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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

July 30, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Muskogee Phoenix. July 28, 2019.

— Proposed SNAP rule is shortsighted

The Trump Administration is trying administratively what Congress was unable to do: push up to 3 million people out of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more popularly known as food stamps.

A proposed rule would limit automatic eligibility for households that receive assistance through other federal programs. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the proposed rule would close a loophole.

In reality, it would impose a greater burden on those already struggling to make ends meet. Those who would be impacted by the proposed rule would be required to fill out more applications and produce more documents to prove eligibility for the program.

Most all of this would be a duplication of efforts because the same documentation was provided to qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. It was eligibility through this program that qualified them for food stamps and provided a cushion that prevented a total loss of SNAP eligibility if the recipient found a part-time job.

USDA officials said elimination of broad-based categorical eligibility would help eliminate fraud and abuse of the program. But studies have shown the type of fraud cited rarely exists.

The SNAP program also has been shown to provide a benefit to the economy overall. And the program’s importance nutrition when it comes to healthy children is a cost that is well worth the benefit.

This proposed rule is shortsighted, and people should raise their voices in opposition. That can be done online at www.regulations.gov before Sept. 23.

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The Oklahoman. July 28, 2019.

— Capitalism no good? Tell that to Pawhuska

Every chance he gets, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders extols the virtues of democratic socialism and rails against the evils of capitalism. He isn’t alone, as several candidates in the crowded field have joined the chorus.

In the first debates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren complained that the economy “is doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.” She says she’s a capitalist who “sees the value of markets,” but an analysis by Yahoo Finance puts her policy proposals just a smidge to the right of Sanders’. Sens. Kamala Harris and Corey Booker aren’t far from Warren, in the Yahoo analysis.

In an interview with CNN this spring, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggested one reason for the socialism-capitalism debate “is that capitalism has let a lot of people down.” It also has lifted so many.

Consider Devon Energy Corp. It was co-founded in 1970 by Larry Nichols and his father, John, and started with a handful of employees. The company eventually helped to create the shale revolution when it bought Mitchell Energy, the hydraulic fracturing innovator, and applied the process to horizontal wells. Devon grew to roughly 5,000 employees before the energy downturn earlier this decade.

Or consider Harold Hamm, who grew up poor on a farm in Purcell before moving to Enid at 16. Two years out of high school he started Hamm-Phillips Service Co. with a single service truck. At 22, he formed the company that would become Continental Resources.

Or consider Tom and Judy Love, co-founders of Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores. They began with a single leased gas station in Watonga in the mid-1960s. Today, Love’s is in 41 states and is approaching 500 travel centers. The company employs 25,000 nationwide.

On a smaller scale, consider Cally Johnson and Kathryn Mathis, co-owners of Big Truck Tacos. As our Food Dude, Dave Cathey, has written, Johnson and Mathis were hardly the first with a food truck in Oklahoma City, but they made social media a key part of their business model. Today, Big Truck Tacos continues to flourish with its gourmet taqueria fare even as the market has become more and more crowded — Amen! — with other food truck entrepreneurs.

Speaking of food, have you been to Pawhuska lately? Until a few years ago, it was a quiet town on U.S. 60 between Bartlesville and Ponca City, in Osage County. Then “The Pioneer Woman,” Ree Drummond, decided to invest.

Drummond renovated a historic downtown building and opened a restaurant and bakery in October 2016. The town hasn’t been the same since. The Pioneer Woman Mercantile draws a steady stream of visitors from around the world, to the benefit not just of Drummond but other businesses in town.

Drummond and her husband have opened a small upscale hotel, a pizza shop and, most recently, an ice cream shop. Other once-empty buildings on town are now in use. The treasurer of the Pawhuska Merchants Association, whose own business has flourished, told the Tulsa World last summer, “It has helped the city enormously to have funds to fix infrastructure, sidewalks. I would say that’s the biggest boost.”

Perhaps Buttigieg, et al., should stop by sometime.

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Tulsa World. July 29, 2019.

— Teacher of the year finalists represent thousands of excellent teachers in Oklahoma

Congratulations to the 12 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalists for 2020. The honored teachers were announced by state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister last week.

Forgive us a bit of parochialism, but we will admit to being especially proud of three local teachers who made the final cut:

— Kirbey Dietzel is a fifth-grade teacher at Jenks East Intermediate. The Shawnee native is a University of Oklahoma graduate and is entering her seventh year as a math and science teacher at Jenks Public Schools.

— Kari Rhoden is a pre-K teacher at Oologah Lower Elementary in Oologah-Talala Public Schools. She has been an educator for 24 years and has held her current position for five years.

— Michelle Rahn is a sixth-grade science teacher at Will Rogers Middle School in Claremore Public Schools. She’s been an educator for 11 years and has held her current position for three years.

The winner will be named Sept. 17 in a ceremony at the Oklahoma State Fair and will spend the 2020-21 school year touring the state as a traveling advocate for education.

All the finalists are models for their peers. They have established records of creativity and accomplishment. Each has already been honored as the teacher of the year in their district and advanced through regional competitions judged by educators, legislators and members of business and nonprofit organizations.

The problems of public schools are much on the public’s mind these days and for good reason. Oklahoma’s schools are underfunded, overcrowded and not getting the educational results that everyone wants. Whenever there’s a scandal, everyone holds their breath.

But, in our experience, the vast majority of teachers are dedicated, hard-working professionals. No one understands the challenges faced by Oklahoma’s public schools more than the teachers, and no one wants the state’s school children to succeed more.

The 12 finalists are exemplary in many ways and deserving of their honors, but they also are representative of the excellence in classrooms across the state.

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