Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Enid News & Eagle. March 19, 2018.
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, the number of Americans believing political engagement is very important has increased by 11 points, according to a new Monmouth University Poll.
Interestingly, this increase is happening all across the partisan spectrum. It’s hard to find political harmony these days, but the poll found more than one-third of Democrats (41 percent), Republicans (35 percent) and independents (34 percent) agree it’s very important to get personally involved in politics.
Elections are the property of the voters. We want to get closer to our communities and sincerely know voter concerns.
We’re getting engaged. In an in-depth news project called “Pulse of the Voters,” members of the local community will be sharing their views on the current political climate and the issues that concern them most.
The goal of this innovative project is to dig deeper beyond traditional political coverage and listen to voters in our community to report on how they feel as voters.
We networked at Da Vinci’s Coffeehouse and Gelateria and reached out to local residents for quotable sources.
We are not looking for the voices of officials but the voices of our readers. Most of all, we want to hear from you.
So far, we’ve talked to a 22-year Air Force veteran and a former teacher. We also interviewed an oil industry worker turned insurance salesman, an ex-Department of Human Services worker and an Enid native raised on a dairy farm.
The results of our work will be published in Enid News & Eagle starting April 1. We’ll also include statewide and national coverage that’s relevant to provide a bigger perspective across the country.
If you would like to participate in “Pulse of the Voters” project and don’t mind having your views published, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, let us know if you have questions or concerns. While we’ve put the wrap on the April 1 report, we have much more work ahead of us from now through 2020.
Tulsa World. March 20, 2018.
In the emotional debate on possibly renaming a handful of Tulsa Public Schools, it’s crucial those school communities have input.
The Tulsa School Board ultimately made the right decision last week in tabling the decision on what to name Lee Elementary. The board approved rescinding the name “Robert E. Lee School.”
An item that could have renamed the building to “Lee School” resulted in a 2½-hour heated debate.
Parents and students said they were blindsided and not notified of the recommendation. Some say they don’t know who was on a site ad hoc committee looking at this possible name change, or that such a committee existed.
This shouldn’t have happened.
The process should be transparent, methodical and not necessarily fast. It should offer multiple avenues for parents, students, staff and alumni to provide thoughts and opinions.
The right of every generation is to reconsider honored historic heroes in a contemporary context. But this journey must be done with complete inclusivity involving multiple community-wide meetings, social media, newsletters and other communication outreach.
By the time the board votes on a recommendation, no one should claim they did not have an opportunity to be heard, even if there is disagreement with the final recommendation.
This broad-based approach may not solve the great divide, but it’s the only way to navigate this challenging discussion with any public unity.
TPS is also considering new names for Jackson, Chouteau and Columbus elementary schools. The board rescinded the name Henry Ford on an empty lot the district owns.
Somewhere along the way, the Lee School recommendation was bungled, but the board saw the need to hit the brakes and get this process right.
The Oklahoman. March 20, 2018.
The Oklahoma Senate tried unsuccessfully last week to give teachers a $5,000 pay raise and boost state employee pay by $2,500. The education establishment’s reaction to the plan says much about its mindset in the lead up to a promised April 2 walkout.
Deborah Gist, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, tweeted that, “A $5,000 increase for our teachers is NOT success. Our teachers are underpaid by $10,000-$20,000. Let’s actually address this problem & not just tinker around the edges of it.”
Tinker around the edges? Sen. Michael Bergstrom, R-Adair, a former longtime public school teacher, noted that the proposed teacher raises would have been a 12.7 percent boost in pay and would have raised the average teacher salary higher than in any surrounding state except Texas.
Not to mention, just a month ago teachers and students swarmed the Capitol to urge passage of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which included $5,000 raises.
A month later, we have tweets such as these from the Oklahoma Education Association, sent as the Senate was preparing to vote on the bill last week: “Nothing for support professionals, nothing for our classrooms, and no discussion of further raises to get us to our $10K demand.”
The state’s largest teachers’ union continued: “This is NOT the significant funding increase our schools need and our students deserve. .”
The head of the OEA also dismissed as “a political stunt” House Speaker Charles McCall’s proposal to give most teachers an average raise of $2,000 next year and boost pay by up to $20,000 over six years. The plan is backed by teachers who aren’t affiliated with the OEA.
Bergstrom pointed out that the Senate bill was nearly identical to a revenue bill Senate Democrats supported in November. Yet this time, none of the eight Dems voted in favor. Why? Bergstrom said one Democratic Senator told him, “It doesn’t meet the ask.”
The “ask” from the OEA is for $1.4 billion over three years, to cover $10,000 raises for teachers and $5,000 raises for support personnel, along with $213 million for public employees, $200 million in restored school funding and $256 million to bolster programs through the Oklahoma Health Care Authority that have been cut.
The Senate sought to increase the gross production tax from 2 percent to 4 percent on all wells, the fuel tax by 6 cents per gallon, and the tobacco tax by $1 per pack (the Step Up plan had a $1.50-per-pack increase).
That wasn’t good enough. Not even close. Apparently if the OEA “wants all or nothing,” Bergstrom said, “the Democrats march in lock step.”
The OEA’s reaction to this bill and to McCall’s proposal makes clear that it’s taking an all-or-nothing approach. Some improvement won’t work — the OEA, it seems evident, wants the whole pie, even if that means hurting other entities such as the Department of Corrections and the state’s mental health agency, whose budgets would surely be impacted for years to come.
This strategy carries the risk of alienating parents and other taxpayers, who generally support the teachers’ cause but may begin wondering why truly meaningful pay raises aren’t good enough.