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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

July 24, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Lawton Constitution. July 22, 2018.

— Don’t get me started ...

There is a natural and regrettable inclination to avoid conflict at almost any costs. Even though, avoiding, so as not to get someone started, demonstrates your unwillingness to uncover that which must be brought to light.

You must peel back the layer of the onion to get to the real issues, and that will likely require you to boldly uncover these hidden issues head-on. When you peel back the layers of the onion, figurative tears may start to flow. In other words, you are going to expose your vulnerable side and possibly invite a compromising situation. So be it.

Until you get to a position of confidence where you are committed to rooting out the possible damaging issues, you are really not willing to become the trusted advisor you must strive to become, and you will someday need to become.

People, as a general rule, do want to get better. Otherwise, the selling of educational and self-help books would plummet. You can play an important role in helping others grow by making a commitment to guiding them down the discovery path. The discovery path is paved with questions, listening, empathy and compassion.

When you are truly devoted to helping, you must be devoted to, carefully and gingerly, at times, continue pushing on the hot buttons in order to help others understand your deep desire to understand. Let them know that you really want to know that which you need to know. You can accomplish that worthy goal by showing a sincere commitment to their position and goals.

Getting to yes may involve getting someone started. So be it.

___

Tulsa World. July 24, 2018.

— One way or another the health board’s undemocratic rules on medical marijuana need to be revised ... and quickly

We’ll admit that we’ve gone back and forth concerning the need (and wisdom) of a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature to deal with State Question 788.

The Legislature certainly hasn’t distinguished itself in recent special sessions, and it hasn’t done much at other times to make us trust it in general. It’s hard to imagine it dealing with a controversial subject such as medical marijuana without fouling up the process.

So, it initially seemed the state health board could best handle the situation.

Then the board failed miserably at the task — imposing burdensome rules that defied the expressed will of the people.

House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols seemed to get it immediately, criticizing the board’s actions and saying he couldn’t imagine the Legislature making the same mistake. Maybe, it seemed, the Legislature was our best hope for fixing this mess (and improving its own reputation a bit in the process.)

Now, Attorney General Mike Hunter has thrown the health board a lifeline. In a letter to Health Commissioner Tom Bates, Hunter says the board overstepped its authority with the rules. He calls for revisions. The president of the health board says a special meeting will be called “as soon as possible,” although a health department spokesman said any changes aren’t likely before the flawed regulations go into effect on Monday.

The original health board rules are wrong because they are undemocratic. They clearly defy the voters’ choices, and they must be revised to come back into agreement with the language of SQ 788. The pending question is: How do we best get there?

We’re back to thinking the health board might get it right, although we frankly don’t have much faith in anyone involved in the process at this point. The board needs to reconvene quickly, fix its mistakes and get out of the way of popular sovereignty.

Otherwise, we’re back to relying on the Oklahoma Legislature to fix the problem, which is leaning on a broken crutch.

___

The Oklahoman. July 24, 2018.

— Reform is a topic of Oklahoma interim studies

Between tax increases approved in the past three years and strong growth in Oklahoma’s economy, the debate over state government revenue has concluded and is no longer an excuse to avoid addressing more serious and substantive reforms. Fortunately, it appears some lawmakers understand this.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have both approved interim studies that may be conducted by lawmakers in the coming months. They include important topics that have been neglected for too long.

Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, has requested a study of prison re-entry programs in Oklahoma and wants to look at implementation of the governor’s justice reform task force recommendations. The challenges of Oklahoma’s prison system have not gone away, and lawmakers have punted the ball too often on this issue. Corrections reform that reduces prison incarceration while still preserving public safety must be a priority. Otherwise, lawmakers need to bite the bullet and devote the money needed to build new prisons.

Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has requested a study on school bonding flexibility based on state assets. It’s long been noted Oklahoma school funding is “siloed” in ways that leave schools unable to raise teacher pay even when their per-pupil funding surges thanks to local property taxes. The system’s flaws have become obvious during the past several years and it’s good some lawmakers are starting to reconsider such restrictions.

In the House, Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, has requested a study to examine “what the correlation is, if any, between per pupil expenditures and education outcomes by district.” That study will also examine how much money districts are putting into classroom instruction. Given the hundreds of millions in new funding poured into schools this year, lawmakers need to follow up and make sure those dollars are used to the maximum benefit for students.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, will lead a study on equitable funding of charter schools. Some of Oklahoma’s best-performing schools are charter schools, yet they are denied property tax funding other schools receive. As a result, some of the state’s best schools are in some of the most dilapidated buildings. It’s time to reassess a funding system that (perhaps inadvertently) financially penalizes excellence in education.

Stanislawski also has requested a study on virtual charter school performance. Online education has become a valuable tool for providing greater opportunities to many students. That said, there have been controversies regarding quality and oversight of some providers, which suggests tweaks to state law may be needed.

Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, wants to consider reform of the “merit protection” system in place for state government workers. That system reduces political influence in state hiring, but can also make it far harder to fire bad employees. Osburn has pushed reform for several years, and deserves credit for continuing his efforts.

It’s one thing to study an issue, and another to advance meaningful reform. Those lawmakers who are taking their jobs seriously and focusing on something beyond election gimmicks deserve praise and public support.

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