The Theater of the Absurd
It is absurd that teacher salaries ever become politicized in a state that pays its teachers less than forty-eight other states and sometimes less than forty-nine other states.
If the state cannot afford to increase salaries for teachers, then fine. We are a relatively poor state, and we can deal with it. We are Okies. But when the budget coffers are flushed with money, the state should make a real effort to bring teacher salaries up to at least regional averages. It would be a sign that the state cares about the intellectual welfare of its citizens and is committed to improving the quality of life here.
The Oklahoma Senate, controlled by Democrats, has offered a budget proposal this year that would give teachers a $3,000 raise. The Oklahoma House, controlled by Republicans, has offered a plan that would give teachers a paltry $1,200 raise. Governor Brad Henry has offered a compromise budget that would give teachers $2,400.
All of this may seem like typical politics, and Henry’s compromise may seem to favor teachers since it is only $600 short of what the Senate has asked for. But teachers need a guarantee that everyone will receive a raise, and why not just give them the $3,000?
The real issue here is that our teachers are terribly underpaid, and they need a decent raise this year and in subsequent years. The $3,000 raise, which may seem substantial to some people, is actually not enough. It should be at least a $5,000 across the board raise. Teachers will undoubtedly face raise rising health insurance and pension costs in coming years. The raise they receive this year, especially if it is only $1,200, will simply melt into the giant morass of health insurance company profits, rising gasoline prices and an underfunded pension fund.
Why the state’s citizens and politicians want to reward rich corporate executives of health insurance companies (not to mention oil companies) and not give their kid’s first-grade teacher a decent raise is one of the great mysteries of the twenty-first century. The bigwig executives of these companies could care less if Oklahoma children can read. They are laughing all the way to the bank.
The state has a real opportunity this year to make a halfway significant difference in the salary structure for teachers. To not do so is to validate the state’s “hick” reputation. To give the money to rich people in the form of tax cuts is immoral. Let’s finally do something about this low salary issue, a chronic problem in this state. Give teachers the $3,000 raise. Make sure all teachers get the raise, and then let’s go from there.
Always In Your Corner
The death of Brad Edwards, the intrepid local KFOR consumer rights reporter whose In Your Corner segments helped countless Oklahomans through the years, symbolizes a passing of an era in local television news.
For me, Edwards represented a time when local television news stations actually did real reporting by getting in the face of authority and demanding answers. Edwards and his camera accomplished what others could not do in our culture by putting the spotlight on those taking advantage of others. What Edwards and other such consumer rights reporters did was moral and just. His job must have enriched his life and the lives of those around him with meaning and compassion.
Today, local television news stations do little real reporting, much less the type of real-life, get-the-facts-right advocacy journalism practiced by Edwards. In addition, the dominance of huge corporations in media ownership has blurred the line between profits and news. Can a reporter—any reporter—even hold big corporations accountable these days? Do advertising dollars trump truth in today’s media? I think so. It is tragic but true.
We are witnessing a transformation in the media today. More independent media outlets, not tied to the corporate narrative of reality, are working for the rights of everyday Americans and Oklahomans as the mainstream media abandons any sense of responsibility to the culture in favor of profits for a few top shareholders, owners and executives.
Edwards represented a time when the mainstream media really cared about ordinary people and was willing to put in the energy and take the risks to help them. His professional life was a testament to truth.
Bush Should Be Impeached
You would not know it from the mainstream media and especially here in quasi-Bushland, where The Daily Oklahoman’s editorial page still licks the cowboy boots of a president with a mere 29 percent approval rating, but there is a strong, growing movement in this country to impeach George Bush.
Congressional and other candidates throughout the country are actually running on the impeachment platform. For example, Bill McClosky, a candidate for the U.S. Congress in Los Angeles says:
“A President cannot commit a more serious crime against our democracy than lying to Congress and the American people to get them to support a military action or war. It is not just cowardly and abhorrent to fool others into giving their lives for a nonexistent threat; it is that the decision to go to war, in a democracy, must be made by the people and their representatives. Given that the consequence is death for tens of thousands of people and the diversion of billions of dollars to the war effort, the fraud cannot be tolerated. The President should be impeached for committing fraud.”
For the record, Bush lied this country into a botched, illogical war, sanctioned the torture of prisoners in American custody, and ordered the illegal wiretapping of American citizens. All these acts are impeachable offenses. The only reason the Republican-dominated Congress does not investigate the president is because they have sold out the country’s interests to partisan politics.
This country must have some type of reconciliation for Bush’s action or our democratic structures will be jeopardized. It is understandable, given the fear mongering of this administration, that the country’s citizens are just now realizing the magnitude of Bush’s actions, and this is reflected in the president’s declining poll numbers. We must reaffirm democracy and freedom in this country.