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Where Is The Money For Teacher Raises?

The real question to ask about potential teacher raises next year in Oklahoma is whether the Republican majority in the legislature is serious about finding the money to fund them or if it’s just another GOP meaningless political performance.

I tend to think it’s the latter at this point. In fact, public education and higher education funding is getting slashed once again THIS fiscal year as we found out yesterday. The state faces a revenue failure, which means revenue collections came in recently with a more than 5 percent drop over the budget estimate.

The revenue failure means an immediate $11.1 million cut for public education and a $4.6 million cut to higher education, according to a media report. This, combined with an expected $878 million shortfall for next fiscal year, probably means the grandiose plan for teacher raises is mainly political posturing.

A House committee, however, has passed a measure that, if passed and signed into law, would increase teacher salaries by $6,000 annually over three years, but there’s a huge problem with the plan. It doesn’t identify the funds to pay for it.

Gov. Mary Fallin, of course, has advanced a proposal to increase sales taxes on everything from doctor’s visits to funeral services. Perhaps, we should call these death taxes. Pay more at the doctor’s office for, let’s say, a bleak diagnosis, and then pay more for dying later. But even if the proposal passes, and I doubt it will, would it be enough to fund teacher raises? I don’t think so.

I’ll address Fallin’s plan later in this post, but I want to focus for a moment on the plan to raise teacher salaries. Under the plan, teachers would receive a $1,000 raise the first year, a $2,000 raise the next year and a $3,000 raise the following year. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this plan, although the hyperbole surrounding it seems a bit much.

For example, the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Michael Rogers, a Republican from Broken Arrow, who heads the House Education Committee, was quoted in the media like this about the plan:

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Pruitt Confirmed As EPA Head Without Full Vetting

Republicans have confirmed the appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency without a full vetting of his well-known and established ties to the oil and gas industry.

That might seem like old and expected news by now, but Pruitt has just been ordered to release hundreds of emails based on an open records request submitted about two years ago by the Center for Media and Democracy. Pruitt had stonewalled on the request, but now a local judge has ordered him to turn over the information.

Perhaps, it might seem redundant to further establish that Pruitt, as the state’s attorney general, served the interests of the oil and gas industry far more than he worked to ensure the viability and extension of the state’s environmental health.

We already know, for example, that he sent a letter to the EPA during his tenure, arguing it had over estimated the amount of air pollution coming from oil and gas activity. The letter, as we found out, was actually written by staff of Devon Energy, a local Oklahoma City firm.

We already know, too, that oil baron and billionaire Harold Hamm, the founder and chief executive officer of Continental Resources, another Oklahoma City oil and gas firm, served as an honorary chairman for Pruitt’s most recent campaign.

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Oklahoma Legislator: Women Are Body Hosts

One of the controversial anti-abortion bills receiving consideration by the Oklahoma Legislature this session has drawn widespread media attention and has embarrassed the state throughout the nation once again.

House Bill 1441, sponsored by Justin Humphey, a Republican from Lane in southeastern Oklahoma, would require women seeking an abortion to have the "written informed consent of the father" before proceeding. The provision alone is ludicrous in its essence because it doesn’t take into account many factors, such the basic right of women to control their bodies to the myriad of situations that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy.

But it was what Humphrey said about the bill that drew coverage throughout the country. In an interview with The Intercept site, Humphrey said:

I understand that they [women] feel like that is their body. I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant. So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.

But what if the birth control failed or what if the woman doesn’t want her sexual partner to know about it or what if the relationship situation doesn’t warrant discussing the issue with anyone but medical professionals? These are just some of the issues.

The idea that women are just hosts for pregnancies and don’t have personal agency when it comes to their bodies is an insult to them.

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