Top Stories

  • In opposing education choice, Oklahoma lawmakers run counter to constitutents' wishes

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 20, 2014

    MANY Republican lawmakers in the 2014 legislative session opposed efforts to increase educational opportunities for students. In doing so, those lawmakers voted against the wishes of their constituents. A new poll of Oklahoma Republican primary voters, commissioned by the Oklahoma Federation for Children, shows overwhelming support for education savings accounts (ESAs), charter schools in rural communities, taxpayer scholarships for children with special needs to attend private schools, and tax breaks supporting scholarship programs that help needy children attend private schools. While the latter two proposals are currently state law, the first two items were rejected by Republican lawmakers this year.

  • Oklahoma Capitol repair project will take time, money

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Jul 19, 2014

    GROUND was broken for the Oklahoma Capitol on July 20, 1914. Now, 100 years later, officials are preparing to start major repair work on that same structure. The project will be the biggest construction effort at NE 23 and Lincoln since the Capitol was built. This year lawmakers approved a $120 million bond to fund repairs. The exterior of the building is crumbling. So is the interior, including everything from walls to plumbing to electrical wiring. No one doubts the need to address those major structural issues. But Oklahomans should understand that this fix will take years and that the $120 million price tag is likely just a starting point. When Minnesota undertook a similar Capitol restoration project, it required $272.7

  • Many important issues included in Oklahoma interim studies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 18, 2014

    AFTER the conclusion of each legislative session, lawmakers conduct studies to inform future policymaking. This summer, 141 such interim studies have been approved by the two chambers of the Legislature. Some are solid efforts; others are little more than legislative doodles. On the positive side is a study requested by Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, focused on requiring doctors to check an online database before writing narcotic prescriptions. Legislation to mandate doctor use of the database failed to become law this year because of physician opposition. Cox, an emergency room doctor, deserves credit for his continued effort to build support for the bill.

  • Abortion as trump card not so popular with Democrats today

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 18, 2014

    IN recent election cycles, Democrats have viewed abortion as a trump card. They accused anyone who opposed abortion of waging a “war on women.” It now appears some Democratic candidates are rethinking that tactic. Nationally, many major Democratic candidates support abortion rights and have no problem taking money from abortion-rights supporters. But don’t expect those candidates to draw any attention to the issue. They’ve noticed that voters often disagree with the campaign funding base of the national Democratic Party. Emily’s List, which raises money for Democratic women who support abortion rights, is the largest single contributor to four Southern candidates this year.

  • High court ruling means academic standards in Oklahoma could suffer

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of House Bill 3399, which grants politicians the power to rewrite academic standards for public schools. Even so, just because a law is constitutional doesn’t make it a good idea. The court deserves praise for deciding this case so quickly, because it partially reduces the uncertainty facing school districts. We hope the court acts just as swiftly to resolve a challenge to the gross production tax for oil and gas because uncertainly could also impact energy companies’ decisions when they set drilling budgets this fall. The plaintiffs who challenged HB 3399 also deserve praise. This legislation clearly involved unprecedented legislative intrusion into standards

  • Education carried Paul Risser, Currie Ballard a long way in life

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 16, 2014

    EDUCATION carried Paul Risser and Currie Ballard a long way in life and a long way from home. Risser and Ballard, who each died last week, came from modest backgrounds but used education to make significant and lasting contributions in Oklahoma. Their stories are worth sharing. Risser, 74, was born and raised in Blackwell. After graduating from Blackwell High School, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. From there it was on to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a master’s degree in botany and then a doctorate in botany and soils. He taught botany at the University of Oklahoma for 14 years beginning in 1967, including five years as chairman of OU’s botany and

  • Content, not quantity, is what makes Obama's unilateral initiatives unsettling

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 16, 2014

    IT’S the subjects, silly. Of all the robotic liberal responses to criticism of Barack Obama’s presidential executive actions, the most robotic of all came from Obama himself. He’s been quite stingy in the use of executive orders, the president said, and a threatened lawsuit against him regarding his unilateral initiatives will needlessly cost the taxpayers a lot of money to defend. Aha! Now we know that this president is concerned about saving the taxpayers money. His health care law certainly isn’t focused on that goal. Obamacare is a prime area in which executive actions have been used to change the law without the bother of getting congressional consent.

  • Out-of-staters in Oklahoma colleges not a bad thing

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 15, 2014

    MORE than 22,000 students from other states attended an Oklahoma public college or university in 2013. Recent reporting by the nonprofit journalism group Oklahoma Watch might have left readers wondering whether that’s a bad thing. At this point, we think the answer is no. Not surprisingly, the bulk of out-of-state students attend one of the two comprehensive universities. About 26 percent of 20,019 students at Oklahoma State University’s main campus were from out of state. At the University of Oklahoma’s main campus, out-of-state students made up 32 percent of the 19,410 student enrollment. The Oklahoma Watch report coverage cited a few contributing factors.

  • Oklahoma lawmakers try to score points with rural firefighters

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 15, 2014

    POLITICS generates its share of shenanigans. This was certainly the case when two lame duck lawmakers recently decried a lack of rural firefighter funding while acting as though they were nonparticipants in the legislative process that allegedly defunded firefighters. State Reps. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, and Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, recently issued a news release stating their desire to “see rural firefighters get more state support.” That’s a worthy goal, but here’s the problem: The Legislature adjourned in May. And neither Dorman nor Blackwell, as far as we can tell, said anything significant about rural firefighter needs during the session. A review of each man’s legislative website reveals no prior releases about

  • Sewer line break likely to renew debate over Oklahoma County jail

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 14, 2014

    NEWS that a pipe break at the Oklahoma County jail temporarily left inmates without hot meals won’t elicit much sympathy from the public. That same audience should care about the condition of the jail, however, because they may one day be forced to pay for a new one. The jail has been trouble from the time it opened in 1991, when it was billed as just what the county needed. Instead, design flaws in the high-rise structure have left a bitter taste since then. As The Oklahoman reported, a collapsed sewer line in mid-June has put the jail’s kitchen out of service. That left inmates eating three cold meals a day for the two weeks after the collapse; state jail standards say inmates in state custody must get at least two hot

  • Conservative outreach remains crucial to GOP

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 14, 2014

    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.

  • Dispossessed will always find their way to United States

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 13, 2014

    IMAGINE tens of thousands of children in a flight from bad living conditions, orphans in circumstance if not in name, flowing as a braided stream toward what they hope is a better life. This describes the 75-year run of the “placing out” movement in which orphaned or abandoned American children, many for whom English wasn’t even a second language, traveled west by rail in search of new homes. Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 such children rode on the “Orphan Train.” Some were adopted by loving families; others became little more than indentured servants. Left behind, among other places, was a New York City in which conditions for dispossessed children were no better than what Central America offers

  • Earmarking strains Oklahoma state budgeting process

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 13, 2014

    WE’VE previously noted that legislative earmarking of tax collections puts too much state spending on autopilot while also reducing financial oversight. State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, who heads the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, has been among those highlighting this problem, and he continues to sound the alarm. “This is one of the single areas where I think we resemble the federal government too much and, if we’re not careful, we’re going to resemble them a lot more,” Doerflinger told The Oklahoman’s editorial board in a recent meeting.

  • ScissorTales: Florida's Crist an exception to the rule when it comes to Obama

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jul 12, 2014

    FROM sea to shining sea, Democratic politicians are distancing themselves from Barack Obama as the president’s popularity plummets. A notable exception is Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate for governor in Florida. Where does Joe Dorman fit into this scenario? Somewhere in between the Distancing Democrats and Crist. Dorman is the Democratic nominee for governor in Oklahoma, a state in which not a single county has supported the Democratic nominee for president since 2000, a state where Republicans don’t just rule the roost but the whole farm. Crist is something of a rogue. Having served as a Republican governor of the Sunshine State, he became an independent in an unsuccessful run for U.S.

  • School tornado shelter petition likely not necessary

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 11, 2014

    TAKE Shelter Oklahoma has launched a second initiative petition seeking a statewide bond issue for school shelter construction. The organizers hope raw emotion will carry the day, but the merits of the plan have weakened over time. The deaths of seven children at a Moore elementary school during the May 20, 2013, tornado understandably led to increased focus on school shelters. That year, Take Shelter Oklahoma, a group that includes some parents of the children who died, launched an initiative petition calling for a $500 million state bond to fund school shelter construction. The bond would have been repaid with franchise tax revenues diverted from the state’s General Revenue Fund. That initiative quickly bogged down in a

  • Congress needs to find permanent fix for Highway Trust Fund

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 10, 2014

    OKLAHOMA lawmakers have worked hard over the past several years to improve the state’s roads and bridges. Those efforts could soon be set back by financial troubles in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Department of Transportation expects the roads portion of the Highway Trust Fund to run out of money in August unless Congress comes up with a way to keep it afloat. Most of the federal money doled out to states for their transportation needs comes from this trust fund, which is fed by federal taxes paid on gasoline (18.4 cents a gallon) and diesel fuel (24.4 cents). The amount going into the trust fund has been on a long downhill path, the result of better fuel efficiency for automobiles, fewer miles being driven by motorists, and

  • Oklahoma City area thrilled to see major championship golf return

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 10, 2014

    IT’S been eight years since major championship golf came to the Oklahoma City area. We’re delighted it has returned with the U.S. Senior Open, which begins its four-day run Thursday at Oak Tree National in Edmond. Oak Tree hosted the 2006 Senior PGA Championship, ending a majors drought in these parts that extended to the 1988 PGA Championship. That event was won by Jeff Sluman, who’s among the 156 players in this week’s field and who says Oak Tree looks much as it did back then. That’s high praise because in the 1980s, Oak Tree was considered one of the best and most challenging courses in America. It went through a rough patch several years ago, but has rebounded under the ownership of Everett Dobson and Ed Evans,

  • Looking for fault as earthquake swarm continues in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 9, 2014

    NIMBY, meet NUMBY. As the swarm of earthquakes continues unabated in Oklahoma, the outcry that “Something must be done!” grows louder. A recent public forum on the topic didn’t bring out the pitchforks, but there was clearly a sentiment that recent seismic activity is man-made and the government simply must do something about it. Not In My Backyard is morphing into Not Under My Backyard. Regarding NIMBY, the windpower industry is getting greater resistance from landowners who don’t want turbines or the transmission lines that service them anywhere near their property. Windpower is an alternative energy source being encouraged by government policy, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Such emissions lead to global

  • Naming of Oklahoma education board's director sends a contradictory message

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 9, 2014

    THERE’s an old saying: Personnel is policy. The biases of policymakers ultimately determine what policies are advanced. Thus, it’s of concern that the new director of a panel charged with setting the passing grade for state tests has opposed efforts to raise the academic bar in Oklahoma. In 2012, the Legislature voted to create the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability, largely combining the Commission for Teacher Preparation and the Office of Accountability into a single entity. The commission was granted authority to “set performance levels and corresponding cut scores” for state tests in public schools. (A “cut” score is the minimum grade required to pass.) Previously, cut scores were set by the

  • Definition of a 'public' college continues to change in Oklahoma, nationally

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Tue, Jul 8, 2014

    WHAT does it mean to be a “public” college? Once upon a time, it meant that states provided significant financial support, which kept a cap of sorts on tuition and fees paid by students and their families. That’s been less and less the case over the past several years. Recessionary measures included either higher education funding cuts or flat budgets. The latter served as an effective cut since fixed costs aren’t getting any cheaper. According to the College Board, increases in tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities from 2003-04 to 2008-09 went well beyond inflation. From 2008-09 to 2013-14, tuition and fee increases exceeded the inflation rate by a whopping 27 percent.