- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tulsa World. Dec. 2, 2016.

In his final weeks in office, U.S. Secretary of Education John King has spoken out against paddling in public schools.

All schools should stop corporal punishment because it is “harmful, ineffective, and often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities,” King wrote in a Nov. 22 letter to governors and chief state school officers.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City public schools have banned paddling, but many smaller and rural school districts in the state continue to allow it.

Oklahoma is one of 22 states that still allows corporal punishment. A state law makes the policy a strictly local issue. The state school board does not have the authority to disallow corporal punishment, except for special education students.

The statistics concerning paddling should give pause to those who advocate for it. Black students make up about 16 percent of public school students, but more than one-third of those who are paddled. Students with disabilities are also disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment.

We are comfortable with the Tulsa Public Schools position on corporal punishment. Studies and statistics show that paddling is ineffective and alternative forms of discipline are more likely to work.

That said, we believe it is an issue that should be decided on a local basis. While King’s comments should be taken for what value they have, this is not an issue for Washington to make one set of rules for everyone. If local school boards will look at the evidence, we think most of them will agree that corporal punishment doesn’t work and shouldn’t be continued.

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The Oklahoman. Dec. 5, 2016.

During the 2016 legislative session, there was a strong push to expand Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to obtain funding from the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, lawmakers declined to take that step. It’s proving to be a wise decision.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion argued the costs would be mostly borne by the federal government because Obamacare covered 100 percent of expenses initially, and then at least 90 percent of expansion costs thereafter. But as has often been noted, that law could easily be changed and states could have a greater share of cost burden shifted back to them in the future.

Nov. 29 provided a reminder of that fact when President-elect Donald Trump announced that U.S. Rep. Tom Price, a physician and Georgia Republican, would be nominated as Health and Human Services Secretary. Price has called for repealing Obamacare and eliminating the Medicaid expansion, preferring to instead provide tax credits to help low-income individuals buy insurance. For Oklahoma to have embraced Medicaid expansion just as the whole system is being overhauled would have been a logistical nightmare, if not worse.

But even if that were not the case, other states that did expand Medicaid are facing far higher costs than initially estimated. A recent report by the Foundation for Government Accountability notes that expansion enrollment exceeded projections by 322 percent in California, 276 percent in New York, 134 percent in Kentucky, 90 percent in Illinois, 60 percent in Ohio and 51 percent in Arkansas.

That means the cost of the 10 percent state share for Medicaid expansion will be commensurately higher as well. And federal data shows that Medicaid expansion spending was 49 percent higher per enrollee in 2015 than what was predicted when the law passed in 2010.

At the same time, Medicaid expansion isn’t generating the savings supporters promised, such as lowering the use of emergency rooms for routine care.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid expansion in Oregon increased ER visits by 40 percent in the first 15 months. Researchers found no evidence that Medicaid coverage led people to make doctor’s appointments instead of using the ER for non-emergency care. That study also found “that Medicaid’s value to recipients is lower than the government’s costs of the program, and usually substantially below.”

A side effect of overcrowding in the emergency room is that those with serious medical emergencies wait longer before receiving needed care.

Moreover, Oklahoma already struggles to cover the cost of the existing Medicaid program even without expanding it. According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s most recent annual report, average monthly enrollment in the state’s Medicaid program surged from 620,266 in 2009 to 819,193 in 2015. At the same time, the federal match for Medicaid declined, meaning Oklahoma taxpayers were not only paying to cover more people, but also paying more per person.

Should congressional Republicans repeal Obamacare as promised in the coming year, it has been suggested any replacement may include giving states more flexibility to manage Medicaid programs to control costs.

Oklahoma lawmakers would do well to begin devising plans for that possibility and otherwise be relieved they didn’t take the bait on Medicaid expansion.

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The Lawton Constitution. Dec. 4, 2016.

After getting sacked by voters last month while trying to make an end run around the state’s legislative appropriations process, Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson is back on bended knee, asking that $153 million in budget cuts for 2017 be restored for 2018.

They probably should be. It’s no time for vindictiveness or smugness.

Angry about the ill-conceived idea to circumvent the state’s board of directors in the appropriations process by proposing a dedicated sales tax for education, the legislative members last spring cut the higher ed appropriation by $153 million.

The people decided the sales tax issue. Now legislators need to take a hard look at ALL education entities and expenditures, what is really needed and where tax dollars can be saved.

Just saying “gimme” isn’t going pass the test. There may well be reforms that should be implemented. Is it possible we have too many campuses in the state and duplication of programs?

A partial answer is YES. At a recent meeting at the Great Plains Technology Center state Sen. President pro tem-elect Mike Schulz of Altus noted that Cameron University’s and the technology center’s business and economic development programs work together so that each doesn’t infringe on the other’s mission. It was also noted that similar cooperation isn’t the case at other state education institutions.

Why not? That just doesn’t make sense when funds are so tight. The shortfall in the state budget was $1 billion for this year and may be $600 million for next year. The state Equalization Board will get its first look at the preliminary 2018 numbers on Dec. 21.

A new law to reduce education program duplication isn’t needed. The director of career tech and the chancellor should institute administrative reforms that follow the local, good-sense model.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that David Boren, president at the University of Oklahoma, is right about funding. He said OU is “educating 1,000 more students with $90 million less than we had in 2008. That’s a very difficult task.”

However, doing more with less happens all the time in the private sector, too.

Another area that deserve review is the concurrent enrollment program in which high school students take college courses. The chancellor seeks $164 million to fully cover the costs. He argues the students will complete college, get their degrees and stay in Oklahoma.

Great. What does the student invest in the program? What do the statistics show about past program participants remaining in the state? Is this program really a good investment for taxpayers, too? How do we know?

It’s budget preparation time, so there are hundreds of questions. The Legislature convenes in about two months, and taxpayers hope the tough questions are asked of all agencies.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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