Oklahoma Politics Support for public schools Teachers

John Thompson: Will Education Be the Issue That Sinks Oklahoma’s Republican Gubernatorial Candidate?

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In recent years, Oklahoma has been a reliably Republican State, but this year may be different because of the state’s teacher uprising.

John Thompson writes here about the way that teachers and parents who want the state to invest in education are upending the Governor’s race.

He writes:

“In Oklahoma, the governor’s race would ordinarily result in a solid victory for an enthusiastic Trump supporter like Republican Kevin Stitt, who brandishes a “100 percent Pro-Life score” and an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

“But this year’s focus on education could turn the election for Stitt’s competitor, veteran Democrat Drew Edmondson, who trails by only four points, according to a recent poll.

“This year’s focus on education could turn the election for Democrat Drew Edmondson.
At a recent forum, Stitt has evaded the question of how he would fund a teacher pay raise without raising taxes. Edmondson, in contrast, committed to a $300 to $350 million annual increase for education, funded by taxes on oil and gas production, removing a capital gains exemption for high-income taxpayers, and a 50-cent tax hike on cigarettes.

“Asked about this difference in strategy, Edmondson’s campaign manager Michael Clingman said in an email, “the lack of specificity in Kevin Stitt’s messages is troubling. Teachers marched on the Oklahoma Capitol last April demanding real solutions, not vague promises….”

“Stitt is basing much of his campaign on running government like a publicly-traded company—setting performance metrics for state governance and holding subordinates accountable for measurable outputs. Drawing from his experience as the founder and CEO of Gateway Mortgage Group, Stitt describes his program as “performance metrics=accountability, efficiency and results.” He promises to fire underperformers.

“But some of the “performance metrics” from his own company don’t look so good, as revealed in an ongoing legal controversy over questionable mortgage lending practices. His company originated subprime mortgages to homebuyers who may not have qualified for traditional loans (a hearing on the Lehman Brothers suit against Gateway is set for October 29 in the Southern District of the New York Bankruptcy Court.)

“Gateway has been called one of “the 15 shadiest mortgage lenders being backed by the government.” It paid fines in three states and was penalized in five for using unlicensed lenders. Gateway lost its license and signed a consent order barring it from seeking another lender or broker license in Georgia.

“Oklahoma educators have had enough of outsiders imposing their untested opinions on classrooms. Since the walkouts this spring, over 100 current or former teachers and family members of teachers have run for local, state, and federal office in Oklahoma. Only four of the nineteen Republicans who voted against raising taxes to increase teacher pay remain in the running. Edmondson is benefiting from the energy generated by women such as congressional candidate Kendra Horn, and a record number of high-profile female teacher-candidates.

“Stitt was a no show for a recent candidate forum, where education issues were discussed. In contrast, Edmondson attended every day of the nine-day teacher walkout this April.”

Will teachers and parents “Remember in November?”

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