Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"No fact embarrasses Oklahomans more, or repels prospective businesses more, than the number of cash-strapped [school] districts that have gone to four-day weeks"

The Economist:

The roots of the fiasco are not hard to determine. As in Oklahoma’s northern neighbour, Kansas, deep tax cuts have wrecked the state’s finances. During the shale boom, lawmakers gave a sweetheart deal to its oilmen, costing $470m in a single year, by slashing the gross production tax on horizontal drilling from 7% to 1%. North Dakota, by contrast, taxes production at 11.5%. The crash in global oil prices in 2014 did not help state coffers either. Oklahoma has also cut income taxes, first under Democrats desperate to maintain control over a state that was trending Republican, and then under Republicans, who swept to power anyway.

...

Other state agencies are broke, too. Highway patrolmen are told not to fill their petrol tanks to save money. Those caught drunk-driving are able to keep their licences because there are no bureaucrats to revoke them.

...

The real reason why so many school districts are resorting to a tighter calendar is that it is the only true perk they can offer to poorly paid teachers, whose salaries start at $31,600 and who have not received a rise for ten years. The exodus to Texas and Arkansas, which included Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year in 2016, continues unabated. A 20-minute drive across the border often results in a $10,000 increase. Dallas’s school district has unashamedly set up booths in Oklahoma City to poach what talent remains. So dire is the shortage that school districts have found 1,850 adults without the necessary qualifications, given them emergency certifications, and placed them in classrooms.
Related:
Billionaire . . . says he tried stringing up fishing line, spraying smelly repellent and even posting a wolf decoy, but nothing could rid his lakeside vacation home of the Canada geese that turned his lawn into a minefield of poop.

His next line of attack? Refusing to pay his $90,000 school tax bill until officials in the Finger Lakes town of South Bristol find a way to control the birds.