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AP Reports State Funds 'Slashed,' 'Depleted'

September 27, 2017 - 10:09am CDT

Sean Murphy covers Oklahoma for the Associated Press, which means his articles can reach across the country. In August, one such article claimed to explain how state budget problems have led to low teacher pay. The picture Murphy paints of Oklahoma, however, is not entirely accurate.

Murphy writes that teachers are the “victims of the state’s seemingly endless budget problems.” Yet the state’s own Comprehensive Annual Financial Report shows state spending is at an all-time high. Murphy also says state revenues are “depleted,” but state officials this year will spend nearly $18 billion on government programs.

According to Murphy’s article, Oklahoma legislators “slashed taxes on both individual income and oil and natural gas production in 2014.” In fact, revenues from these taxes increased from 2014 to 2015. The individual income tax and the gross production tax brought in a combined $3.31 billion in 2014 and $3.55 billion in 2015, an increase of $241 million. State government reacted to these “slashed” taxes by increasing total state spending by $400 million over the next two years.

“Even affluent districts with new buildings and huge football stadiums,” Murphy writes, “are now hemorrhaging qualified teachers to other states or professions.” But revenue reports provided by the State Department of Education show that since 2006, (the earliest available data), revenue provided to the Department of Education has increased from $5.8 billion to $8 billion. Murphy never explains why, with over $2 billion increased funding in a decade and with “new buildings and huge football stadiums,” school districts fail to prioritize teachers.

Murphy also writes about teachers moving to Texas, where some districts offer higher pay for teachers, but never mentions that state’s higher cost of living or the ironic fact that Texas has no income tax. Finally, the story never explains why some of the highest taxed states in the nation face budget shortfalls and complaints of insufficient education funding.

Last year, Gallup reported that Americans’ trust in the news media “to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly” fell to its lowest level in Gallup polling history. In June 2017, Gallup reported that 27 percent of Americans—and only 13 percent of Republicans—say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers.