Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
The Journal Record, July 14, 2014
D.C.-hating Legislature acts like feds
On Tuesday, Fellers Snider attorney Robert McCampbell will argue that the Oklahoma Legislature overreached its authority when it passed House Bill 3399.
That law repealed the state Board of Education's decision to adopt the Common Core academic standards. Those standards were developed by a group of education experts, including the College Board, ACT Inc., state education department officials, college professors and teachers in response to demand from the National Association of Governors, state school superintendents and others to raise academic expectations for K-12 education. The work was paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is not a curriculum, which is up to each state, and it's not a federal program.
When the recommended standards were published in 2010, 46 states adopted them. In Oklahoma, the standards were adopted by the state Board of Education at the behest of the Legislature under 2010's SB 2033.
The named plaintiffs in McCampbell's case are parents and teachers, but their position is supported by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and other business advocates opposed to HB 3399. The plaintiffs will argue that the Oklahoma Constitution gives responsibility for education standards to the state Board of Education, which is part of the executive branch and therefore off-limits to legislative handiwork. The defense will be that the Legislature has the authority to tweak any state law, including those tied to education.
The Legislature balked at the Common Core standards because it perceived them to be an instance of the federal government telling the states what to do. "Federal overreach" is the term most often applied.
But this is another case of the raven chiding blackness. Early in this year's session the Legislature tried to exert authority over the judicial branch with bills that would have changed the process of the Judicial Nominating Commission, another that called for partisan election of judges, and one that would have created a judicial oversight committee controlled by legislators. Fortunately, none of those ill-conceived schemes made it to the governor's desk.
Two others did: one that prohibits municipalities from choosing their own methods of controlling blighted, abandoned property, and one that prohibits cities from establishing their own minimum wage. Those two follow last year's law that prohibits cities from enacting their own smoking regulations.
A group that has so vociferously condemned Washington's alleged power grab would do well to reflect on whether it has become the pot.
Tulsa World, July 14
Common Core repeal means higher costs, more federal scrutiny
As predicted, Oklahoma's decision to repeal Common Core education standards will cost the state money, leave teachers without clear guidance while the issue is argued in court and provoke more vigorous federal meddling with the public school system.
In other words, everything the proponents of repeal threatened would happen if we didn't listen to them, is happening ... because we listened to them.
On June 5, Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 3393, which tossed out Common Core math and English standards that were to be implemented by the 2014-15 school year.
While the state is working on a replacement program, the old Priority Academic Student Skills standards will apply. Probably.
But members of the state board of education are challenging the constitutionality of law to reject Common Core, and the board voted to put off reinstating the PASS standards — thus, with the school year on the horizon, Oklahoma teachers have no guidance on what standards apply.
As of early May, the state reported it had spent around $2.6 million to implement all Oklahoma Academic Standards, including state-devised standards in social studies and science and Common Core standards in English language arts and math.
On Monday, Louisiana's state superintendent announced it would cost that state about $25.2 million over five years to drop Common Core. He primarily cited the cost of developing new assessment tests.
Meanwhile, with the passage of the measure repealing Common Core, the state Education Department reports that federal officials are asking questions about a waiver on the state's use of federal education funding.
The federal agency is analyzing whether the state's PASS standards that will be used in the interim are rigorous enough to meet federal waiver requirements and the possible result could be less flexibility on how the state could use the funding.
Common Core was a reasonable, state-driven effort to give Oklahoma higher standards that could be compared across state lines. Opponents falsely portrayed it as a federal takeover of the state's curriculum. Now we are left with no clear standards and more federal involvement in the state's business.
Seems like we could have used some more common sense where Common Core was concerned.
The Oklahoman, July 14, 2014
Conservative outreach remains crucial to GOP
Having lost two presidential elections, conservative Republicans are justifiably concerned about their ability to win future elections. Here's one idea: Stop preaching to the choir and start preaching to the masses.
That's a course U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, seems to be taking. In a recent policy address, Rubio laid out a vision for advancing conservative solutions to real-world problems. He touched on topics ranging from taxes to higher education to single mothers to globalization.
Writing at Commentary's website, Peter Wehner said, "What also strikes me about Senator Rubio is that unlike some others, whose main ability is to bring hard-core supporters to their feet, he seems eager and capable of persuading those who are not on his side yet who may be amenable to his point of view."
That's a trait more Republicans should embrace. In Oklahoma, Republicans may think their legislative supermajorities make such efforts unnecessary. Such complacency is a mistake. Demographic changes are constant; tomorrow's voting public won't be the same as today's electorate.
In a recent meeting with The Oklahoman's editorial board, David Castillo, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, noted that one in every four children in Oklahoma County today is Hispanic. An outright majority of Oklahoma City public school students will soon be Hispanic. Many of those students are U.S. citizens. Many others will become U.S. citizens.
Nationally, 800,000 Hispanics turn 18 each year, and many are U.S.-born citizens.
In short, there will soon be many more legal voters, in Oklahoma and elsewhere, who come from different backgrounds than the current electorate. This doesn't mean conservatism has no appeal for those new voters.
At the Hispanic chamber, Castillo said 10 to 15 people come in daily wanting to open a business. He said there are now more than 8,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Oklahoma. As the natural party of entrepreneurs and economic freedom, conservative Republicans should appeal to those voters. Fortunately, Castillo said, Republicans are grasping that fact.
"Especially here in Oklahoma City, we're seeing more of the Republican Party going into the Latino community, grooming Latinos to get them ready for office," he said.
However, immigration policy remains a sticking point — and unnecessarily so.
Locally, many Republicans have railed against the state's driver's license process. In recent years, many citizens drove an hour to wait in lines that could run 100 deep before 7 a.m., trying to obtain one of only a handful of testing slots. This meant weeks or months were ultimately expended to legally obtain a driver's license. Yet our immigration system is so dysfunctional it makes that process look like a well-oiled machine. Individuals seeking legal entry into the United States can wait decades.
Republicans often promote government efficiency. Overhaul of the nation's broken, bureaucratic morass of an immigration system is an obvious way to advance that cause. Toleration of a defective system isn't a triumph for the rule of law; it's a sign that too many Republicans are willing to condone big-government failures normally associated with liberal Democrats.
To win elections, Republicans can offer watered-down liberalism to voters — or they can advance conservative policies that benefit all citizens. We prefer the latter option. But to achieve that goal, Republicans must start selling conservatism to the unconverted. And they can't afford to spurn any group of voters who may be open to that message.