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.