Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
The Lawton Constitution, Feb. 15, 2105
Idea needs thorough review
A member of the state House leadership team is proposing a 10-year program to spend an additional $600 million to boost common schools' budgets. Because the state is 48th in education outcomes, the idea deserves serious consideration. However, it needs major amendments before it's sent to the governor.
House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney, R-Cushing, said the additional spending is needed because of low starting salaries for teachers, low spending per pupil and low academic outcomes. How do we know more money will fix those challenges, especially low outcomes? We don't.
Denney wants to take money off the top and designate it to schools. Bad idea. Currently, the Legislature appropriates less than 50 percent of the state's total revenues.
The state has more revenues this year, but the Legislature has less to spend because of designated funding. Taking more than 50 percent off the top ties the legislators' hands when priorities change, Gov. Mary Fallin notes.
There is a real disconnect between some voters and the common education industry. Consider last week's elections. Edmond, with a 87,004 population and a median income of $71,216, passed an $88 million school bond issue, with 82 percent or 5,410 voting "yes." Meanwhile, Duncan, with a 23,431 population and a median income of $41,387, rejected a $2.7 million bond issue. The vote was 39 percent "yes" and 61 percent "no."
Also part of the disconnect is that businesses want better trained employees, but they don't get them. Taxpayers get angry when the education establishment clamors for more money and then learns of what seem to be overly generous salaries approved by local school boards for small-school superintendents.
It's time to look at the feasibility of consolidating district administrations, not closing rural classrooms.
While the cry is "more money for the classroom," voters should know their taxes are going into overhead. Pupils don't even have enough textbooks for their class subjects.
Meanwhile, academics seem lacking. We often hear from college recruiters who wonder why students earn high grade point averages in high school, but only score a 19 on the ACT test. Good question. Everyone would like to know the answer.
There were, according to the state Department of Education, 37,516 high school graduates last spring. What skills should each have achieved? Shouldn't all high school graduates be able to read, write and compute on the 12thgrade level?
Yes, but we know they can't. We know that because, based on a story in a state publication, about 40 percent of Oklahoma college freshmen students enroll in remedial courses because they don't have the skills to start their freshman year. According to the 2004-2005 Annual Remediation Report available online, it was 36 percent. The remedial requirement angers students because they receive no credit for those courses. They are not free.
There is another indicator that might suggest more needs to be done academically. Oklahoma had 173 National Merit Scholarship Finalists. That is .0046 percent of 37,516 graduates.
According to state records, 69 enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, which heavily recruits them. Two were from Eisenhower and one was from Comanche High School in Southwest Oklahoma. Meanwhile, 11 enrolled at Oklahoma State University, but none were from our area.
Schools want more money and taxpayers want higher pupil achievement. Are both possible?
Tulsa World, Feb. 16, 2015
Federal bureau of double redundancy OKs single math test for eighth-graders
Many advanced Oklahoma eighth-graders will be the beneficiaries this year of the federal government recognizing that there's a limit to how much testing students should have to endure.
For the second year, the U.S. Department of Education has said that eighth-graders who take a class that leads to a standardized end-of-instruction test don't also have to take an otherwise mandated grade-level test.
The end-of-instruction tests are a state high school graduation requirement. The grade-level tests are a federal mandate.
There's a lot of educanto in all that, but what it boils down to is this: Thousands of kids statewide won't have to take two sets of tests over the same material.
That's remarkably bright for a decision that comes from Washington.
It must be temporary.
It is. Next year's eighth-graders will face the same silly potential of one curriculum but two tests unless that feds sign off on the waiver again next year. The education overlords don't want to give a permanent advance release from double-testing because that might lead to something frivolous, such as teachers being able to plan extra time for teaching math instead of blocking off class time for repeated examinations.
It might seem bureaucratic to ordinary taxpayers, but in Washington the repeated duplication of double redundancy is not only critical, it's vital.
Enid News & Eagle, Feb. 13, 2015
Oil field uncertainty has negative, positive effect on local, state economies
The news has been full of gloom and doom lately, mainly because of the uncertainty in the oil field.
Lower oil prices has led to layoffs at energy companies, and no one really knows how things will end up. State lawmakers are preparing for the worst, with estimates now showing the budget shortfall once thought to be $300 million now will be double, or $600 million.
We have no doubt all this will have an impact on the local economy.
But, we also don't want to ignore the positives.
For one, sales tax receipts for the city of Enid earlier this month, for sales in late December and early January, were up 9 percent over the same period last year.
That's a pretty healthy increase, and it also helped to push tax receipts for the current fiscal year (from July 2014 to now) into positive territory. That's certainly good news worth celebrating.
Another positive came when GEFCO announced it was closing a plant in Tennessee and moving that production to the manufacturing facility here. The decision will impact about 75 employees, who will have the option to stay with GEFCO and relocate to Enid.
Also, there is the ongoing expansion work at Koch Nitrogen's fertilizer facility east of the city.
The $1.3 billion project is expected to increase production at the facility by one million tons annually. It includes construction of a new urea plant.
Koch will need a lot of construction workers for the project, so that's going to bring in more than 1,000 workers by the third quarter of 2016. Work is expected to be done by late-2016.
Yes, the downturn in the oil industry will hurt us locally. We don't deny that, but as we pointed out here, we've got some things happening that are positive and should help offset losses in the oil field.
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