Oklahoma Teachers Should Not Count On Raises From GOP

The incoming Republican House Speaker Charles McCall says he’s behind a plan to raise public school teacher salaries by $6,000 over three years, but there’s a major flaw in the proposal.

Here’s the basic flaw: Where is the money going to come from given that the state faces, as of now, a nearly $900 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year? The shortfall could grow in size as well, and I predict it will, unless President-elect Donald Trump and his Russian allies create so much world turmoil, fossil fuel prices take a dramatic jump. But then that just means more earthquakes for Oklahoma.

My argument is, at least for now, that this is just another Republican ruse to make people believe they’re concerned about Oklahoma’s brain drain when they’re getting just what they really want through GOP tax cuts for rich people, which is to drain government funding, especially for education, as much as possible. This way they can declare, along with their fanatical and wildly unpredictable leader Trump, a general failure of government while lying about their true intentions when they suggest raises for educators.

The real Republican position was recently expressed in an editorial in The Oklahoman, which argued “lawmakers should demand greater focus on cost savings and genuine benefit from expenditures” when it comes to requests for additional funding.

The editorial, for example, noted that the Oklahoma Department of Education has asked for a “$221 million increase, plus another $282 million increase for teacher pay raises . . .”, which is a pittance compared to how much school funding has been cut here since 2008 and how low teacher salaries are in Oklahoma. Then the editorial quoted and essentially supported Republican state Rep. Kevin Calvey, who was critical of the education department’s leadership, which he blusters have presented:

. . . no real solutions for streamlining our education system to make it more efficient and to target student needs . . . without accountability for how those dollars are spent related to education results.

In case you need an interpreter, this means that current Republicans lawmakers here try to educate students on the cheap and then complain when the state suffers chronic problems related to the lack of funding. This a deployment of a political tactic to destroy public education, not responsible governance as the great minds of The Oklahoman editorial board want us to believe.

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OKC Zoo Designated Worst For Elephants

The Oklahoma City Zoo has been named the worst zoo for elephants in 2016 by the In Defense of Animals organization.

The organization released its list of Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants, and it comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention that the OKC Zoo ranked number one on the list because of the ongoing controversy surrounding two elephants, Chai, now deceased, and Bambo, both who were obtained from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

A media release about the list contains some gruesome details about both Chai and Bamboo’s tragic situations. The release states, for example:

. . . Bamboo survives [Chai], and has since had two inches of her tail bitten off by another frustrated elephant in their prison-like pen. Bamboo has been kept in either in solitary confinement with the aggressive female, or in the occasional company of a young male; none of these circumstances constitute even reasonable social companionship. Yet Oklahoma Zoo callously describes this sad elephant inmate as doing great.

I wrote about Bamboo’s tragic situation here back in August, and it ranked as one of the highest read posts on Okie Funk in 2016. A full take about the list of worst zoos from In Defense of Animals can be found here

As you may recall, Chai died in January, 2016 of a blood infection. Another OKC Zoo elephant, Malee, also died recently. Bamboo, meanwhile, has been been attacked and gone on the attack because she can’t adjust to what zoo officials insist on calling a “herd.” It’s not a herd in any natural sense. It’s more like a disparate group of inmates in an abusive internment camp. In Defense of Animals doesn’t mince words about the OKC Zoo: “After being on our list twice, Oklahoma City Zoo, welcome to our #1 worst spot for your part in creating a devastatingly tragic outcome for generations of elephants.”

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For the Record: Inhofe Says Pruitt Is Ideal For EPA

I’ve always had mixed feelings through the years of going through the hassle of noting the right-wing extremism in this place on the blog since it’s so obvious, especially to people who live out of the state, but I’ve always felt it’s important for the historical record.

Now it’s more important than ever. The Internet Archives, for example, recently announced that it’s moving a copy of its material to Canada to protect it from possible censorship by President-elect Donald Trump, who has apparently at least blustered that he might be interested in “closing off parts of the internet.” More on this later in the post.

For the record, then, on the right-wing extremism issue, here’s Oklahoma’s own infamous global warming denier U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe official statement about Trump’s selection to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who is none other than Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, another climate change skeptic:

Scott Pruitt is the ideal candidate to lead the EPA. Pruitt has seen first-hand the abuses of power at the hands of this agency and has fought back to ensure environmental quality without sacrificing jobs. Scott is an expert in constitutional law, and understands the fundamental element of balance necessary between the states and the federal government. I look forward to working with Chairman Barrasso and the EPW committee to move Scott’s nomination swiftly and fairly through the committee and to the Senate floor.

What does this “balance” even mean? This is what I believe it means to Inhofe and Pruitt: States with deep fossil-fuel reserves should be allowed to damage the planet in local ways, such as all the earthquakes caused by the fracking process here in Oklahoma, to the larger concern of rising sea levels because carbon emissions are accelerating the greenhouse effect, which leads to the melting of arctic ice. My argument is that Pruitt and Inhofe believe the profits of oil and gas companies render environmental arguments and evidence obsolete. Maybe they truly believe in their position, despite huge evidence that global warming is harming the planet, or maybe they simply don’t care.

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