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A ‘trusted source for fact-based public policy analysis’ – those are the self-described words of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Established over 25 years ago, the OCPA has paved the way for a number of new policies within the state, claiming to have the best interests of families, businesses, children, and taxpayers at heart. However, on more than one occasion, the OCPA has been laced with controversy, begging the question: can we trust a group that says one thing and does another?

Throughout their existence, the OCPA has consistently advocated for the public funding of private schools across Oklahoma, through the use of things such as tax credits and vouchers. The non-profit think tank often talks on the topic of ‘government schools’ and how the Oklahoma state does not have a duty to take care of the impoverished. While the group clearly and loudly opposes the funding of public schools and desires an emphasis on private education, this does not explain why they recently took a six-figure payout from the government. How can a non-profit lobbyist group that fights for funding going to private schools then accept the same level of public government funding in order to fuel their efforts?

2020 ethics filings have revealed expenditures of $400,000 from the OCPA in their quest to defeat the question of Medicaid expansion, just one report of nine that were filed. Simultaneously, they were the recipients of a six-figure PPP loan thought to be in the region of $150,000 to $350,000 in order to pay their staff. Would a wise non-profit group not simply pay their staff first? Instead, they used a hefty chunk of their budget on advertising against a welfare program designed to protect the poor.

Not only does funding private schools have a noticeable impact on the state budget, but it is also a campaign built on false figures, with fellow Brandon Dutcher claiming that there were over 100,000 Oklahoma students in private education. In actuality, this figure has been proved to be less than half that number. Not only this, but in 2016, Dave Bond from the OCPA claimed that a new law on school employee health insurance would free up $100 million which could be used to solve the problem of teacher pay rises. However, yet again, this ‘trusted source fact-based public policy analysis’ were exposed for peddling misleading numbers.

While the actions of the OCPA are not illegal, they certainly raise some moral questions. Making public arguments to politicians and voters on the state of the education sector while using misleading or false numbers is, whatever way you look at it, morally corrupt. If the OCPA is aware of the false figures, then they are simply leveraging their position as an apparent trusted fact source in order to pedal their own agendas. If they are not aware of the false numbers, then they are simply inadequate within their role.

What is certain is that this ‘trusted’ group are using their funding and influence, not for the best of the state as a whole, but to drive an agenda in favor of the wealthy elite and against the struggling poor.

OCPA knows no shame. For this hit-piece, they hired an out of state writer (Greg Forster, who’s also written attack opinion pieces on us on OCPA’s site) to attack the pre-walkout, high teacher wages!

With stunning insight like, “Public school teachers are paid more than other teachers…” this drivel was supposed to encourage our Oklahoma legislators to cut off future salary increases.

While teachers didn’t need a raise according to this logic, the ruling-class OCPA “think tank” took a SIX-FIGURE taxpayer-funded handout from Uncle Sam in 2020!

Seems like they don’t practice what they preach?

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In August of 2018, OCPA President, Jonathan Small, suggested that if we wanted to increase teacher pay, simply eliminating superintendents would open up several teaching spots.

One wonders if the Anti-Public School OCPA had followed its own advice in the spring of 2020 – you know trimming out a few six-figure salaried “think tank” executives – they wouldn’t have needed to take a SIX-FIGURE government bailout?

Rules for thee, but not for me!

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Today’s anti-public school OCPA disaster comes from David Bond, who led the fight against SQ 779 which would have infused public schools with funding for a 1 cent sales-tax.

In order to distort the public’s perception (a common tactic of “think tanks”) word salads of a variety of completely implausible alternatives were offered via the OCPA’s work.

As one debunker wrote, “Without a doubt my favorite demonstration of the OCPA’s shameless incompetence was the bold, unsupported statement by Dave Bond on statewide television (KOTV’s Educate Oklahoma in 2016) that a new law affecting school employee health insurance would free up $100 million for teacher pay raises.  I show why that claim, like other silly claims he made, was empty puffery … (MORE)”

How is it that the OCPA execs making 4x what a teacher makes deserved taxpayer funds but the teachers did not? For reference: the OCPA took a SIX-FIGURE government handout in 2020 and yet continually advocates against public schools receiving funding.

So many questions.

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Anti-public ed superstar, Trent England, of the “think tank” OCPA wrote that when schools need funding for burgeoning class sizes, fixing up their buildings, or books – they really didn’t need it – just magically “reallocate” what they had.

Always one to pull out a unicorn, this article talked about ONE school where they seemed to have some funding that could have been reallocated. At the same time school budgets were crashing around the state due to increasing student populations and a decade of CUTS to ed funding.

Curious how taxpayer funded public schools that serve all 77 counties, over 700,000 children in Oklahoma need to “reallocate” but when faced with a similar budget crunch the OCPA did not reallocate, but rather begged the US Government for a tax-payer funded SIX FIGURE bailout.

Perhaps it’s time for the anti-public school privatizers to “find something new”?

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Trent England, EVP at OCPA wrote back in December 2018 – that funding simply wasn’t what public schools needed to solve their problems. The magic bullet? “Moving school board elections to November.”

We cannot make this stuff up. The truth is far better than any fiction.

One wonders if moving elections or perhaps changing the color of the carpet might have helped OCPA not need their 2020 SIX-FIGURE corporate welfare package?

We stand by our conviction – legislators should listen to educators about public school needs – not these charlatans.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs received a SIX-FIGURE taxpayer-funded handout and yet argues on their website that “free” federal money is immoral. Perhaps the immorality is working against the 700,000 kids in Oklahoma’s public schools for the last three decades – leading legislators to defund and harm our public school infrastructure?