Monday, October 20, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
PUT JOY IN EDUCATION!
by Steve Fair
In two weeks, it will be over! The 2014 campaign cycle will conclude on November 4th. This cycle’s ‘October surprise’ evidently was Ebola, and ISIS and the failure of the Obama administration to handle either with any degree of effectiveness. Political observers predict Republicans will take the U.S. Senate and add seats in the U.S. House. Oklahoma is one of only states where two U.S. Senate races are on the ballot (South Carolina is the other). Congressman James Lankford is running for the unexpired term of Tom Coburn and Senator Jim Inhofe is running for re-election. Both Republican nominees are expected to win easily.
In the statewide office races, Governor Mary Fallin, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, and Labor Commissioner Mark Costello are running for re-election and are heavily favored to win. The only statewide race that is expected to be competitive is for State Superintendent for Public Instruction. It pits Joy Hofmeister and John Cox. Hofmeister won a three way Republican primary, knocking off incumbent Janet Barassi without a runoff, garnering 57% of the vote. Cox won the primary, but didn’t get enough votes to win outright. He beat Freda Deskin in the Democrat run-off on August 26th 63% to 37%.
What does the State Superintendent of Public Instruction do? The State Constitution doesn’t define the duties of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The office’s powers and responsibilities come from the Oklahoma School Code and the powers granted to the office by the State Board of Education. The State Superintendent is responsible for the general administration, coordination, supervision, evaluation, and improvement of educational programs throughout the state. They also implement the policies of the State Board of Education. Every two years, they are required to publish a book containing the AG’s opinion on school law. Annually, they are to provide the state legislature and the Governor a ‘status report’ on the state of education in Oklahoma. Let’s take a look at the two candidates.
Joy Hofmeister is a former public school teacher and operates a Math & Reading tutoring business. She has four kids and has been very active in the Jenks school district. She was active in PTA, serves on the Jenks Schools Foundation board and was on the State Board of Education for two years. She is a TCU graduate and is working on a Masters at OU in School Policy and Law. Forty five Republican members of the state legislature endorsed her BEFORE the primary.
John Cox is the school superintendent in Peggs, a K-8 school district near Tahlequah. He has a degree from Northeastern University, and got his doctorate in education at OSU. His web site doesn’t say, but it appears Cox is married and has two children. In the past, he served on State Superintendent Sandy Garrett’s advisory board.
Cox is running as a conservative Democrat (if that actually exits). He says he opposes Common Core, but offers no alternative to the national standards. Cox favors increased funding in education and a starting wage of 35K for classroom teachers in Oklahoma.
Hofmeister opposes Common Core and advocates that Oklahoma establish our own standards. She says every student should be able to read before the third grade. She also would like to see classroom teacher’s pay increased, but she says education should be accountability to the taxpayer. She favors more transparency in education funding.
Evidently, Cox has not been complying with the State’s Opening Meetings Act. State statute (Title 25; Sections 301-314), requires public officials to hold open meetings which include advance notice of time, place and agenda of the meetings in a public venue. Those notices are required to be filed with the County Clerk’s office in advance of the meeting. Cox has not posted any notices on the Peggs School website for years.. That should concern voters. If Cox can’t post an online advanced agenda now, what makes us think he can do it when he is elected to a statewide office? He does appear to have the ability to update his campaign website regularly.
A second issue is Cox’s pay. Cox is paid an astronomical $141,678 annually as Superintendent of one of the smallest school districts in Oklahoma. Peggs has just 13 teachers and 248 students. The job Cox is running for pays $124,373 a year, which begs the question- why is he running for an office that pays less money? The obvious reason is the OEA and other liberal education groups in Oklahoma are attempting to re-capture the Oklahoma Department of Education. They understand the power and influence the position has over the public education of our children in Oklahoma.The choice in this race is clear. Hofmeister is more qualified, has a more detailed plan of how to lead the department and will work with the state legislature and the Governor to further public education in Oklahoma. On November 4th, put Joy in education.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE RULE OF LAW!
by Steve Fair
In the midst of gay weddings, the Ebola outbreak, ISIS, and the looming November general election, a new report on economic freedom was released last week. The study shows the United States ranked #12 among 152 countries in the world. Conducted by the Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute from Canada, the study has been published annually since 1996. As recently as 2000, the U.S. had been ranked #2 in the world but in recent years, the U.S. ranking has been steadily declining.
The index measures five factors: (1) Size of government; (2) Legal structure and security of property rights; (3) Access to sound money; (4) Freedom to trade internationally and; (5) Regulation of Credit, Labor and Business. According to the index, the ten freest economies in the world are: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, Jordan, and Chile and Finland tied for 10th. Why is America’s ranking been sliding?
According to the researchers, there are several factors that have contributed to America’s slide, but the one overriding fundamental reason America is not doing well in the global economy: America’s legal structure and the deviation from rule of law. The reports says, "increased use of eminent domain to transfer property to powerful political interests, the ramifications of the wars on terrorism and drugs, and the violation of the property rights of bondholders in the auto-bailout case have weakened the tradition of strong adherence to the rule of law in United States." America now ranks #36 in the world in rule of law.
What does the rule of law have to do with economics you may ask. In the last twenty years the rule of law has become the foundation of ‘development economics.’ Thr ‘rule of law’ not only provides rules for a just society but it fosters an environment for economic growth. “No other single political ideal has ever achieved global endorsement,” says Brian Tamanaha, a legal scholar at St John's University, New York.
The ‘Rule of Law’ is so important that economists worked out the “300% dividend” concept: in the long run, a country's income per head rises by roughly 300% if it improves its governance or ‘rule of law’ by one standard deviation. One standard deviation is roughly the gap between India's and Chile's rule-of-law scores. As it happens, Chile is about 300% richer than India in purchasing-power terms. How a country is governed is directly related to how well they do economically.
One economic theory—associated with Amartya Sen of Harvard—says that if you expand people's “capabilities,” they will do things that help countries grow rich. An important thing to remember is when economists discuss rule of law, they are not talking about just democracy and morality, but property rights and the efficient administration of justice. Laws provide stability in a society. Laws do not necessarily have to be moral or promote human rights to provide an environment for economic prosperity.
In the past twenty years, the expansion of government- federal, state and local- into Americans lives has been growing. There are more regulations and restrictions than ever before on both individuals and business. Banking regulations make it difficult for ‘start-ups’ to get financing to start-up. Regulations on existing businesses make expansion not economically practical or feasible. Capital investment is a coward and it tends to migrate to the geographic and economic area where there is the least resistance. In recent years, emerging governments/markets throughout the world have done a better job of adhering to the rule of law than the U.S. They have respected personal property rights, decreased regulation and allowed their banking institutions to operate in a common sense, less regulatory environment. That has lead to their economic growth and our decline.Until the American people demand a smaller and more efficient government, and recognize that liberty and freedom isn’t just about gay marriage and smoking dope, we can expect to see America’s ranking in economic freedom vs. the rest of the world continue to decline.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
CELEBRATE FREE SPEECH!
by Steve Fair
I love the fall campaign season. Walking a neighborhood for a conservative candidate and engaging voters on their doorstep is my idea of fun. Last Saturday, I was knocking doors for a candidate and I encountered four people who wouldn’t take the campaign material. Here is an account of each encounter;
The first person told me they were a Democrat, so they couldn’t vote for a Republican. I told them they could in fact vote for Republican in the November 4th election because it is a general election and registered Democrats and Independents can vote for Republicans and vise versa. Oklahoma does have ‘closed primaries’, but in general elections, Ds can vote for Rs and Rs can vote for Ds. There is no restriction on crossing Party lines in a general election. In fact, a large percentage of registered Democrats in Oklahoma vote Republican.
Another person told me in no uncertain terms he wouldn’t vote for a Republican- ever! This is what is known as a ‘Yellow Dog Democrat.’ That means they would vote for a ‘yellow dog’ before they would vote for a Republican. I’ve never understood why a ‘yellow’ dog was any less appealing than any other color dog, but nevertheless they must be the case. The ‘yellow dog Democrat’ is a dying breed in Oklahoma. Most Democrats in Oklahoma are conservative when it comes to social and gun rights issues and those Ds have been voting in mass for Republicans at the federal and state level for twenty plus years. Since 1964, Oklahoma has not voted for the Democrat nominee for President. In the last three presidential elections, Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. where every county has voted for the Republican nominee.
A third guy told me, “He didn’t believe in Republicans.” I assume he meant that he didn’t believe in what Republicans stood for. Republicans stand for values like traditional marriage and the right to keep and bear arms. We also take a hard line stand against murdering unborn children and protecting them in the womb. We oppose excess taxation and the expansion of government. Unlike our Democrat counterparts, we want people to take responsibility for their own lives. Perhaps I misunderstood him and he truly didn’t believe Republican ‘existed’- that we are just a figment of an overactive imagination.
I also encountered a lady who screamed at me that she was ‘not interested.’ That could mean I interrupted her dinner or her television program, but it likely meant she didn’t pay any attention to politics and could care less. This is the most disturbing one of the four people I encountered. The other three are engaged in the process and are voting. They are at least paying some attention to their government, but the uninterested person is one who presents the greatest threat to our countries future. We must have people engaged in the process to maintain our system of government. America is a land of the self-governed. The people are the boss- not the elected officials. Whether you like politics or not, you live in a country where it is imperative you let your voice be heard. At the very least you should vote. When nearly 40% of those eligible to vote in Oklahoma are not registered to vote, the future looks bleak.
A common characteristic all four individuals had was they were very rude and appeared to be angry because I had dared to knock their door to campaign. I was simply exercising my first amendment right of free speech. Any candidate or volunteer of a candidate- from any Party- who proactively takes the time to walk the street and campaign door to door should be applauded. That should be encouraged from both sides of the political spectrum. It’s what is missing from the process- interaction with the people.
In the next three weeks, candidates will be out and about asking for your vote. Instead of harassing or being rude to candidates from another Party or those who disagree with you politically, be civil and respective of the other person’s right to be a part of the process. Debate the issues and passionately stand up for your convictions, but don’t be rude if they disagree with your ideology. Celebrate that you live in a land where free speech is allowed and not attacked. Agree to disagree. If you are not interested, get interested- your future and the future of your children depend on it. The last day to register to vote for the November 4th election is Friday October 10th.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
IT’S YOUR GOVERNMENT!
by Steve Fair
In a recent study by the Pew Institute, they found that only 76.9% of Oklahomans eligible to vote are registered-one of the lowest rates in the U.S. In 2012, Pew found that one in eight active registrations across the country are invalid or inaccurate. If you don’t believe that, ask a candidate who is running for office. The frustration of the accuracy of voter lists is universal. Many people who register move and don’t update their registration.
A recent editorial in The Oklahoman challenged readers to be informed voters. They wrote, “Those who don’t vote don’t have a voice in politics. We hope more Oklahomans reject self-imposed irrelevancy and instead embrace active citizenship by becoming informed voters.” Good admonition, but let’s examine why people do not register to vote? Here are five primary reasons:
First, because they believe their vote doesn’t make a difference. In most people’s mind, one vote can’t make that much of a difference in an election. In most cases they are right, but in modern history, just one vote per precinct separated Kennedy and Nixon in the election of 1960. In the 2000 presidential election, the margin of victory by George W. Bush over Al Gore was less than one vote per precinct in Florida. In 1800, just one vote made Thomas Jefferson president instead of Aaron Burr. One vote made Hitler the leader of the Nazi Party. One vote admitted Texas, California and Oregon into the United States. One vote does matter.
Second, U.S. citizens have a responsibility to participate in their government. It’s not just your right to participate in your government- it’s your responsibility. We can’t have government by the people if the people don’t participate. When you consider that just 75% of those who can register to vote are registered and only 65% of those 75 ever show up, that means less than 50% of the citizens in Oklahoma are making decisions for the 100%. In municipal and school district elections, the percentage of participation drops to less than 15% of the total population. That is deployable! American citizens should take their responsibility seriously. FDR said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
Third, people opt out of politics because the candidates and the process are corrupt. Yep, it’s true- politics is corrupt, but so is business, civic clubs, churches and every other part of society. It is true elected officials are not perfect. They are just like all of us- born with a fallen nature. When someone says they can’t bring themselves to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils,’ they must remember that until Jesus Christ is on the ballot we are always voting for the lesser of two evils. The primary reason politics has become corrupt and there is so much money in the process is because of the apathy of the average citizen. Get informed and stay informed.
Fourth, they are too busy to vote. That may have been a valid excuse in years past when you could only cast your vote on Tuesday, but Oklahoma has early voting. You can vote in-person absentee at the local county courthouse the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the Tuesday election. You can also vote by absentee ballot. It’s easier than ever to let your voice be heard.
Fifth, they have no interest in politics. If you buy gasoline, turn on your lights, use your cell phone, drive on the streets, go to school, pay taxes, you should be interested in politics. The rate of with holdings from your paycheck and the amount of tax accessed to that gallon of gasoline is determined by people elected by the people. Elected officials make decisions that touch your life every day and to opt out because you don’t have an interest just gives those who do pay attention more power and influence in the political process. Pay attention- it’s your money.
It is just a month from the November 4th election. The last day to register to vote is Friday October 10th. You can go to the state election board website at http://www.ok.gov/elections/ or pick up a form at the library, post office or tag agency.
John Quincy Adams said, “always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE DECALOGUE STANDS!
by Steve FairOn Friday, Judge Thomas Prince, an Oklahoma County District judge, ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and allowed the state of Oklahoma to continue to display the Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol. The monument stands 7’ tall, is made of granite, and is displayed in a 51 acre area near the Capitol with other monuments. It was paid for by State Representative Mike Ritze and his family.
The ACLU argued the Decalogue monument's location violated the state constitution's ban against using public property to support "any sect, church, denomination or system of religion." Prince disagreed, saying the monument serves a secular — not religious — purpose and therefore doesn’t violate the state constitution. The ACLU has vowed to appeal to the State Supreme Court. They have 30 days to do so.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said this about Friday’s ruling: “Today’s ruling is a clear message that the Ten Commandments can be displayed on public grounds like the Oklahoma Capitol because of the historical role the text has played in the founding of our nation. The Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is constitutional because of its historical value. The U.S. Supreme Court found constitutional a nearly identical monument in Texas. We were confident in the state’s case from the start and appreciate the court’s thoughtful consideration and ruling in the state’s favor,”
The Ten Commandments have long stood as a symbol of the ideals embodied in America’s judicial system. In 1980, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist said, "It is equally undeniable ...that the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western World." President Harry Truman told the nation’s Attorney Generals in 1950: "The fundamental basis of this nation's laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don't think we emphasize that enough these days."
Three comments concerning the Ten Commandments:
First, Judge Prince made the right decision. As Truman, Rehnquist and others stated, out nation’s law are rooted in the Mosaic Law. Moses is prominently displayed throughout the halls of Washington- from the Capitol to the Supreme Court. The Law of God (the Ten Commandments) had an undeniable influence on America. That is why Prince could rightly rule it influenced America in a ‘secular’ sense.
Second, no one can keep the Ten Commandments. Jesus addressed some of those who thought they did keep the Mosaic Law in the Sermon on the Mount. He told the Pharisees if they violated just one tenet of the law, they were guilty of breaking all of it. Only one person ever fulfilled the law and that was Jesus Christ.
Third, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to reveal to us what we are. The apostle Paul wrote in Gal 3:24 the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. The Ten Commandments are like a mirror, showing us how far we fall short of what God requires. The Decalogue is still relevant today. It reveals what God demands from man- perfection. But what God demanded from man on Mount Sinai, he gave to man on Mount Calvary.
Sir William Blackstone who wrote Commentaries on the Law was the recognized authority on the law for well over a century. Blackstone said, "Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being....And, consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker's will...this will of his Maker is called the law of nature. These laws laid down by God are the eternal immutable laws of good and evil...This law of nature dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other.”
There is a movement across America to purge our country of its true heritage. Secularists hate that America’s founders were spiritual people. They despise that our founding documents recognize the Creator as the giver of our rights. Fact is, the basis of our laws was the Ten Commandments. To deny that is revisionist history.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
MONEY IS NOT THE ANSWER!
by Steve Fair
In September 1982, Oklahoma voters passed in a statewide vote State Question #553, a pari-mutuel referendum. The law allowed betting on horse races in Oklahoma with the state’s take on the money earmarked for the public schools.
In September 1984, Oklahoma voters went to the polls and voted to allow counties to determine if they wanted ‘liquor by the drink’ in their county. The vote was close- 52%-48% and it was the third time it had been on the ballot. Voters were told the tax money on the hooch consumed at restaurants was going to the public schools.
In 2004, Oklahoma voters passed a Tribal-State gaming compact that required the tribes to share in the revenue generated from the 80 plus casinos in the state. Governor Brad Henry said the compact would provide $70-80 million annually for public education. It generated less than a third that number the first year and has never lived up to the estimates.
Also in 2004, Oklahomans approved the state lottery. During the campaign for the lottery, then State Treasurer Scott Meacham estimated the lottery would bring in about $150 million a year for Oklahoma public schools and colleges. The lottery has yet to raise half that amount.
For over thirty years Oklahoma voters have been willing to drink, smoke and bet in order to help improve education in Oklahoma. The question is- has the increased money given to education improved public education in Oklahoma?
Test scores indicate the funding per student matters little in the education of a child. Washington DC has the highest per-pupil spending average in the nation, but their test scores are near the bottom. Utah spends much less per student, but their test scores are in the top 1/3 of the country.
When James Coleman, a University of Chicago socialist, was commissioned by the federal government to conduct a comprehensive study on public education in America, the expectations would be that he would conclude money was the answer to education. But Coleman’s report—titled "Equality of Educational Opportunity" (or often simply called the "Coleman Report") presented as evidence, or an argument, that school funding had little effect on student achievement. He isolated two primary factors that have more to do with student success than any other—demographics and family background. Cole found that kids from stable two-parent homes where there are books on the shelves, limits on television time, and the parents were educated fostered an expectation of academic success. He found children from poor single-parent households where drugs, violence, sloth, and other factors were present sent a signal that it doesn’t really matter how you do in school, or whether you go at all.
The bottom line is that increased funding to education can’t alter those conditions. Oklahoma could triple our per-pupil spending average and test score numbers would barely budge. We do have an education‘funding’ issue in Oklahoma- only half of our education dollar gets to the classroom, where it makes a difference. Half of Oklahoma’s education dollar is spent on buildings, buses and administration. That leads to the fundamental root cause of why money is not available for teaching--- too many school districts.
Oklahoma has more school districts and administrators than the whole state of Texas! Think about that for a second. A state four times our size in land mass and eight times larger in population has less school districts than Oklahoma. There are over 500 school districts in Oklahoma- an average of seven per county. It’s time to face facts and address school consolidation.
The state legislature should appoint a nine(9) member commission similar to BRAC to evaluate every school district in Oklahoma and close those that are underperforming. Their report should be voted on up or down- no politics involved. It would not be popular public policy in rural Oklahoma, but as a product of a rural school district, I can assure you it is the right thing to do.
It’s a myth the more a district spends per-pupil will produce a better education product. It has been proven time and time again to be inaccurate. It’s not just about money and it is time the public school community starting thinking outside the box. They should embrace on-line learning. Educators should encourage parents to invest in their children’s education, not push them out of the decision making process. Public education has a ‘big brother’ mentality and often attempt to leave out the parents in important decisions. Changes like this cost little or no money and would improve education immensely. As Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
RIGHT IS RIGHT!
by Steve Fair
Last week, the federal Department of Education revoked Oklahoma’s waiver on No Child Left Behind, which means Oklahoma education will not get some federal funding for common education this year. “It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of students.”
This is the first time the federal Education Department has stripped a state of its waiver on the grounds of academic standards, according to Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst for Bellwether Education Partners. “This is obviously dicey water for the Secretary Arne Duncan, given growing opposition to Common Core,” Hyslop said.
Joy Hofmeister, the Republican candidate for Oklahoma state Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued the following statement on the fed’s action: "In revoking our ESEA Waiver before the current academic standards review process could be completed by our State Board of Regents, the Obama administration has rushed to penalize Oklahoma for the repeal of Common Core. This is an example of a punitive overreach by the federal government that shows a lack of caring for our students, and I consider it an outrage to penalize students and children simply because the Obama administration is angry that our state has chosen to chart its own course on educational standards. I will continue my work to fight the federal over-regulation of this failed national initiative. We must focus on what's best for our students."
Democrats in the Oklahoma state House of Representatives were “disappointed, but not surprised,” by the announcement. House Minority Leader Scott Inman said, “As Oklahomans, we believe that public education is best handled at the local level, by parents, teachers, administrators, state legislators and state education specialists, not by Washington bureaucrats, however, we are not surprised by the Government’s decision. We warned the Republicans against moving forward hastily on this issue, without fully considering all of the potential ramifications.”
First, the stripping of the waiver was not completely unexpected. The Oklahoma legislature and Governor knew they were taking a risk when they repealed Common Core. The federal Department of Education has been very vocal about Common Core and how important it was to their agenda. The feds don’t want states or local school districts establishing curriculum standards. They want a national curriculum. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is suing the federal DOE on the grounds the ‘Race to the Top,” program manipulates grant money to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards. Jindal says the program effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. Those who think the Common Core fight is just about education are naïve. This is about federal control, not just education standards.
Second, Oklahomans should be livid at the Obama administration. This is a classic example of federal overreach. When the feds hold up our money because we will not comply with what they want, we have a real problem. This action is in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. The federal government doesn’t have the right to dictate what standards a local school district uses. They don’t have the authority to punish a state financially when the citizens of that state don’t want their standards.
Third, the Common Core concept is not a proven method to improve education. Jason Richwine of the National Review says, “Much like the push for government preschool, the Common Core movement is suffused with much hope but little evidence.” Richwine says the research evidence behind Common Core focuses on identifying problems – America’s poor international ranking, achievement gaps, high school graduates without basic skills, etc. But when it came to writing standards to address those problems, the Common Core developers had little to go on except the standards of high-performing nations and the “professional judgment” of various stakeholders. He concludes that Common Core is not a proven commodity and should be viewed as theoretical at best.
Fourth, sometimes there is a price to pay for doing right. Some misguided critics are blaming Republican legislators for the loss of federal funds, not the real culprits. Who should be taking the heat are the federal Department of Education and the Obama administration. The repeal may cost Oklahoma some federal money, but at some point- right is right. The federal government has always wanted to tell states what to teach and how to teach it. They have used intimidation tactics and economic incentives to entice states to do what they want. Oklahoma took a stand- a principled one and it will likely cost us some funding, but right is right.