in funding.

Republican Representative David Dank pointed out that there are 69 different payroll deductions that may be made under Oklahoma law and only the teachers’ dues were under attack.  “Let’s not be hypocritical,” said Dank, “We’re doing this to punish a group” that opposes charter schools and education vouchers, which are hallmarks of conservative education policy.

In the end, HB 1749 cleared both houses and was signed by Governor Fallin on April 2. It is scheduled to go into effect November 1, 2015, unless overturned by the courts. Similar laws in Wisconsin and North Carolina have been held unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Additional errors in the Oklahoma statute appear to be attributed to hasty drafting. For instance, the Bill fails to recognize that POE, OEA nor AFT bargain for teacher contracts.

Likewise, an error in the Bill refers to school districts as “state agencies” when the Oklahoma Constitution clearly classifies them as “political subdivisions.” The Bill then states that it does not apply to political subdivisions.

Current law that specifically and expressly states that school districts shall accommodate teachers by allowing professional dues to be payroll deducted (Section 5-139 of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes) was neither amended nor repealed and remains on the books.

Already in the midst of a $611 Million budget gap, Oklahoma cannot continue to afford the costly legal defense of unconstitutional, retaliatory legislation that is directed at a group of citizens who subsidize the education of Oklahoma’s children on a daily basis.

This week I heard a legislator tell a group that “we really would like to give teachers a $5000 raise over the next five years, but we just can’t under the current budget.” Of course we can’t, and we will not be able to so long as the House, the Senate and the Governor don fake Santa Claus suits, give lip service to their support of public education, grant millions in corporate tax credits, and pursue irresponsible tax policy.

POE, AFT and OEA members will soon start paying professional dues by check and will be reminded on a monthly basis that they were poked in the eye and who is behind this Malice in the Palace. Will they hold them accountable?

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 800-522-8502.