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Now Playing: The Silence Of The Oklahoma Republicans

Then there’s this rhetorical gem from conservative Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller about the state’s major fiscal crisis, “. . . we’ve seen this cycle before and know Oklahoma will recover – hopefully having learned lessons on how to better weather the storm the next time.”

This obvious downplaying of the ongoing economic devastation in Oklahoma—no big deal people, happens all the time—came in a news release that reports extremely grim statistics about March gross receipts. Miller says revenues in March were the lowest for its month in the last four years. Miller also reports, “Monthly collections from oil and natural gas production taxes have been lower than the same month of the prior year for 15 consecutive months.”

Yes, “we’ve seen this cycle before,” but only in extremely precarious times, such as the 1980s or, yes, even during The Great Depression in the 1930s. We’re in a period of revenue failure in state government, which faces a $1.3 billion budget shortfall next fiscal year beginning in July. The layoffs continue in the oil and gas industry and related fields. The state is now planning a full-out assault on state health care systems through Medicaid cuts, which I wrote about in my last post.

Make no mistake that Miller and his fellow Republicans, whether in a spoken or unspoken orchestrated effort, are trying to downplay the negative impact their conservative policies have had on the state. But they can only hide for so long, and they can’t hide it through the November elections, which is what they really want to do.

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Conservative politicians here have broken the Oklahoma public school system through intentional and careless massive funding cuts. Now it looks like their punitive actions will lead to a massive reduction of health care providers in the state’s rural areas and the possible shut down of nursing homes.

Welcome to the great reddest of red state of Oklahoma, soon to reach Third-World status in desperate need of federal intervention in all aspects of its government and finances. (Is this even hyperbole, anymore?) Conservatives got us here by pushing income tax cuts for the wealthy, passing tax breaks for big corporations and by cheerleading the “drill, baby, drill” mantra that has led to a worldwide fossil fuel cut now taking its toll on the Oklahoma economy in a sinister, soul-destroying manner. This has led to two revenue failures and a growing $1.3 billion budget shortfall for next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Here’s the most recent depressing news: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has announced it’s cutting the Medicaid reimbursement rate by 25 percent effective June 1 because of conservative budget cuts.

According to the authority’s news release on the issue, “The OHCA currently contracts with 46,129 providers. In addition to the 25 percent provider rate cut, the agency will also propose to eliminate payments for coinsurance and deductibles on crossover claims.”

Here’s another telling sentence in the release: “It is also possible that if the agency’s appropriation is reduced more, additional provider rate cuts will be required.” How low can we go? Well, apparently lower than this. Our conservative politicians don’t care about the elderly or school children. They believe smirkingly and arrogantly in magical theories embedded in widely outlandish conservative ideology and mythology.

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Legislature Right To Stop Micromanaging Education Standards

There are two major arguments The Oklahoman editorial board idea didn’t address in a recent editorial critiquing the process of getting the new Oklahoma school standards implemented.

The first argument is that the Oklahoma Legislature and, as any rational person knows, The Oklahoman editorial board members of all people should not micromanage educational standards. The standards should be left up to the educators and the experts in the field. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with some legislators with education experience and without extreme ideological agendas reviewing standards at some level it should only be in the spirit of cooperation, not in the spirit of antagonism and political fighting. The reason the state had to develop new standards in the first place is because the GOP-dominated legislature repealed the Common Core standards in 2014 based on the dubious reason that they were really some secret plot by President Barack Obama to do something nefarious never quite stated but, rest assured you state Trump and Cruz supporters, it was, indeed, nefarious.

It’s this type of GOP conspiracy theory-driven politics that makes many Republican legislators lose credibility, especially when it comes to micromanaging education standards no matter how many experts they trot out to argue the standards aren’t tough enough or that we need to flunk more students here. Education is a lifelong, holistic process that needs the insight and philosophical approach of community-based educators with doctorates, other degrees and experience, and that’s just what happened in the recent standards process.

The fact outside evaluators—one from Arkansas and one from Minnesota—found things to criticize in the new standards is not some huge red flag. That’s what they were tasked to do, and their ideas and criticisms I’m sure will be considered as the standards get tweaked and improved. Education standards can never be monolithic. They must change over time. I won’t question the motivations of the two outside evaluators The Oklahoman mentions in its editorial, but what we do know is they don’t live here or have deep and current experience with the state’s student body. I’m not trying to be pedestrian, but Oklahoma does have enough educational experts to put together math and English educational standards, experts just as supposedly brilliant as the two people from Arkansas and Minnesota.

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