Mary Fallin Fails Our Teachers

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Wann
Marching on the Capitol: Teachers and supporters hold signs outside the Oklahoma State Capitol Complex. Teachers across the state went on strike for nearly two weeks to participate in the largest teacher protest in Oklahoma’s history.

Payton Williams
Voices Editor
@YoureSoVanya

There are very few things in this world more valuable than a good teacher.

I don’t think this is a radical sentiment. Most people know this. I certainly know this.

So, why doesn’t Mary Fallin know this?

For most of two weeks, nearly every public school teacher in this state stopped working. Schools stood empty. You may have noticed. It was the reason you could drive a little faster in school zones for a few days.

For Mary Fallin, I guess that was all it meant.

For teachers in Oklahoma, however, it meant a stand against the oppressive neglect of the public school system by a state legislature that considers the issue of education funding to be the annoying little middle man between their pockets and money from Big Oil.

The neglect shows.

For the last decade, according to data from US News and World Report, Oklahoma has stayed firmly at the bottom of the rankings for both education funding, where it ranks 46th, and education approval, where it has fluctuated within the bottom five.

Oklahoma has consistently been ranked as having one of the worst education systems in the country, and the funding from the state legislature has, nonetheless, remained static.

So, if after allowing the state education system to become a national embarrassment, the legislature still can’t find it in their hearts to give a bit of money, where is the money going?

The answer to that question isn’t too surprising for Oklahoma residents: It’s greasing the palms of Oklahoma’s wealthy oil executives.

Oklahoma has some of the lowest taxes on oil in the US. Annually, According to a report from Reuters, the state gives roughly $500 million in tax breaks to oil companies.

In Oklahoma City, the downtown area’s largest buildings stand as monuments mostly to massive oil drilling operations.

The city belongs to wealthy oil companies, and so does the state, for all intents and purposes.

And yet, Mary Fallin and her colleagues constantly remind us that if taxes were raised for these companies, they’d leave the state, along with all their money.

As I mentioned before, Oklahoma hardly taxes oil companies at all, and the oil here is more plentiful than in almost any other part of the US and most of those states would charge more for it, so where would these companies go?

Yet, the fear-mongering has worked. Education funding has continued to be slashed, and tax cuts for oil companies continue to be essentially nonexistent.

The teachers of this state tried to make their voices heard on the issue. They marched on the capitol by the hundreds, clogging the entrances. It was a beautiful sight. A real, full-on civic uprising.

The teachers, in return, got a one-time raise, and about 1/6 of the funding they asked for, according to reports from CNN and Time magazine.

That’s all they got for marching on our capitol. Two weeks of work given up to make a stand, and Mary Fallin appears on CBS to call the teachers ungrateful.

“Teachers want more,” Fallin said. “But it’s kind of like a teenager wanting a better car.”

In that moment, I think, she shows where her allegiance lies. It isn’t to the citizens of this state, who made it very clear what they wanted and received nearly none of it.

Her allegiance lies with the oil executives.

So, if teachers are like teenagers wanting better cars, then Mary Fallin is the parent who gave the car, the house and everything in it to the guys from Big Oil.

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