Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Feb. 3, 2013
State lottery money as 'extra' school funding
State Superintendent Janet Barresi boldly called upon the Oklahoma Legislature last week to stop using the state's lottery proceeds to fund state aid to schools, but rather to replace that state aid with another funding mechanism and devote the lottery money exclusively for technology needs.
Barresi quite rightly points out that when the lottery was being promoted to Oklahoma voters, the intent was not to supplant or replace existing state aid, which the Legislature was already appropriating, but rather to provide additional or "extra" funding to local districts.
Where some educators may differ with Ms. Barresi's specific proposal, however, is that not every district has the same needs for technology. While her proposal is well intentioned — yes, many Oklahoma school districts could benefit mightily from technology upgrades — local districts know their own needs best and should be allowed to use any proposed "extra" or additional funding however they deem necessary.
Currently, approximately $30 million to $34 million from the Oklahoma Lottery is used as a source of state aid payments to public school districts. As long as optimal levels of state aid remained in place, districts everywhere would welcome an infusion of additional money to spend, be it on technology or other needs.
That decision should be left to local administrators and boards of education. Local authorities are in the best position to determine what their most pressing needs are, whether it be more technology, new curriculum, more training, more teachers, more aides, or even more campus security.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Before any of these proposals could take place, the legislature will need to budget and appropriate enough school aid funding to fully replace the lottery money before it could be considered "extra." Most recently, a majority of Oklahoma legislators have shown that they are not in any kind of mood to appropriate "extra" money for anything.
But if there were to be "extra" funding available, surely increasing state aid to public education ought to be at the top of the list.
The Oklahoman, Feb. 1, 2013
Obamacare diverts Oklahoma government funds
Obamacare is already harming state finances. Thanks to its individual mandate, Gov. Mary Fallin expects an additional $40 million will be needed to cover "woodwork" Medicaid enrollees who are currently eligible for the program but don't use it.
Under Obamacare, those individuals face a tax of as much as $2,085 per family if they don't have the government-sanctioned level of coverage. At the same time, Obamacare is causing the price of individual policies to skyrocket in the private market. Research conducted by Merrill Matthews, resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, and Mark E. Litow, past chairman of the Social Insurance Public Finance Section of the Society of Actuaries, shows Oklahoma premiums in the individual market could increase between 65 percent and 100 percent due to Obamacare's mandates.
Ironically, many citizens who will be forced onto Medicaid don't feel they need it and/or don't believe other taxpayers should be forced to foot the bill. Ian Gliori and his wife, Phyllis, offer an example. The couple, who run a small restaurant, would have qualified for Medicaid coverage under Obamacare's expansion of that program (rejected by Oklahoma), but say they don't want it.
"I just don't want government in my life," Ian Gliori told Oklahoma Watch. "I don't want their help."
The extra $40 million for Medicaid will divert at least $400 million over the next decade from schools, roads, and public safety — not including health care inflation. Based on Oklahoma's average teacher salary, the amount would cover the cost of more than 900 teachers' jobs every year.
That's a high price to pay just to force people like the Glioris to either spend money they don't have on increasingly expensive coverage they can't afford or shift the burden to other taxpayers by signing up for a Medicaid program whose services they don't need.
Muskogee Phoenix, Jan 29, 2013
Women in combat a reality
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, recently signed an order wiping away generations of limits on women fighting for their country.
Women in the military will soon have the same opportunities as men to take on grueling and dangerous combat jobs.
Women on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Of the more than 6,600 U.S. service members who have been killed in those conflicts, 152 have been women.
Modern warfare doesn't consist of a classic military front moving forward across miles of ground. Lines constantly shift and the front is wherever the next roadside bomb or terror attack hits.
Leaders say no physical standards will be lowered to send more women closer to the battlefront.
Good. But women, already dying in war, deserve the chance to fight in front-line units if they are moved to do so.
More than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, could be opened to women.
The right to serve in combat will open up advancement opportunities currently limited for women.
In addition to questions of strength and performance, there also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women being killed in war.
We don't like it when our soldiers die in war. But serving in combat sometimes requires service members lay down their lives.
But are our son's lives worth any less, or more, than our daughters?
Tulsa World, Feb. 2, 2013
Bill would require notification of mass violence planning
State Sen. Brian Crain wants to pass a law making it a crime to fail to report to authorities any potential "crime of mass violence" that comes to a person's attention.
Senate Bill 995 could provide severe penalties against those who know or suspect such a crime is being planned but don't report it.
"We want people to know, don't even begin to plan something like that," the Tulsa Republican said. "And if you know someone is planning something, you have a duty to report it."
Existing laws already make it a felony to plan acts of violence or harm, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Crain's bill would increase the sentence to 10 years to life and expand it to include people who don't report planned mass violence. People with advance knowledge of an unsuccessful act could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Crain's legislative response to such tragic incidents is understandable. We do need more effective means of getting such information to the proper authorities as soon as possible, and research shows these mass killers typically do communicate their intentions, sometimes in more than one way. School reports and projects, the social media, verbal communications and other methods all have been shown to be ways that these individuals telegraph their intentions.
But are we ready to criminalize someone's reluctance to speak up?
Crain reasons that since it is a crime to fail to report suspected child abuse, the same rationale can apply to the failure to report a suspected massacre.
Surely there are other measures to consider that could be just as effective as making failure to notify a crime, maybe even moreso. Some experts suggest instituting notification systems that protect the confidentiality of the person making the report. Also recommended is training for faculty and staff in spotting danger and assessing potential risks. Even students could be given some training in what to take seriously.
It may someday come to the kind of measure Crain is proposing. But a thorough review of the other options that could encourage early notification of such activities wouldn't be a bad idea.