Top Stories

  • On education standards, Oklahoma lawmakers' rationales keep shifting

    Published: Sun, Apr 6, 2014

    MEMBERS of the Senate Education Committee decided last week that illiteracy should be no barrier to student advancement in Oklahoma public schools. This is an Okie joke that writes itself. Under a law taking effect this year, third-grade students found to be reading at a first-grade level or lower on state tests can’t be promoted to the fourth grade. Instead, they must repeat third grade with an additional emphasis on reading. Some object to the law, saying a single test shouldn’t have such enormous consequence. The law already includes several alternative methods to demonstrate reading mastery. But legislators apparently felt more were needed. Thus an amendment was adopted to allow any student who passes a

  • ScissorTales: Where has Gov. Mary Fallin been on Common Core?

    Published: Sat, Apr 5, 2014

    GOV. Mary Fallin used part of her State of the State speech to applaud efforts to improve education in Oklahoma. She saluted the principal and students at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, where a remarkable academic turnaround has occurred in recent years. “To support students and teachers like these, we’re also working on increasing rigor in classrooms and raising standards to levels required by colleges and also employers,” Fallin said, alluding to the Common Core State Standards. “In 2010, the Legislature voted to adopt new, higher standards in English and math, and those new Oklahoma standards will be fully implemented this year,” she said.

  • Oklahoma City attracting interest around the world

    Published: Fri, Apr 4, 2014

    OKLAHOMA City’s renaissance is often celebrated locally. Even so, many citizens may still not recognize just how much the city has become a preferred destination for citizens across the country and even around the world. Here’s just one example: Due to a struggling economy, many teachers in Spain are seeking jobs in the United States. After Spanish officials performed the first cut of potential applicants, Oklahoma City Public Schools recruiters were still able to interview 57 teachers for 20 available positions. But Dave Lopez, interim superintendent of the Oklahoma City school district, notes that more than 200 Spanish applicants asked to come to Oklahoma City.

  • Diverting ODOT funds to education is a bad idea

    Published: Fri, Apr 4, 2014

    MEMBERS of the Legislature apparently have decided the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has had it pretty good the past few years, so it’s time the agency give a little something back. This is no way to govern. A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would divert money from ODOT’s long-range road and bridge repair fund and give it to public schools. Sen. James Halligan, R-Stillwater, is pushing the plan, saying: “I am absolutely committed to trying to find some way to give additional funds for common education.” A former president of Oklahoma State University, Halligan’s emphasis on education is commendable.

  • Credible plan needed to boost school funding in Oklahoma

    Published: Thu, Apr 3, 2014

    OKLAHOMA teachers and administrators rallied at the state Capitol this week, making clear they want more money. Exactly how much money is truly needed? Where will it come from? Aside from a few nebulous suggestions, participants didn’t say. That’s a big problem for their cause. One figure bandied about was $200 million. Yet that sum is hardly a game changer. In the 2013 budget year, Oklahoma public school funds totaled more than $8.2 billion in state, local and federal dollars. Boosting state appropriations by $200 million would increase that figure by just 2.4 percent. Some rally participants suggested lawmakers have failed to prioritize school funding. Yet education, including state colleges, received 51 percent of

  • Oklahoma redbuds' colorful display in full bloom

    Published: Thu, Apr 3, 2014

    PURISTS have always insisted that mistletoe was a poor choice for the official state flower, but few would argue with the selection of the redbud as Oklahoma’s official state tree. When you see mistletoe in December, you’re seeing a parasite. When you see a redbud in late March or early April, you’re seeing paradise. To mistletoe we’ve attached an almost spiritual significance. Redbud has none of that, but we would argue that nothing stirs the spirit more than the sight of a redbud at the peak of its beauty. True mistletoe is European; the Oklahoma variety resembles it enough that the name is appropriate. Scandinavians associated mistletoe with their goddess of love. This is one explanation for the link between the

  • State should support, not hamstring school district efforts to change

    Updated: Tue, Apr 1, 2014

    COMPARED with their counterparts in many districts, leaders of Oklahoma City schools take a decidedly different approach to addressing education challenges. That’s a good thing. Sticking with the status quo has done little to improve schools or benefit the community. Take the district’s approach to state report cards for school sites. When A-F grades were issued, some district administrators in the state literally spent thousands of dollars urging parents to avert their eyes. In Oklahoma City, which had a large share of D and F schools, officials chose a different tactic: They faced reality and have been working to make those schools better.

  • Ideally, merit would rule when lawmakers create tax policy

    Published: Tue, Apr 1, 2014

    IN an ideal world, state lawmakers wouldn’t play favorites when making tax policy decisions. Merit alone should rule. Obviously, we don’t live in an ideal world, so similar tax bills can meet different fates. This year, several bills would implement a “sunset” date into laws creating tax credits. This would ensure that each tax credit would be eliminated by a date certain, unless lawmakers vote to re-authorize it. Routine review of tax credits makes sense. Programs that don’t live up their billing may need repeal. Most bills that sunset tax credits have easily advanced. But not all. Last week, members of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee voted 19-4 to reject Senate Bill 1341, which would have

  • Northwestern football ruling should get the attention of NCAA leaders

    Published: Tue, Apr 1, 2014

    HAVING won the first round in their attempt to allow some college football players to unionize, representatives of the movement are headed to Washington this week to speak to lawmakers. That’s just what college sports doesn’t need — Congress getting involved. “We want them to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing,” the head of the College Athletes Players Association told ESPN. Kain Colter, who played quarterback at Northwestern University and is leading this fight, insists that he’s not seeking a pay-for-play arrangement. This is an idea that’s been bandied about for years as revenues from big-time college athletics have grown.

  • Oklahoma students pay the price for educators' stunt

    Published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014

    Don’t be fooled by Monday’s weather forecast in Oklahoma City — partly cloudy with the temperature about 80. For many of the state’s public school districts, this is a snow day. Yes, administrators and teachers will abandon their posts in order to converge in Oklahoma City, to tell lawmakers that common education funding is inadequate. Students, having already lost several days due to real snowstorms, will get another day off for no good reason. Not one member of the Legislature is unaware of how public schools feel about education funding. Lawmakers understand that school budgets have been cut in recent years. But they also know the check written to common ed is always larger than any other government entity.

  • Racial preferences at colleges not working as planned

    Published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014

    ACCORDING to the (racist) stereotype, opponents of affirmative action are a bunch of angry white males. Recent events in California prove otherwise. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences at state universities. This year, with Democrats holding supermajorities in the California legislature, lawmakers appeared ready to send a proposed constitutional amendment to voters that would roll back that law. The legislation flew through the state Senate. The California Assembly appeared ready to do the same thing — until Asian Americans got involved. Thanks to that group’s staunch opposition, the rollback effort has stalled. This may surprise some, but affirmative action doesn’t

  • Film industry showing faith with religious movies

    Published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014

    In Hollywood it’s raining religion. A downburst of faith-themed movies has audiences arriving in groups by the arkload. “Noah” is an example of the trend to release more films that appeal to people of faith. Other examples are easy to spot today, following a year in which ticket sales declined at theaters across the nation. Studios are not only releasing more movies with religious themes. Some are aggressively seeking to put more emphasis on faith. Amen! “By Hollywood standards at least,” USA Today reported, “the movie business is bracing for a flood of biblical proportions.” The latest deluge began with “Son of God,” which has already grossed more than twice its production costs. “God’s Not

  • Investing in mental health is crucial in Oklahoma

    Published: Sun, Mar 30, 2014

    AS director of the agency charged with trying to improve Oklahomans’ mental health, Terri White has what must be one of the most frustrating jobs in state government. White has reams of statistics that highlight the severity of the problem — and it is severe — and knows what is needed to ease it. What she doesn’t have, however, is the financial means to make a significant dent. And trying to convince the Legislature of the need to do more, particularly in this tight budget year, is a tough slog. So White will keep her fingers crossed that, as Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed, the budget for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services remains flat. However, she warns that without an additional $21 million

  • Tinker Air Force Base's future secure in view of retired lieutenant general

    Head overline: General says Tinker’s future is bright, but ... | Published: Sun, Mar 30, 2014

    DICK Newton, a retired lieutenant general now serving as executive vice president of the Air Force Association, has decades of military experience. This gives his insights credibility few can match. Newton is concerned about the impact of budget cuts on national defense, but he remains bullish on the future prospects of Tinker Air Force Base. “In terms of the future of the Air Force, is Tinker ever going to shut down?” Newton asked The Oklahoman’s Opinion writers. “No. You can quote me on that.” While some bases may be closed in the coming years, Newton said facilities like Tinker are “the last place” he expects this to happen. From both an infrastructure and base-capability standpoint, he said Tinker

  • ScissorTales: OKC school district giving patrons a chance to weigh in

    Published: Sat, Mar 29, 2014

    DAVE Lopez, interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, told us recently that a real upside for the district is the community partnerships that continue to emerge. A new survey provides an example. Nine community partners, led by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, are behind an online survey whose results will be used to guide education reform in the district. The survey, available in English and Spanish, asks questions of district parents, teachers and employees, as well as business owners and community members. Organizers hope to have 4,800 surveys completed in the next month. Teresa Rose, who heads the chamber’s workforce and education committee, is right when she says partnerships are vital to school

  • Latest delay simply more of the same with Obamacare

    Published: Fri, Mar 28, 2014

    “WHAT the hell is this, a joke?” U.S. House Speaker John Boehner asked the question Wednesday after the Obama administration announced that its approaching Monday deadline to sign up for insurance coverage this year would be pushed back to mid-April. March 31 was the date the administration had been trying to drive home to consumers as the deadline neared, using a multi-million dollar marketing campaign that featured celebrities such as LeBron James. These ads are aimed at younger, healthier Americans whose enrollment is critical if the administration is to come close to meeting Obamacare’s cost projections. March 31 is the date that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised (as recently as

  • Common Core: What once was great is now toxic for Oklahoma lawmakers

    Published: Fri, Mar 28, 2014

    IN defending a bill that would untether the state from the Common Core education standards the Legislature approved in 2010, state Rep. Jason Nelson said the new legislation would result in academic standards “that exceed all previous standards — including Common Core.” Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, added that a revised House Bill 3399, approved by a Senate committee this week, provides that those new standards be shaped in part by comments from parents, educators, the business community and others. “Critics who say this is a step back from higher standards and suggest that it puts federal funds in jeopardy have no basis for those concerns,” he said. Nelson is a solid legislator and hardly a defender of the status quo in

  • U.S.-Canada energy partnership is extensive and diverse

    Published: Thu, Mar 27, 2014

    AN energy pipeline crosses the U.S. border with Canada, bringing a vital commodity to American consumers. Oil or natural gas? No. The pipeline referred to is a high-voltage electrical transmission line bringing Canadian hydropower to the United States. The power represents a fraction of electricity consumed in this country but it illustrates that the energy partnership between the two countries is not only extensive but diverse. Before controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline erupted, many Americans likely didn’t think about how much we rely on Canadian resources for fuel. In fact, Canada is the largest supplier of crude oil and petroleum products to the United States. Saudi Arabia is second.

  • With weather emergencies, language shouldn't be a barrier

    Published: Thu, Mar 27, 2014

    EVERY language has a word for what the English-speaking world calls “water.” Not everyone who speaks a language other than English is capable of understanding a flash flood warning. Even those who speak only English sometimes forget that floods can be as deadly as tornadoes in Oklahoma. This could be remedied in part if severe weather warnings were broadcast in more than just English. Spanish, in particular, is a language in which tornado and flood warnings should be aired in Oklahoma. Our conclusion comes from the fact that the deadliest flood in Oklahoma City’s history, which killed 23 people last May 31, took the lives of nine members of a growing Guatemalan community. One of the victims was born just 17 days before

  • Curbing teen pregnancy rate in Oklahoma, nationwide remains an uphill climb

    Published: Wed, Mar 26, 2014

    THE teenage pregnancy problem in Oklahoma is no secret. Just spend some time at a local shopping mall or walk into a local high school. This state’s “babies” are having babies in astounding numbers. Last month, we were reminded just how shocking those numbers are: A report in The Oklahoman showed that more 18- and 19-year-old women in Oklahoma gave birth in recent years than entered the state’s three largest universities as incoming freshmen. That’s what it looks like for a state to have the second-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Last week, a Tulsa World story featured Nikki Parker, a former teenage mom who scrapped and fought for eight years to get off welfare.