All Talk No Raises

The idea getting bounced around that somehow Republican lawmakers in the Oklahoma House and Senate have gotten a clear message that our poorly-paid public school teachers deserve raises doesn’t pass the basic logic test.

The Oklahoman weighed in on the matter with a recent commentary titled rather bluntly “It's clear that Oklahoma lawmakers have gotten the message about teacher pay,” but I don’t see that it’s clear at all. In fact, the crushing November defeat of State Question 779, which would have raised teacher salaries, sent the opposite message.

That message is this for lawmakers: A majority of voting Oklahomans are perfectly fine with major cuts to education at all levels and aren’t overly concerned that teachers here have about the lowest salaries in the nation, forcing many of them to leave the state for better pay.

The Oklahoman editorial mentions that new House Speaker Charles McCall has been told by the Republican caucus that their constituents’ “No. 1” issue is raising teacher salaries, but that smacks of political hyperbole to me. The commentary also goes over some plans by lawmakers that have been offered to raise teacher salaries in the upcoming legislative session.

I supported SQ 779, and I would support just about any plan that would raise teacher salaries by any amount, but the facts don’t add up at this point that it can happen. A small raise? Maybe for some window dressing. But the state faces a nearly 900 million dollar budget shortfall next fiscal year and might even have to endure a revenue failure this year, which would mean even more cuts.


Telling The Truth On The Sentence Level

(Given the dangers of the illegitimate presidency of Donald Trump, Okie Funk will for now donate approximately half of its posts to national issues, especially those that raise the specter of contravening or threatening our country’s democratic structures. What this means in a pragmatic sense is that every other post will focus on something that might be only tangentially related to Oklahoma.—Kurt Hochenauer)

It might seem counter productive right now to criticize the reporting in The New York Times given the grave threat this nation faces by the authoritarian President Donald Trump. We need as many reasoned, intelligent voices as possible.

After all, we have been told that since the election subscriptions have increased “tenfold” at The Times, although it remains unclear to me just what type of subscriptions—digital, print, trial—these represent and how much reading is really happening. The larger question is whether The Times can hold on to the subscribers.

I’m not, of course, generally against skyrocketing interest in what is widely considered not only the best daily newspaper in the world but also the model for journalism in general. But the model part of its reputation and influence is where the problem resides. This problem of The Times as a model has reached a breaking point with the election of Trump and his craven disinformation tactics.

Although just over the weekend there was an extremely hopeful sign, The Times remains tied to an old-school type of objective reporting that has become about itself rather than the truth. This is a sentence-level issue. I’m not the first to make this argument. When journalistic outlets quote lies from people in power—even when uttered by the president of the United States—they should be reported as lies. Words like lie, lying, false, falsehood, distortions, wrong, error, etc., should become a normal part of the journalistic lexicon under a Trump presidency. No one should be allowed to obviously lie in a newspaper story these days without the lie getting defined openly and, frankly, just for what it is.

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January 20, 2017

(I learned late last night that Frosty Troy, the longtime editor of the Oklahoma Observer has died. Troy was a legend in Oklahoma journalism and a great advocate for liberal causes in this state. I will have a post celebrating his life soon. My condolences go out to his family and close friends.)

As he assumes power, it is correct and realistic to say that Donald Trump is an illegitimate president of the United States of America because of the failure of our country’s archaic presidential election system, if not for more reasons.

Note how I referred to the failure of our election system. There’s no clear proof, at least for now, that Trump worked directly with the Russians to hack the election or that there was ballot tampering. What we do know for sure is that his opponent Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by approximately 3 million votes. More people voted for Clinton than Trump, who, based on that fact alone, is an illegitimate president based on our flawed presidential election system.

This, of course, is not the ideal day to discuss the ongoing debate over the electoral college, created historically on racist premises to benefit slave owners, but that is a discussion that needs to be happening in classrooms and homes across the country right now. Trump received a lot of votes no doubt from racists, and it was a racist system that got him elected without actually winning the total vote count.

What we know is that Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin. We know the Federal Bureau of Investigation meddled in the election at the last moment in support of Trump and that the Russian government hacked into and then revealed national Democratic Party emails that were basically innocuous but were reported by the so-called “liberal” media with breathless urgency and outrage as scandalous. The New York Times these days is boasting about its increase in subscriptions and its commitment to the truth, but its one-sided reporting on the non-story of Clinton’s emails was just as—maybe more so—damaging to her candidacy as the Russian government hack.

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