- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Journal Record, Oct. 20, 2014

A firewall against bias

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up several cases about same-sex marriage. The justices let stand rulings that say states have no basis to deny marriage to gay couples.

Anyone who has followed the debate could predict what opponents would say in response. Mary Fallin’s statement was typical:

The will of the people has now been overridden by unelected federal justices, accountable to no one,” she wrote in a statement. “That is both undemocratic and a violation of states’ rights.”

In one sense, Fallin is correct: These decisions lessen the states’ ability to enact prejudicial policies. They recognize that our national Constitution should be interpreted to grant the most rights and freedoms to the most people, as long as others are not harmed. That sometimes leads to states having to dispose of biased rules.

Besides being on the wrong side of history, our governor gets some basics wrong about our political system.

The United States was not formed as a direct democracy. Individuals don’t get to vote on every decision made. The framers of our Constitution deliberately created a branch somewhat outside the fray of elections that could look after our basic rights. This forms the essence of our republic and helps protect minority and unpopular views.

That includes the expansion of rights to more and more people with ever-wider viewpoints. The men who wrote our Constitution would not, as products of their time, have approved of same-sex marriage. Many also thought slavery was acceptable and didn’t think women deserved to be part of the political process. As time moved forward, so did thinking about who needs protection from discrimination and who deserves full access to our civil life.

Deciding to allow something despite opposition from voters is not a sign of so-called judicial activists imposing their views. It shows our system - all three parts - working as intended to expand rights.

To say broadening liberty is undemocratic shows a failure to understand the greatness of our government’s design: It recognized that we needed an unelected branch.

It makes sense that elected officials would see people who have been through the campaign wringer as more worthy of wielding power. Fortunately, the founding document of our nation provides a firewall against that bias, and it’s found in Article III of the Constitution.

___

Tulsa World, Oct. 18, 2014

In schools, you don’t get what you don’t pay for

Since the beginning of the Great Recession, Oklahoma has made the nation’s deepest cuts in state per-pupil funding.

It was true last year, and is still true this year, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Meanwhile, a state regents report shows that Oklahoma isn’t producing enough young adults with the training they need - as in post-secondary certificates and degrees - to be competitive in the job market.

Only two in 10 high school graduates in the state earn a post-secondary certificate or degree.

The state’s lack of educational attainment is especially true in the key science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, the state Regents for Higher Education was told.

Does anyone see a connection here?

The state is cutting money from public schools, and it isn’t getting work-ready graduates at the other end of the pipeline. We aren’t getting what we aren’t paying for.

The reports are discouraging.

In the past two years, state school spending has increased by $200 million, but it’s not enough to make up for the hole created when the economy fell apart. In fiscal 2010, then-Gov. Brad Henry had to cut more than $300 million for education because of a billion-dollar budget shortfall.

The funding report shows state aid to Oklahoma’s public schools is 23.6 percent lower than it was in 2008. The next deepest cuts in education spending were in Alabama, down 17.8 percent.

In her re-election campaign, Gov. Mary Fallin has emphasized her plan to continue to increase education spending with special emphasis on money for teacher pay raises. Her Democratic opponent, Joe Dorman, has an even more aggressive plan for more school spending, although it would be challenging for him to get such a plan through a Republican-controlled Legislature.

We hope the Legislature and the candidates for governor are paying attention to both reports. If we want great results - and we do - we have to pay for them.

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The Oklahoman, Oct. 20, 2014

Oklahoma state officials must remain diligent in Ebola efforts

State officials say Oklahoma has a “well-oiled machine” in place to combat Ebola if the disease arises here. Let’s hope that statement isn’t a triumph of hype over substance. The governmental track record in responding to Ebola elsewhere provides little reason for outsized confidence.

In Dallas, a nurse who treated an Ebola patient from Africa contracted the disease despite reportedly wearing protective gear. A second Texas health care worker has also tested positive for Ebola.

In a statement, National Nurses United portrayed efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola at the Dallas hospital as haphazard at best.

The nurses’ group claims medical officials were provided “no advanced preparedness on what to do with the patient. There was no protocol, there was no system. The nurses were asked to call the Infectious Disease Department. The Infectious Disease Department did not have clear policies to provide either.” The union contends advanced-preparation efforts “primarily consisted of e-mailing us about one optional lecture or seminar on Ebola” and that no hands-on training was provided regarding use of personal protective equipment for Ebola or identifying Ebola symptoms.

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now admits his agency’s efforts in Dallas were insufficient. “We could’ve sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from day one about exactly how this should be managed,” Frieden said. No kidding.

In Oklahoma, there are no known cases of Ebola infection. But should one arise, state Health Commissioner Terry Cline said he is “confident that we are prepared, that we have the infrastructure in place .”

The state has put out a series of communications to health care professionals about proper procedures for dealing with Ebola. That process began July 29, two months before the first known case was reported in the United States. Daily situation updates are provided on the state Health Department’s website - www.ok.gov/health - to reduce the spread of misinformation. The public will be notified if an individual is found to have contracted Ebola in Oklahoma.

Gov. Mary Fallin stressed that a major focus is to prevent not just the spread of Ebola, but the spread of unwarranted public fear. “Just like we have a system to warn us of storms that might be impending upon our state, we want to make sure we get out accurate information so we don’t create hysteria or undue concern among our public based on nonfactual information,” she said.

We have no doubt that state health officials are being proactive, and it must be stressed that there are no cases of Ebola infection anywhere in Oklahoma at this time. Furthermore, state officials should do nothing to unnecessarily stoke fear, so perhaps the public proclamations of supreme confidence are understandable. Still, it’s hard not to flinch when anyone pre-emptively declares any part of government to be a “well-oiled machine,” given government’s failure to competently perform many functions less challenging than combating a vicious virus.

Conservatives and small-government advocates often argue, with reason, that state officials can do a better job than their federal counterparts in addressing many major issues. We hope that’s absolutely true in this case. If the worst happens, a lot is riding on Oklahoma’s Ebola-preparedness efforts being much, much better than those of their CDC counterparts.

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