This article will probably shock you in that it does not contain one single graph, calculation or any other kind of number. However, it does relate directly to them. Since I have worked in education, there has always been a continual call for more funding, while those outside education who don't wish to spend more money elicit the call for more streamlined services. A huge divide exists among different groups' and their opinions on how much money is needed for education, how much money is sent to education and how much money is actually spent on education. This is causing a significant logjam, with groups calling others liars and peer pressure between groups to support what is common logic when it comes to funding. It’s enough to make you want to go back to that old Calgon commercial and say the magic phrase, “Calgon, take me away!"
I was reading my local paper, the Kingfisher Time and Free Press, and came across a Christine Reed article that provided the best explanation on gross production taxes I have seen in quite some time. This got me to thinking about various newspaper folks, like Jill Haub at Mountain View and Andy Lee at Prague, whom I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. We as educators are probably not doing a sufficient job of giving them basic, accurate information on data we have access to that would certainly be useful to our patrons.
Does this involve trust? Yes. You have to trust that reporters will write an objective article. Likewise, they have to trust you to give them objective, accurate information. If we want to ever move past this logjam that we have in our state government, we have to get back to just telling the truth--not a version of the truth--but the straight truth. The safest place to start is with our local news outlets. It’s important to remember that our local newspapers are there to be our mouthpiece. They are there to share gathered facts in a vetted, journalistic fashion. This happens most of the time but not always. It’s our job to cultivate that relationship and to remain professional when there’s something written that we aren’t crazy about.
My point is this: no one is more of an expert on your district’s finances than you. If you aren’t putting out the information in good times, how will you have a voice to discuss issues during the bad? Every financial decision a board of education makes is public record. Explain those decisions to the media, and make sure as we argue over state funding they have adequate resources to describe the effect on your community. Between Sarah, Ben, and myself, we are always willing to help you effectively convey your message.
Also, keep in mind that OPSRC has one of the better and most usable databases in Oklahoma. We are always developing more and more resources that could be helpful when you are talking with the media. Don’t hesitate to send your news contacts to us for information. If it is about your school, of course we will visit with you to ensure you are comfortable with the information being shared. If you have something unusual to explain to your board that should come from an impartial, outside source, we are happy to come to your board meeting. We are here to serve you, just like you are in your community to serve it. If you want us to build out a special set of data for your use with your board, we can also do that. The point is that we don’t mind helping you to communicate your district's, your county’s or your region’s situation. If you know someone that needs some help in this area, please have them contact me.