December 01, 2007

Indigent-Plaintiff Watch

I always knew sardonic derision would pay off. Today in its lead editorial, The Oklahoman takes note of my recent poke in the eye of two Oklahoma school districts.
One might recall that school officials in Jenks and Western Heights joined with the Oklahoma Education Association in suing the state last year, alleging public schools weren't adequately funded and were due billions of dollars more in state money. The case, thankfully, was dismissed after the courts ruled school funding decisions belonged to legislators, not judges.

Brandon Dutcher, policy director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, couldn't help but find a bit of humor in a recent sports story in The Oklahoman about big and expensive high school athletic facilities. The story included details on a $5 million building in Jenks and plans for a $1.2 million locker room at Western Heights.

"God bless these poor plaintiffs, soldiering on in the face of adversity,” Dutcher wrote in the think tank's monthly publication. "One can only imagine what they would be able to accomplish if they were adequately funded.”

We'll be the first to admit that school funding is a pretty complicated business. Schools don't typically use state appropriations for capital improvements, including athletic facilities. They ask voters to pay for it more directly by passing bond issues that raise property taxes and sometimes even open up the buildings for community use. Still, one athletic director called it "humbling and concerning” that some high schools have athletic facilities better than some colleges. Concerning indeed.