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Kids in Tow: Contrasting Educational Choice in Arizona and Oklahoma, a Parent’s Perspective

The 1889 Institute has repeatedly expounded on the merits of educational choice. School choice lies at the heart of providing individual children with a high-quality education, and Oklahoma could use more of it. With the myriad of programs that have proven successful throughout the country, Oklahoma needs to take an all-of-the-above approach to education to empower parents. The necessity of educational choice is particularly evident when you see students as unique individuals with unique talents and needs.  Every child learns at least a little differently from every other child. Thus, it is far more likely that every child will succeed when families can avail themselves of different educational environments. Two children, coming from the same family, living in the same house, with the same economic means and opportunities, still demonstrate different propensities, proficiencies, and instructional preferences. The close parent-child relationship gives parents a unique understanding of their child. This unique knowledge equips them to make the best decisions in their child’s education based on a more holistic experience. Therefore, to better improve educational outcomes, it is...

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Let Us Work! The Futility of “Stimulus” to Counteract Foolish Covid-19 Shutdown Orders

When was the last time you ate money? When did you last wear it? Ever shelter under it during a storm? Fact is, money is only useful for purchasing the things we need. That’s the problem with yet more talk of a federal government “stimulus” in the face of state and local government-imposed economic disruption in response to Covid-19. Government stimulus simply means government is putting money in people’s pockets so we can buy things. But each and every thing we eat, use, and consume in our daily lives must be produced. That means “stimulus” is, at best, a temporary delusion. Give people money to spend that they don’t work for, sooner or later, there’s nothing left for them to spend that money on. Or, to rephrase Margaret Thatcher, “You eventually run out of other people’s stuff to buy.” Producing is not fun to most people, for the simple reason that producing means work. Only a wonderfully blessed minority so love what they do for a living that they truly feel like they do not work to earn a living. Most look forward to the weekend and retire as soon as they feel like they can afford it. Producing – work – is therefore pretty easy to discourage. Cut somebody’s pay, even a little...

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Lease the Turnpikes to Transform Oklahoma’s Road Infrastructure

Oklahoma can make a game-changing improvement in the quality of its roads, highways, and other transportation infrastructure, and in short order. Here’s how. Back in January, I proposed monetizing large state-owned assets and using the proceeds to fund long-term budgetary needs, like underfunded pensions and transportation infrastructure. A prime candidate for monetization is the turnpike system, which I proposed leasing to private investors on a long-term basis and using the substantial windfall to improve other transportation infrastructure. Other states (most notably, Indiana) have pursued this strategy to great success, with the result being not just a financial boon to road funding but also improved management and quality of the privately operated toll roads. I conservatively estimated leasing the turnpikes would generate north of a billion dollars. A new study indicates it would probably generate more like four times that. The Reason Foundation released a study last month proposing nine states’ toll road systems as great candidates for private leasing, including Oklahoma’s. The study illustrates just how lucrative such a transaction would be to the state. Using data from...

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Educational Choice: A Simple Solution to School Inadequacy

To put it mildly, 2020 has not been the year everyone hoped for. Between the “mostly peaceful” riots, calls for the reduction or abolition of police departments, and the discord over how to handle Covid-19, our institutions are in disarray. Most school districts are a mess. Many were caught with no plan for the fall semester, while others lacked a good plan. For example, Stillwater Public Schools implemented a system that only added to the uncertainty and stress.  The Stillwater plan was to attempt in-person education, but re-evaluate that decision each Friday based on an arbitrarily defined range of area-reported Covid cases. The Friday after school started, the Stillwater district announced it would have classes the next week. Then, on Sunday afternoon, district administrators made a second announcement suspending in-person learning for the upcoming week, forcing parents to make new plans for their children within a very short window of time. The district has yet to resume in-person classes. Consequently, parents have the added expense of childcare in a time where money is increasingly tight. In addition, given the unfamiliarity with online platforms and lack of student...

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Covid-19 Response Casts Doubts on the Value of Local Control

"Why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?"      — Mel Gibson, The Patriot  There is a common sentiment, especially prevalent among those who lean to the right, that local control is preferable to state control. Perhaps it comes from the Jeffersonian proposition that, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Perhaps it is an offshoot of federalism - if states’ rights are preferable to national government, then local control must, by logical extension, be preferable to state control. But is that necessarily true? Recent responses to Covid-19 offer a case study. While the state of Oklahoma has wisely refrained from issuing restrictions on businesses, commerce, and free movement, the same cannot be said for all of her cities. Norman’s mayor and city council have been so abusive in their policies that they face recall elections. Edmond, responding to a “surge,” acted quickly: they swiftly voted to enact a mask mandate that would start 4 weeks later - long after the “surge” had declined. Oklahoma City and Tulsa made sure their schools would be closed to the children they are entrusted to educate, right up...

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Destroying Others’ Property Is Violence, No Matter How It’s Done

With characterizations of protests and riots that have occurred over the last several months as “mostly peaceful” and headlines that include “peaceful demonstration intensified,” and “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests,” it’s clear many in the press do not consider property destruction to be violent. Most likely, they mean most of the protesters haven’t physically harmed anyone. Still, during the very same protests, a large proportion of the “peaceful” participants, in obvious acts of aggression and hostility, have vandalized and stolen property. In fact, property destruction and theft are acts of violence, and are therefore legitimately defended against, not because these acts feel threatening, but because they are, in and of themselves, violent. Nevertheless, it’s common to hear many condemn individuals who use or threaten force in defense of their property. After all, if no one is physically harmed, or even actually threatened, how can damaging inanimate objects possibly be considered violence, and how can defending objects with violence possibly be justified? Let’s look at it.  Most everyone would agree that enslaving someone, even for a short time, is an act of violence....

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Welfare of Oklahoma’s Children Panned In Flawed “Study”

Are Oklahoma’s children underprivileged? According to a recently published list by Wallethub, which attempted to rank states with the most underprivileged children, Oklahoma is the 7th worst. However, if the goal was to help states improve their policies, or to show parents what states to avoid, the authors might have done better to provide sources for their data (outside the lists Wallethub had already compiled), and more importantly, choose better metrics. The authors don’t provide much context or support for why their chosen metrics matter, or how they could be changed. Of course, the goal might just be clicks.  The study is divided into three sections: Socio-economic welfare (50 points), health (25 points), and education (25 points). Each is evaluated based on Wallethub’s list of arbitrary metrics and then assigned a weighted score. These are then combined to get the final overall “underprivileged” score. But are these scores worthwhile?  Socio-economic Welfare Share of Children Living in Extreme Poverty: Wallethub defines extreme poverty as having an income less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line. For an individual, that is about $32,000 a year. For a family of 3,...

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OKC Public Schools Elevating a Privileged Elite over Oklahoma Taxpayers

The hypocrisy of the Soviet Union’s pretense of egalitarianism was well known enough to be the subject of mockery and parody. Ronald Reagan never tired of the jokes. Soviet communism espoused equality, but the reality is that party apparatchiks and government officials enjoyed special perks that no one else had access to. This special class wasn’t officially paid much more than the average skilled worker, but enjoyed privileges like dachas on the coast or countryside, special stores with imported goods and without the endless lines that were commonplace everywhere else, and more advanced medical treatment. For all their talk about eliminating class distinctions, the Soviet nomenklatura—those “doing the people’s work”—could feather their nest with the best of ‘em. Apparently, a similar attitude reigns in our government schools. Our friends at OCPA report that Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) will not offer in-person instruction to students for the first nine weeks of school this year, but “plans to allow staff members to keep their children gathered in groups on site with the district providing supervision of those pupils’ on-site ‘distance’ learning, even as other parents...

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The Oklahoma Legislature Should Shield Kids from Teachers’ Union Strikes

Cheered on by teachers’ unions, State Secretary of Education Joy Hoffmeister recently proposed a statewide Covid plan that would have seen schools in 39 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties stop in-person instruction if those counties experienced just 3 Covid diagnoses. Only 3 positive tests in the entire county, and every school district therein would send kids home. Unbelievable. Fortunately, 4 members of the State Board of Education had the common sense to vote this proposal down (the 3 board members who voted yes should be replaced). Any excuse, including a low-risk but well-publicized virus, appears to be enough for teachers to stay home from work, but get paid, nonetheless. It seems teachers’ unions have learned well the lessons of their successful 2018 strike: unbending obstinacy and elevation of adults’ economic interests over children’s well-being and educational advancement will not be punished, but rewarded.  The Legislature should make sure this lesson is unlearned. It can do so by revising the state’s existing teacher strike law along the lines of model legislation proposed in 1889 Institute’s publication, released today, Walking Out on School Kids: How Oklahoma Law Enabled The...

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Government at Any Level is Unfit to Run Your Life

In plain English this time. What is the right way to think about the risk of Covid? About three percent of people who get Covid are dying from it. That number drops precipitously for those outside a few well-defined risk groups (namely older adults and those with certain preexisting conditions). People do risky things every day. We all get in cars, some smoke cigarettes, and most of us eat things we know are unhealthy. Here’s a list of the top causes of death in the U.S. since the first confirmed Covid death: Heart disease (340,889), Cancer (299,358), Covid-19 (148,772), Lower respiratory disease (78,443), Stroke (78,350), Alzheimer’s (66,401), Diabetes (49,215), and Influenza/Pneumonia (30,216). In addition, car accidents cause about 38,000 deaths per year in the U.S. To reiterate: we get in cars, smoke cigarettes, and eat things we know are terrible for us. We do these things every day. We do them without thinking about it.  Some caveats to the Covid numbers: there is reason to think the reported deaths may be higher than the actual deaths. The U.K. health department recently reduced their Covid death count by 11 percent, owing to a recognition that their methodology for...

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Same Ol’ Story: Blocking Opportunity, Freedom, Prosperity

I know. Sometimes we sound like a broken record. ANOTHER blog about licensing? Long-term care administration licensing? Seriously? Does this theme not get old? Well, yeah, it’s old. We wish we could stop writing about what may very well be the stupidest, most onerous, and most disgusting type of regulation on the books. Frankly, until something is done about it, we don’t believe we have a choice. And more should be getting done. This is not a partisan issue, after all. The Obama administration put out a white paper on the over-abundance of licensing in the United States and its deleterious effects. Nevertheless, Oklahoma has a do-nothing Occupational Licensing Advisory Commission headed by Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn who clearly couldn’t care less. They rarely meet and almost never recommend that the legislature repeal a license. Nonetheless, NOTHING is more fundamental to freedom than the ownership of oneself. Therefore, the most basic freedom we have is the right to sell our time – our skills and God-given talents – as we see fit. This ability is a pre-requisite, indeed what it truly means, to have freedom of opportunity – the opportunity to develop talent, to grow income,...

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A Blunt Cry for Covid Dread’s End

​Allowing an admittedly adverse ailment to be inaccurately advertised as an apocalyptic abomination able to annihilate all is aggravating, annoying, and abhorrent. An accurate assessment advises any and all to avoid alarmism and act appropriately. Anxieties are anticipated, but authentic appraisal admits an alternative: any of advanced age or anemic autoimmunity are advised to avert ailment by avoiding acquaintances and afflicted areas. Adults, adolescents, and any of an early age are able to get back to business. Bodies are besieged and beset by baseless bombast. Broadcasters blithely belch baloney. Boorish bullies berate and belittle. Bureaucrats ban beneficial business. Busybodies blinded by bad bulletins belittle benign behaviors. But bravery and boldness bolster benevolence. By bringing back businesses, cities can commence circulation of currency and cooperative commerce. Concededly, Covid causes casualties. However, careful consideration confirms: car crashes cruelly cause catastrophe, cigarettes cause cancer, and cardiac crisis claims more lives than any contrary cause. Curiously, coupes and carriages continue to cruise, cigar consumption carries on, and corpulent...

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How to Spend $47 Million in 4 Months

The CARES Act passed by Congress has a provision to give funds to state and local governments. Out of this, Oklahoma County has been given the onerous task of spending $47 million by the end of the year. The caveat being all expenses must be related to COVID-19. Any money not used must be returned to the federal government. While the county is undoubtedly receiving a plethora of self-interested letters requesting a portion of the funds, there are a few ways to spend the money to the benefit of all Oklahoma County residents. This should not be read to condone spending money just because it is available. Government officials must remember that the money they spend comes directly from the taxpayer, and should only be spent in ways that benefit all or most of society.  Oklahoma County could also use the money to give grants to small businesses that were forced to shut down or otherwise damaged by the government’s actions related to COVID-19. Small businesses could use the money to avoid layoffs, rehire staff, and stay afloat as the economy recovers. They could also use the money to fulfill any government mandates related to COVID. There should be rules limiting which businesses...

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How Oklahoma Can Be Number One in Covid Policy

South Dakota, that sound you hear behind you is footsteps. Oklahoma can be Number One in the policy response to Covid-19. We’ve done fairly well to this point compared to other states, but to take us to the top, our leaders will need good, accurate information, must ignore hyperbole (often outright falsehoods) from the media-politico controversy machine, and should trust individual Oklahomans to do what is best for themselves and their families. Oh, and it would help to have some courage in the face of criticism (or ear plugs to tune out the whining). Fortunately, 1889 Institute has compiled a very helpful webpage containing the cold, hard facts about SARS-CoV-2. Based on these facts, not hysteria and virtue signaling, we recommend some straightforward policy responses. The page is here for anyone who wants to arm themselves with knowledge, rather than bask in the newly virtuous habit of broadcasting how afraid and ignorant one is. For example, did you know that the evidence for widespread masking limiting disease-spread is, at best, mixed? The World Health Organization notes (see page 14 of this report) that there is no scientifically-verified evidence that masks slow the spread...

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If Licensing Protects Consumers, Why Are Licensing Laws Blatantly Anti-Consumer?

Once upon a time, there was a small island whose economy revolved around scuba-diving tourism. Unfortunately, the island elected legislators who considered scuba dangerous. Inexperienced divers would surface too quickly and get the bends. The legislature, wanting to make diving feel safer, passed a law that banned sharks in designated scuba diving zones. There were no known cases of sharks attacking divers, nor were divers being frightened into surfacing too quickly by sharks. This is what most occupational licensing schemes look like. Legislators act, giving the public a sense of security, and giving powerful industries protection from competition. The laws do almost nothing to help consumers. Not only are they futile, they are also deceptive. Some licensing regimes, like the Oklahoma Real Estate Broker’s Act, take the deceit one step farther. Instead of just telling the sharks not to eat people (which they weren’t doing anyway) the act does the equivalent of gathering a group of great whites to police the no-shark zone. The great whites chase away the sand sharks that might bite the occasional toe, and in return they get to feast on divers whenever their normal prey becomes too...

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Praise and Criticism of Governor Stitt’s Plan for Reopening Schools

Governor Stitt recently held a press conference to announce his plans for opening Oklahoma’s schools in the face of fear and loathing by many regarding Covid-19. There is a great deal of paranoia surrounding this disease, which the 1889 Institute has attempted to moderate by posting accurate information, in contrast to media more interested in sensation. Despite the fear, Governor Stitt is admirably insisting that schools should open. He cannot overrule local school boards and mandate that schools reopen, and even if he could, it would be impolitic not to take steps to reassure parents, teachers, students, and administrators that schools can be opened and attended safely. So, he has taken extraordinary measures to reassure everyone. His plan includes measures like regular viral testing and provisions for personal protective equipment (PPE). Just about any public policy has unintended effects that decision makers fail to anticipate. Unfortunately, when public policy is being devised, the people in the room helping to make decisions are frequently not the people who have to deal with the consequences of their policies. Intentions might be pure, but Governor Stitt’s announced...

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Is Education No Longer the Primary Mission of Our Public Schools?

Did you know that the state of Oklahoma is currently experiencing not one, but two pandemics? Until yesterday, neither did I. According to the Oklahoma City School District, the state is currently experiencing the “dual pandemics of COVID-19 and Systemic Racism,” and has decided to spend valuable time and resources to ensure that their teachers learn how to “practice alternative ways of relating to…[their]students.” In the meantime, teachers are supposed to conduct their classes online into November. Unfortunately, if the District doesn’t adequately prepare their teachers to use the available online learning platforms, it won’t matter how woke they are, they won’t be interacting with their students at all.  At this point, we really have no idea what the school year will look like, and school districts have given little basis for optimism that students will actually learn anything. Oklahoma City public schools closed in March and “went online.” However, due to lack of sufficient technology, internet access, or proper training, the actual schooling that occurred was slim to none. Since that time, they have had the entire summer to gear up for the upcoming school year. What has the...

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Corporate Welfare is not OK

Largely buried under the constant barrage of COVID-19 news and the baffling decision by the Supreme Court to declare half of Oklahoma "Indian Country," was Oklahoma’s and Tulsa’s attempt to bribe Tesla to locate a new facility in that city. Tesla chose Austin, Texas instead, a decision Tesla likely made months ago, but for the opportunity Oklahoma's bid provided for milking as much as possible in concessions (bribery) from Austin. Thus, it may well be a blessing in disguise that Tesla chose Austin over Tulsa. After all, Oklahomans aren't on the hook to pay off a big corporation that is perfectly capable of financially taking care of itself. What's more, consider what might have happened if the deal had been made and ground had been broken before the McGirt decision. Tesla likely would have had to pull out of the deal, and might well have sued the state for bad faith negotiating, which have reflected poorly on Tulsa and Oklahoma.  One study estimates corporations receive at least $30 billion a year in tax incentives from state and local governments nationwide. Oklahoma ranks 9th in the amount of corporate welfare it gives out as a percent of GDP. This is higher than California....

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Who Speaks for Oklahoma? Setting the Scene for Coming Tribal Negotiations

The situation in Oklahoma is fluid after the Supreme Court’s consequential decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma. There are many moving parts. Independent state officials apparently have different goals and motivations, and legal uncertainty abounds. Against this background, it can be difficult to track what is going on and to sort through leaders’ public statements and actions. Let’s cut through some of the clutter. First, a brief recap: a monster everyone agrees is guilty as sin had his conviction for raping and forcibly sodomizing his wife’s 4 year old granddaughter overturned by the US Supreme Court. In so doing, a slim 5-4 majority on the Court ruled that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation, encompassing nearly all of the City of Tulsa, is still in existence because the US Congress never formally “disestablished” the reservation when it admitted the State of Oklahoma into the Union more than 100 years ago. As a result, Oklahoma no longer has jurisdiction to prosecute a slew of serious crimes in at least the Creek lands, and likely the other tribal lands covering the entire eastern half of the state. Instead, those crimes will be prosecuted by the federal government. As I noted last...

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Undo 802

Why is it that when conservatives suffer a major loss, they give up, accept the new status quo, and fall back to the next retreat position? When progressives suffer a major loss, they regroup and try again. And again. Until they finally wheedle the American public into giving in. I propose a change in strategy. The Oklahoma Legislature should make undoing State Question 802 its top legislative priority for 2021. This will not be an easy task (legislators seem to prefer avoiding difficult tasks) but it is a critical one. The normal legislative process, with all its pitfalls and traps for the unwary, will only bring the topic to another vote of the people. So why spend so much political capital and effort if the same result is possible? Three reasons.  First is the disastrous consequences of the policy. Forget that it enriches already-rich hospital and pharmaceutical executives. Forget that it gives the state incentives to prioritize the nearly-poor covered by expansion over the destitute covered by Oklahoma’s existing Medicaid. Here’s all you need to know: legislators are now required by the state constitution to fund the state’s portion of Medicaid expansion, to the tune of $100...

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