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CAP Issues HB 1804 Study

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Brief Finds Duplication

The Community Action Project (CAP) of Tulsa County has released a significant issue brief that examines HB 1804, the anti-illegal immigration law passed last legislative session.

Much of the bill, which takes effect Nov. 1, actually duplicates existing laws and practices, according to the brief, which also argues the bill does not challenge the constitutional rights of children to attend school.

CAP continues to offer insightful studies and arguments about state policies and laws.

The Oklahoman To Teachers: Go To California

As expected, The Daily Oklahoman has come out for even lower teacher salaries in Oklahoma

In an unsigned Sunday editorial (“Salary Study: Time is right for merit pay,” August 2007), the nation’s worst newspaper argues that a merit pay system for Oklahoma teachers is right even though the state offers some of the lowest salaries in the nation.

The main problem with the teacher salary system in Oklahoma is that the state does not pay enough to its teachers. Period. We also do not invest enough in per pupil spending. These are the main reasons the state lags behind in producing college graduates. These are huge structural problems the Republican ideologues gloss over when they speak about education.

Merit pay will allow Republicans to gut public education so they can continue to give tax cuts to the richest people in the state.

The merit pay issue will be a major legislative initiative in the 2008 session. House Speaker Lance Cargill (R-Harrah) has said he has given his last raise to teachers unless it is tied to merit pay. He is now conducting a bogus “study” designed to support his particular views about merit pay.

The only thing that will stop Cargill on this issue will be massive teacher rallies at the State Capitol.

The Ideology Before The Horse

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Cargill To Teachers: Go To Texas

The faulty logic in House Speaker Lance Cargill’s merit pay ideas for teachers is this: It completely ignores the fact Oklahoma continues to lag behind the nation in teachers’ salaries.

Cargill (R-Harrah) is putting his ideology before the horse. Any proposal that substantially changes the amount of money teachers are paid in this state should acknowledge Oklahoma has paid its teachers some of the lowest salaries in the nation for years and years. We need to catch up to or surpass national averages in teacher salaries before we tinker with an underfunded system.

Merit pay for teachers should be off the table until Cargill (pictured right) and the rest of the legislature make an even larger commitment to education in Oklahoma. Too often, Cargill and his fellow Republicans give hollow lip service to improving educational opportunities for Oklahomans as they work behind the scenes to starve the system of needed funding.

According to Cargill’s public relations firm, The Daily Oklahoman, the legislator “said he has given his last teacher pay raise without individual merit being considered in the increase considerations” (“Lawmakers want to know if teacher pay proposal is an idea with merit,” August 14, 2007). So there, teachers. Lance has spoken. On Tuesday, Cargill announced he would conduct an eight-week study on the issue. This “study” will include a series of orchestrated hearings designed to support Cargill’s ideas about merit pay.

Cargill’s blunt comments and the fact he would not allow an Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) official to attend Tuesday’s political stunt do not bode well for teachers. OEA is the primary teachers’ organization in the state.

In an ideal world, a merit pay system for teachers might work here. But, unfortunately, Oklahoma has major education funding problems. Until those problems are solved, the concept is wrong for a state that loses quality teachers each year to other states, especially Texas.

Willa The Winner

Democratic candidate Willa Johnson deserves kudos for her victory in Tuesday’s Oklahoma County Commissioner election. She will now face Republican Forest Claunch in a September 11 election.

Democrats need to pull together over the next few weeks to make sure Johnson wins the seat. Those who supported Debbie Blackburn, a former legislator, should now put all their wonderful energy and campaign skills into Johnson’s campaign. Blackburn received 2,039 votes, less than one hundred votes than Johnson’s total of 2,119.

Johnson is running for the District 1 seat once held by Jim Roth, who was recently appointed to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission by Gov. Brad Henry.

The Inhofe Logic Problem

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Chris Casteel, chief propagandist for U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, published an article in The Daily Oklahoman on Sunday that obviously tries to rehabilitate the senator’s image.

Inhofe, despised throughout the world for his ignorant and outrageous comments about scientific and lifestyle issues, suddenly feels concern for the country’s dilapidated infrastructure, according to the disingenuous article. The article claims Inhofe believes Imperial President George Bush, who plans to veto a bill Inhofe supports, is "dishonest."

According to the article, Inhofe said, "The president knows (a veto) is going to be overridden. But now he can do something for his disappearing conservative base. I think it's dishonest.”

The “dishonest“ and “disappearing conservative base” comments coming from such a right-wing toady is interesting for what it means for the upcoming 2008 elections. But there are larger, more important issues here.

Casteel fails to point out that a vast majority of the civilized world believes Bush has also been dishonest about several other issues, most notably the Iraq occupation, which some predict will cost at least $2 trillion. But Casteel, a useful tool for the neoconservative cause, has never been one to hold his sources accountable to logic or consistency. His coverage of Inhofe is about furthering what one Oklahoman editorial writer once called the conservative bastion in Oklahoma.

Obviously, if the president is dishonest about this issue—Inhofe says the bill he supports does not actually appropriate money—then he might well be dishonest about other issues, right? But Casteel would never ask Inhofe about this inconsistency. Inhofe has supported the bloody Iraq occupation since the invasion and so has The Daily Oklahoman. Here is the real logic: Most people in the world think Bush lied about the Iraq occupation; most people in the world do not think Bush lied about the bill Inhofe supports or they simply do not care at this point. Inhofe also has his own major credibility problems.

But an even larger fallacy here is that Inhofe is actually concerned with the nation’s public infrastructure. As the nation’s bridges and highways crumbled in Oklahoma and the nation over the last decade or so, Inhofe stood back and did nothing. All these corporate, conservative politicians like Inhofe are directly responsible for the decline of America’s infrastructure. They support spending money on endless war as our bridges begin to collapse. They cut taxes to the rich as they deny health care for children. Inhofe is an immoral politician who has placed his own political expediency above the American people. He acts only in the interests of corporations, which fund his campaigns.

And Casteel’s article is completely about political expediency. Inhofe now wants to distance himself from Bush, whose declining approval ratings do not bode well for the senator’s reelection campaign in 2008. Watch for more Casteel articles—Executive Editor Ed Kelley has tried to do the same thing recently with U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn—that try to argue Inhofe is actually concerned about regular Oklahomans after all.

But you are incredibly naïve if you believe Inhofe cares if Oklahomans have decent health care, decent roads and decent schools. His brand of right-wing extremism has turned a once prospering world power into a country that cannot rebuild its cities, such as New Orleans, take care of its bridges or provide adequate health care for its citizens. There is not another current politician in Washington that represents this failed ideology more than Inhofe. On one level, the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis symbolizes the collapse of Inhofe’s warped philosophy. How many more people are going to have to die before this country wakes up and sends politicians like Inhofe into retirement?

Casteel’s article also never mentions that Inhofe has drawn an opponent in the upcoming 2008 race. State Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City), a Democrat, recently announced he is running against Inhofe. Rice will do more than pull political stunts when it comes to public infrastructure. The state needs to elect more progressive officials like Rice before the next bridge collapses. It could happen here.

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