Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) placed blame for sagging education funding on a peculiar source: insufficient oil and gas drilling.
Bishop, who serves as chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, told the Western Republican Leadership Conference this month that disparities among Western states’ education funding could be placed squarely at the feet of regulations preventing unrestrained drilling and mining. “You want to fund education and help our kids?” Bishop asked the Republican audience. “You have to do the resources.”
BISHOP: Everything in red are the states that have the hardest time funding their education systems. The states that have the slowest growth, and it’s almost a 2-to-1 growth. The states in yellow increase their funding by education by 92 percent, the rest of them by 56 percent. [...] The fact that our land is not in our control means we don’t get property tax for it, we don’t have the development of it which produces income tax or severance tax. [...] Let me show you the difference between Wyoming and Montana. The blue is what Wyoming was able to pay their teachers in every one of those classes, the red is what Montana did. I promise you the difference between what Wyoming and Montana is Wyoming has resources and they actively develop them. You want to fund education and help our kids? You have to do the resources.
Bishop’s concern for education funding is somewhat spurious, considering his record of consistently voting against education funding during his five terms in the House. Just last fall, in fact, Bishop voted against a $26 billion state aid bill designed to prevent thousands of teachers from being laid off.
As such, many might view the Utah Republican’s supposed concern for education funding as little more than a stalking horse to open up more western lands and public parks to drilling. Indeed, at the same conference, Bishop told the audience about his belief that federal control of public lands is unconstitutional. He also told ThinkProgress afterward of his desire to mine an area around the Grand Canyon the size of the state of New Jersey.
Drilling is not the answer for education funding woes. Prioritizing education is.