Review of Oklahoma’s Education Quality and Funding

Posted in: Club Newsletter, Featured, In The News, Reflections Articles

Bart Binning, Ed.D.

Rotary Article 21
Review of Oklahoma’s Education Quality and Funding
Bart Binning, Ed.D.

This article is a continuation of the theme of a series of articles written in the Rotary Newsletter over the past few years that dealt with “Change in Education” and were summaries of open discussions held by the Thursday Morning “Club 29 Make-up Meetings”

In the article: Education Reform: Part 1 — Reflections and Analysis ( we proposed specific purposes of education
In the article: Education Reform: Part 2 – Suggestions to the Legislature ( it was suggested that we need to take a step back and re-evaluate our expectations for the state’s education system

In this article, I will attempt to provide some perspective on our current education system, specifically to introduce the “Why? Question” to identify the problems (not symptoms) the legislature and teachers are attempting to address. This article is written to encourage a conversation.

After World War II the Toyota Production System was formalized by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, with one of its primary components being problem solving using the “3-Whys” technique. The “3” in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem. (Today its the 5-Whys technique.) The technique was based on the observation that not all problems have a single root cause. If one wishes to uncover multiple root causes, the method must be repeated asking a different sequence of questions each time.

The ultimate questions that the legislature should have been addressing is how effective the Oklahoma System of Education at addressing its purposes? And if it is not effective, Why not?

In any evaluation, the purpose of the organization should be the top consideration. To review, it has been suggested that the purposes of education are:
• for children: to create independent, self-reliant adults that have the knowledge and skills to sustain themselves and their families in a democratic society.
• for adults: to aid in the adult’s personal growth and development as well as their occupational and career preparedness, with the knowledge and skills to challenge and improve society’s social structure.
• for society: the purpose of graduate higher education is to “expand the body of knowledge.” Faculty are expected to do “research” as one mechanism for professional growth that seeks to ensure that faculty knows the “leading edge of knowledge” in their field.
• for society: the purpose of common education is to inculcate society’s values with our children.

There is evidence that there are issues with common education in this state. It is reported that currently 39% “of all first-year college students in the state wind up having to take remedial (or catch-up) courses, for which they pay tuition but receive no college credit. Oklahoma families spend $22.2 million in annual out-of-pocket costs for remediation each year.” While children graduating to high school and directly attending college is not a suggested purpose of common education, I would submit it can still be a measure of effectiveness. (

The question then becomes: WHY?

1. Why? – We have a significant number of teachers with alternative certificates, not technically qualified to teach in their subject area.
2. Why? – Many of the people trained to become teachers either leave the state or leave the profession
3. Why? – Teachers are not paid enough.
4. Why? – ?

Current Dollar Constant Dollar
1969-70 1979-80 1989-90 1999-2000 2004-05 2008-09 2009-10 1969-70 1979-80 1989-90 1999-2000 2004-05 2008-09 2009-10 percent change 1999 to 2010
United States average $8,626 $15,970 $31,367 $41,807 $47,516 $54,319 $55,350 $49,018 $44,175 $53,028 $53,010 $53,209 $54,319 $54,119 3.40%
Okla-homa 6,882 13,107 23,070 31,298 37,879 43,846 44,143 39,107 36,241 39,001 39,685 42,417 43,846 43,720 10.20%


Yes, there is evidence that Teachers in Oklahoma are underpaid. But, Why has the legislature allowed this situation to exist in this state and others?

There is evidence that teachers, before this legislative session, had been gaining ground in terms of salary when compared to the US average. So, Why did we have teachers’ work stoppage that was supported by School Boards and districts? Why did teachers in other states also have a work stoppage?

Why does it seem that we, as a state, never ask the WHY question enough with regards to education quality and teacher pay? Why does it seem that we are addressing symptoms, and not the underlying problems?

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