Gallup reported in September 2016 (“Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low”) that "Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media 'to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly' has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media."
That Gallup finding came to mind yesterday when I read a cringe-inducingly one-sided story in The Ponca City News headlined "Schools Forced to Make Budget Cuts." Though the reporting may have been done accurately, it wasn't done fully and fairly. The Ponca City superintendent is quoted in the article as saying, “What is happening to public education in our state is not normal.” He complains of having to “operate our schools with fewer and fewer resources.” These statements went unchallenged (to say the least) by The Ponca City News.
Here is some additional information to consider.
- According to data compiled from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System and provided by the state Department of Education, total education spending in Ponca City, even when adjusted for inflation, is higher today ($51,954,016) than it was a decade ago ($49,355,806). Per-pupil spending is also higher—up from $9,590 to $10,123.
- Oklahoma’s public education system now has more non-teachers than teachers. According to economist Benjamin Scafidi, if it weren’t for the non-teaching staff surge of the last two decades Oklahoma could have given each teacher a pay raise of more than $6,000. In Ponca City, the non-teaching staff increased by a whopping 28 percent—even as enrollment declined by 10 percent. Why?
- According to researchers at the George W. Bush Institute, the average student in Ponca City is performing better in math than 52 percent of students in Oklahoma, 46 percent of students in the nation, and 35 percent of students in other developed economies. Is this performance good enough to justify the superintendent's annual compensation of $205,025? Taxpayers must decide for themselves.
- School officials imply that Ponca City’s per-pupil spending of $10,123 is not enough. But how much is enough? Would $15,971 (Cushing) be enough? How about $17,552 (Stroud), $25,373 (Taloga), or $43,817 (Reydon)? The superintendent in Tahlequah has gone so far as to say, “There has never been enough revenue for public education, and there never will be.” Does the Ponca City superintendent share that view? If not, at what dollar amount would he tell taxpayers, “Thank you. The funding level you have provided is now sufficient. If there are any problems remaining with the schools, I take responsibility for them.”?