Common Core and budget mistakes make the case for transparency reform

Common Core and budget mistakes make the case for transparency reform

As you read my article last week, I suspect you were rather horrified to realize the enormity of the Legislature’s mistake; they provided the scantest deliberation before approving Common Core standards.

GNP App

Common Core made its appearance late in the 2010 session as a conference committee amendment to a bill that until then had dealt with teacher evaluation policy. As the 2010 session came to a close, the vote for Common Core was brought to the House floor a few minutes before 10 pm.

The Legislature’s failure to properly deliberate this issue proved incredibly costly to the citizens of Oklahoma. Four years and millions of dollars later, the Legislature admitted its mistake and tried to unwind the policy, but not until after it had put the entire education system through an emotional roller coaster of trying to abide by new standards that were subsequently repealed.

This could have been avoided, and is just one example of far-reaching policy approved by the Legislature sans deliberative review.

Several legislators understand this problem, and they desired reform. In 2011, less than one year after the Common Core amendment, House members approved a reform to provide more transparency to conference committee amendments such as the one that enacted Common Core.

The reforms continued in 2013 when the House created the Calendar Committee. This committee held public votes on the upcoming agenda of the House. This gave even more time for public review of bills before legislators were required to cast their vote.

These actions convinced me that the Legislature was engaged in a series of baby steps towards overhauling the antiquated system of governance which has proven so costly to the taxpayers. Over the years, I wrote articles praising those who enacted the reforms and I have endeavored to remain optimistic even while acknowledging that we have much more to do.

In the last three years I have been harder pressed to maintain my optimism.

In 2014 the House killed the Calendar Committee and, in terms of transparency, it has been going backwards ever since.

This backwards movement culminated with the vote on last year’s budget. Without the benefit of a Calendar Committee, the budget vote took place after the House waived the last remaining rule that would have provided the scantest opportunity for public review. The budget was put to a vote within just a few hours of its public release!

This gave legislators little time to deliberate or win public approval for the budget deal. In the haste this question wasn’t considered at any length: “If we fund ongoing expenses with one-time revenue, won’t that just create a massive budget deficit next year? Do we really want to go into next year with a built-in deficit of more than a half billion dollars?”

Omitting the deliberative process may have seemed the easy answer for the short term but it was the wrong thing to do in the long term.

Today’s Legislature – indeed, the state as a whole – pays the heaviest of prices.

Many legislators still support transparency and they understand the problem. They are hesitant to speak out publicly – a fact which is itself an indictment of the current system – nonetheless, they want to create a deliberative and transparent governance structure. I am committed to doing what I can to support them and to place the Legislature back on the path of reform, transparency and openness.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

Sincerely,

Leave a Reply