Sunday, August 30, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
RETIRE IN OKLAHOMA
GO TO COLLEGE & TEACH!
by Steve Fair
America and Oklahoma has a teacher shortage. It is really not surprising since the teaching profession is notorious for paying poor wages. Last week, the Oklahoma State Board of Education issued 503 emergency certifications for teachers. The applicants all have a Bachelor’s degree, but lack the teaching block traditional teachers have taken. Recently the Oklahoma State School Board Association surveyed 75% of the state school districts and found that over 1,000 teaching jobs are still open across the state because school districts are unable to find qualified applicants. 75% of the schools surveyed said finding good applicants is more difficult this year than last. They also found that 2/3 of the districts have asked for emergency teaching certifications to fill vacancies. Half of the districts said they would have to increase class size because of the shortage. Shawn Hime, the executive director of the school board association, believes the solution to the shortage is more money for education. Hime said, “Saying we don’t have the money for teacher pay raises is no longer an acceptable excuse. Schools are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but we have to ask ourselves: Are we really OK with 5- and 6-year-olds who will go without a teacher trained to develop young readers? Are we really OK with eliminating high-level science classes because we refuse to pay teachers a competitive wage?” So is money the answer? Well it hasn’t been.
Oklahoma has over 400,000 illiterate citizens- products of the public school system- walking among us. The legislature allocates Oklahoma education $8,804 per student. That number doesn’t include a number of other funding sources common education has (local property tax, Land Office) which bumps the total funding per student to $12,481. A survey by Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs showed that private schools in the state are educating their students at a rate between $4,500-$6,900 annually. Quite a difference! If the private sector can educate a child for half the money of public education, where is all the money going? It’s going to buildings and administrators (principals, superintendents). Over half the money allocated for education in Oklahoma goes to non-classroom related activity. No doubt classroom teachers need a raise, but every time they get a raise, their bosses get a bigger raise. It is the same old broken record with the education establishment; give us more money and we will do a better job educating our kids. It is true that more and better CLASSROOM teachers IS the answer, but here are a couple of other ideas of how to fix the teacher shortage:
First, we should be tapping unused resources like our retirees. We have many degreed retirees in Oklahoma who just might be interested in teaching part time in their local school district. Currently Oklahoma colleges and universities allow citizens 65 or over to ‘audit’ college classes for free, but no college credit is granted. The legislature should consider granting free college tuition, not just for auditing, but for credit toward a teaching certificate for Oklahoma seniors. This is not a new concept. In Missouri and Arkansas tuition is free and credit toward a degree is given. In New Mexico, seniors pay a measly $5 per credit hour. In Louisiana, citizens 55 or over get free tuition and half off their books at state colleges. Alabama offers free tuition for junior college. According to U.S. News and World Report: “Approximately 60 percent of accredited degree-granting educational institutions in America offer tuition waivers for older adults. But surprisingly, fewer than 50 students at each school that runs such a program utilized it in 2006. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, currently has 21 seniors enrolled in its tuition waiver program, and 30 participated in the University of Virginia's program over the past two semesters.” But if Oklahoma school districts recruited seniors in their area and encouraged them to go back and get certification, participation would likely be higher. 41 states have some college tuition program for seniors. Go to http://www.aseniorcitizenguideforcollege.com/p/find-your-state-tuition-waivers.html for more information.
Second, Oklahoma education leaders need to start thinking outside the box. Online education is exploding across the globe, yet few secondary schools offer it. It is time for the education lobby to stop playing the same old broken record asking for more money. Last year was a down budget year for Oklahoma government and every state agency took a cut, BUT common education. Funding was increased by $105 million. Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, (R-Sapulpa), “Education got the single largest funding increase for any sector of state government, while other agencies had their budgets reduced. This year, education was held harmless, despite a budget shortfall in excess of $600 million. The four years prior to the shortfall saw steady increases in funding for schools.”
Monday, August 24, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
ADVICE FROM AN
by Steve Fair
Bill Bright was born on a farm outside Coweta, Oklahoma and graduated from Northeastern University in Tahlequah. After college, Bright moved to California and started a candy company but soon was converted to Christ and started working with college students. He ultimately founded Campus Crusade, now known as Cru. The organization now has over 25,000 missionaries in over 200 countries. The impact of Bill Bright, who died in 2003, for the cause of the gospel will not be known this side of heaven.
In 1976, Bill Bright wrote a little tract entitled, “Your five duties as a Christian Citizen.” “Citizenship in a free country is a blessing from God. Our great system of self-government assures every Christian a voice in the affairs of the nation. God wants us to do His will in government, just as in the church and in the home,” Bright wrote in the introduction. This little pamphlet is still applicable today. Here are the five tenets of Bright’s admonition:
First, Christians should pray for their government and its leaders. “Pray that God will send a great spiritual awakening to America,” Bright wrote. I’m afraid many Christians pray for only the leaders they support or agree with, but scripture is clear- God sets up kings and brings them down. He is in control and the best venue for lobbying is on our knees before a sovereign Creator.
Second, Christians should register to vote. It is amazing how many professing believers are not registered to vote. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 218 million people are eligible to register to vote in America, but only 67 %( 146 million) bother to register. Bright says, “Register as a qualified voter in order to practice your citizenship with accountability to God.” He says registering to vote is a matter of stewardship.
Third, Christians should become informed in their government. “Organize and lead or participate in a study group to inform yourself and others concerning the structure of government, current problems and issues, and how to serve God effective in the arena of politics at your own level of influence, “Bright writes. It is sad when most Americans are so disengaged from their own government. They don’t understand the structure or the issues. In a recent Pew Research poll, 41% could not name the Vice President of the U.S. Ignorance is not bliss. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Every American Christian should be educating themselves and taking equity in their government.
Fourth, Christians should help elect godly people. “Help select and elect men and women of God to public office at the local, state and national levels, and support them faithfully throughout their term of office,” Bright wrote. Bright says believers should be those who recruit candidates, not the local Chamber of Commerce, a political consultant or even a political Party. Individual believers across America should be seeking out fellow citizens who are (1) qualified,(2) honest,(3) fear God and (4)hate covetousness(Exodus 18:21). Once a person has been recruiting to run, Christians should work to help get them elected. That means supporting them financially, physically and spiritually.
Fifth, Christians should vote. “Vote consistently in every election, after informing yourself concerning the various candidates and issues and evaluating them on the basis of the Word of God,” Bright says. About 25% of registered voters vote 100% of the time. Another 25% vote 75% of the time and the remainder are infrequent voters. Billions of dollars are spent by campaigns and political parties on get out to vote efforts. One of the largest groups of infrequent voters in America is faithful evangelical Christians! Church people! They will complain about the moral decline in our country, but fail to be involved in the process to change it. I have personally known fellow believers who talk politics constantly, but fail to cast a ballot. They are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal!
In 2016, an important national election will be held. Lots of media attention is already trained on it, but between now and then, there will be municipal and school board elections. Do you know who your local elected leaders are? How interested are you in what happens in local elections? Local elected officials have more impact on your daily life than the POTUS and Congress. Remember, lasting change begins from the bottom up. Isn’t it time you got engaged in your government?
Special thanks to William R. (Bill) Crocker, former Texas GOP National Committeeman for mailing me a copy of Your Five Duties as a Christian Citizen. The little tract is widely available on the internet and is still very applicable for today.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
DEFUND & INVESTIGATE!
by Steve Fair
Human life begins at conception. Even some pro-choice advocates agree with that. Jodi Jacobson of Reproductive Health Reality Check says she believes life begins at conception but that a fertilized egg is not a person. “The development of a potential human life requires conception as a first step. But that is not the same as either pregnancy or personhood,” Jacobson says.
Peter Singer, professor of Bioethics at Princeton, says, “The fallacy in the anti-abortion argument lies in the shift from the scientifically accurate claim that the foetus is a living individual of the species Homo sapiens to the ethical claim that the foetus therefore has the same right to life as any other human being. Membership of the species Homo sapiens is not enough to confer a right to life.” To the liberal the issue is not whether life exists in the womb, but whether that life is worthy of the right to live outside the womb?
The more fundamental issue in the abortion debate is ownership: who actually owns the unborn life in the womb? Pro-choicers believe it is the woman carrying the child. After all, it’s her body- she has a right to do with her body what she wants. If she wants to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, it’s her choice. Pro-lifers believe that only God, as the Creator, is the giver of life. Through creation, He owns His creatures and can therefore do with His creation and creatures as He sees fit. The abortion debate has been spawned from Darwinism. If God didn’t create, then He doesn’t have any right to ownership. Now to the Planned Parenthood controversy.
Planned Parenthood (PP) was started in the early twentieth century by Margaret Sanger to educate families on birth control. Since 1970, Planned Parenthood has received federal funding to provide contraception and family planning information to Americans. Through the years, the mission of the organization has changed. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the U.S. About one third of PP’s funding comes from a combination of federal, state and local tax dollars. By law, the federal monies given to PP are not supposed to be used to provide abortions. PP has 85 offices with 27,000 staff and volunteers across the U.S., including five offices/clinics in Oklahoma. Recently PP has come under fire when a secretly recorded video was released showing a Dr. Deborah Nucatola, PP’s Senior Director of Medical Services, talking with actors posing as medical researcher about selling aborted fetus parts.
After the video was released, elected officials scrambled to lead the charge to defund Planned Parenthood. U.S. Senator James Lankford, (R-OK), said in an emotional speech on the Senate floor: “I would tell you that child has value. And that every single adult that can hear me right now was once 20 weeks old in the womb and we can look at each other and understand the difference between that child in the womb and any of us now is time. That's a human being we're talking about.” Senator Lankford led the charge to defund Planned Parenthood in the Senate. The measure failed to get the necessary 3/5 (60 votes) in the Senate, falling short 53-46. Both Senators Lankford and Inhofe voted yea. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY) and Mark Kirk, (R-IL) voted with 44 Democrats to kill the bill. Senator Inhofe says defunding isn’t enough- PP needs to be investigated.
One issue that has been overlooked in the PP controversy is the fact PP is a non-profit organization. They enjoy tax exempt status as a 501-C-3. While they get tax dollars, they don’t pay taxes. Two years ago during testimony before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, a pro-life group from Iowa testified they were told by the IRS they would be required to sign a letter promising to not protest at PP facilities in order to get a 501-C-3 status. No such restrictions are placed on PP. They operate with impunity, no matter which political party is in power. They promote their liberal agenda and their activism is celebrated. If a church takes a political position, they run the risk of jeopardizing their non-profit status.Inhofe is right- PP should be investigated. It is very likely they are selling fetal tissue without consent. Their liberal agenda should be exposed for what it is and their tax exempt status revoked. Americans should be outraged their tax dollars are going to an organization intent on killing our next generation and selling their body parts.
Monday, August 10, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
OF A LEADER!
by Steve Fair
Bill Crocker is the former Republican National Committeeman from Texas. He served on the RNC for eight years (2 terms) and was General Counsel for the committee for the final year of his tenure. Crocker is a Baylor graduate and a dedicated Christian as well as an able theologian. At last week’s RNC meeting he told me the Bible clearly outlined the qualifications for leaders. “Exodus 18:21 gives us clear qualifications for those who are in leadership,” Crocker said. “Read it and see if you agree,” he challenged. Exodus 18:21 says, “ Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:” After looking at the passage and studying it within the context, I agree with Crocker. In this passage, Moses is being advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, on what attributes the leaders in the nation of Israel should possess before being appointed to a position of supervision. The passage lists four qualifications for leaders in secular society.
First, secular leaders should be ‘able’ men. That means a candidate for office must be capable and qualified for the position. They should not be a novice or amateur in life or in politics. John Gill says this qualification means they are be ‘men of strong and robust constitutions who have strength of heart, are not afraid to do justice and boldness to deliver the oppressed from the hands of the oppressor.’ All too often, those who win elections are trained on the job by special interest groups. They often have no clue what the job involves and it shouldn’t surprise us when they disappoint.
Second, leaders must ‘fear God.’ John McArthur says those who fear God have a reverential respect and awe of God. He says understanding the attributes of God is critical to learning to ‘fear God.’ McArthur says teaching that God has the right to punish, chasten and judge His creatures will produce a ‘healthy sense of apprehension’ in a person’s life. Alexander McLaren says, “The fear of God underlies the noblest lives. “ We live in a society where the fear of God is ignored and ridiculed by our leaders and citizens alike. Solomon said the fear of God was the beginning of wisdom.
Third, leaders must ‘hate covetousness.’ Covetousness is defined as being inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions; greedy especially the wealth or possessions of another. The Bible widely condemns covetousness as a root sin. Covetousness is at the heart of selfishness. John Piper defines covetousness as desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God. Those who want something for nothing are covetous. We live in a very covetous society. Good leaders understand government shouldn’t do anything that expands or embraces covetousness, no matter how much their constituency may clamor.
Fourth, leaders must be truthful. Matthew Poole says this means not only hating lies, but slanders as well. John Gill says real leaders should take pain to get at the truth of a cause and discourage the most insignificant falsehood. What is often called ‘political spin’ is simply lying to make a candidate or elected official look more favorable. Honesty is not the best policy to the average politico. Americans have become accepting of lying as standard operating procedure in politics.It is clear many of our current elected officials in America are not qualified and truthful. They don’t hate covetousness or fear God. They often campaign one way and vote the other. They are willing to lie, cheat and steal to win an election and to stay in office. Until American Christians vet candidates more thoroughly and apply the standards God outlines in this passage, we can expect our leaders will remain ineffective and disappointing.