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A Plan to Put Teachers in Charge, Give Parents Choices, and Benefit Children

How much confidence would you have in a law firm that was managed and run by legal secretaries and paralegals? Probably not a lot. Legal support staff constitute a vital part of their firms. A good paralegal can free an attorney to focus on the things only she can do. A bad paralegal can be worse than no paralegal at all. But even the best paralegal lacks the training and experience to formulate and execute a litigation strategy. You don’t want a paraprofessional running the show - their proper role is in support of the professional. So why aren’t teachers running our schools? The prevailing education model in this country is puzzling when compared to other industries. But it’s been this way so long it’s difficult to imagine anything else. We group children by age, not by knowledge or ability. We send them to schools based on address, not teaching methodology. Parents, except for the wealthy, have very little say over which school their children can attend. And teachers, the practitioners who are trained to teach, who are in the classroom every day, who are the soul of the education system, are answerable to more and more people who lack the skill and experience to accomplish...

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A Reminder of the Ineffectiveness of Covid-19 Lockdowns

Since the beginning of this pandemic, the 1889 Institute has argued against lockdowns even as “experts” advocated for them. Now, months after the weeks-long lockdowns were supposed to end, there are still states in various levels of lockdown. State and local governments have devastated their economies with shutdowns in the name of public health. Yet some politicians, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, have stated a willingness to lockdown the economy again on a national scale to eliminate COVID-19, in a "virus first, economy later" approach. Even as some lawmakers in Oklahoma urge governor Stitt to take more extreme action, it is essential to remember that lockdowns are not very effective. A group of epidemiologists have released a declaration denoting the harmful effects of lockdowns. These include; lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health. These consequences are more harmful than the virus the lockdown was supposed to prevent in the first place. These experts call for allowing less vulnerable populations resume life as normal while shielding the vulnerable. This will build...

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Dictatorship in the City: The Conceit of the Aesthetic Elite

Throughout modern history, the "enlightened" few have sought to define the ideal city. Whether the brainchild of a visionary architect or a commission of prominent residents, the various means of comprehensive urban planning lead to the same end – the chosen few dictating how you live, where you work, what you see, and how you experience your city.  This dictatorship of the aesthetic elite burdens all within a city's limits with an arbitrary, artistic interpretation of the city. Individuals, neighborhoods, and corporations are forced into a utopian vision of perfection. Ironically, "Utopia" means "no place" – which is precisely where comprehensive city planning leads us: nowhere. The reality is, cities are complex. They are the product of innumerable interactions that shape a community to satisfy its residents' needs and wants. Local governments today are consumed with meeting those needs and wants in the most efficient way possible. The modern approach is one of deliberate design – the art of city. Unfortunately, the artistry of central design is ultimately ineffective.    As a young undergraduate student attending a university design school majoring in architecture, I was ready...

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The Unfairness of Concentrated Wealth is NOTHING Compared to the Unfairness of Redistributing It

Socialist types like to accuse rich corporate types of having “too much” wealth. Simple fairness, they claim, dictates that one person should not have so much when so many have so little. But if we’re going to talk about fairness, let’s really give it fair consideration. That means looking beyond the petty jealousy and thinking about the fairness of seizing wealth from those who earned it and giving it to those who did not.   How did the wealthy get that way? The socialist types claim that the greedy capitalists exploit their workers and their consumers. Is that true? Let’s start with the workers. Jeff Bezos may be greedy. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met him. But I did work for him - in fact I hired other people to work for him. So I can say with reasonable certainty that he hasn’t created his enormous wealth by exploiting his workers. They were all there voluntarily.  Before attending law school, I spent several months working for the temp agency that hires seasonal workers for Amazon warehouses. I saw a lot of people thrilled to get a job, but you know what I didn’t see? Anyone being dragged to my office by the Agents of Amazon, bound to a chair, and told they had no choice but...

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Abuse of Office: Cindy Byrd Demonstrates She Doesn’t Understand Charter Schools

A principle I have learned over the years is that when accusations mainly founded in suspicions are made, the accusers are very often guilty of the very perfidy that they allege. Of this, I have no doubt when it comes to the accusations against Epic Charter Schools, a charter school that has quite simply gotten too big and successful for the public school establishment and its enablers to ignore. Unfortunately, State Auditor Cindy Byrd has demonstrated a ready willingness to be a champion enabler, joining in a witch hunt and ignoring the basic philosophy behind charter school laws as well as the purpose of state audits in her recent hit piece masquerading as an audit. Perhaps the single most absurd point made in the State Auditor’s report on Epic Charter Schools was on page 93 in the “Final Thoughts” chapter where there were ruminations about prohibiting any for-profit organization from obtaining a charter and prohibiting charter schools from contracting with for-profit entities for management. This was stated as if “for-profit” is, in and of itself, clearly something evil and automatically subject to corruption. Well, if that’s the case, then the traditional public schools are...

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Time to Liberate Legal Education from the ABA’s Systemic Ideological Corruption

The deans of 150 law schools, including all three in Oklahoma, have written a letter to the American Bar Association (ABA) asking the organization to require “every law school provide training and education around bias, cultural competence, and anti-racism.” These politically loaded terms are left undefined in the letter, but given the terminology, almost surely refer to the newest school of critical race theory, most prominently expounded by professor Ibram X. Kendi in his best-selling manifesto, How to Be an Anti-Racist. Most Americans would find Kendi’s views distinctly at odds with their own definition of racial equality. Most of us consider Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a society in which people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character as the aspirational ideal. Not critical race theory and “anti-racism.” As articulated by Kendi: Since the 1960s, racist power has commandeered the term “racial discrimination,” transforming the act of discriminating on the basis of race into an inherently racist act. But if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on...

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Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich: Corporate Welfare in Oklahoma

Imagine that someone forcibly takes your hard-earned money and then simply gives it to a multi-billion dollar corporation such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart, or Boeing. You receive no benefit from this forced redistribution of wealth, and the sole beneficiary is the corporation. You would most likely be outraged, and justifiably so. Unfortunately, this forced redistribution of wealth happens in Oklahoma (and the nation as a whole) all the time via a variety of state and local corporate welfare schemes.  Policymakers either take your hard-earned money (via taxes), and directly subsidize large corporations or give those corporations tax breaks nobody else can get. All of this is done in the name of jobs and economic development, but these favors bring very little (if any) benefit to you. This is tyranny, plain and simple. In fact, it is not unlike the sort of advantage nobility took of commoners before the American Revolution, only the modern nobility is just very good at lobbying. In the 1889 Institute’s most recent publication, Policymaker’s Guide to Corporate Welfare, we condemn the practice of corporate welfare, offer policymakers a simple guide to evaluate proposed and existing...

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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, it...

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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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Walking Out on School Kids: How Oklahoma Law Enabled the 2018 Teacher Strike, And How to Prevent the Next One

Walking Out on School Kids: How Oklahoma Law Enabled the 2018 Teacher Strike, And How to Prevent the Next One ​Authors Ben LepakAbstract This paper looks at the causes of the 2018 teacher walkout, and offers solutions for preventing another one. Walking Out on School Kids How Oklahoma Law Enabled the 2018 Teacher Strike, And How to Prevent the Next One By Benjamin Lepak Introduction In Spring 2018, against the backdrop of state budget shortfalls, teachers in Oklahoma public schools went on strike.[1] Their demands included increased pay and additional funding for public education. The strike threw the state into chaos. Schools closed, leaving parents, students, and employers in the lurch. Teachers timed the strike for maximum impact by scheduling it to begin on the first day of state testing, threatening to jeopardize federal funding. Teachers occupied the public spaces of the State Capitol, staging loud demonstrations that could not be ignored and largely preventing the Legislature from conducting the business it was elected to do. Legislators were shouted down by angry teachers. In the end, the Legislature passed the state’s first tax increase in 26 years in order to meet...

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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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