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Roundup of Oklahoma editorials

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 17, 2015 at 9:30 am •  Published: February 17, 2015
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Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

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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.

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