- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman, Oct. 16, 2016

On Nov. 8, good of the country must come first

For many years, we have argued conservative policies generate the greatest good for the largest share of people with the least disruption. We have supported free trade, a functional immigration system, low taxes, light regulation, free speech, the sanctity of life, a strong military, and private-sector solutions over heavy-handed government intervention.

Like many Americans with a similar worldview, we find this presidential election terribly disheartening. What choice can voters make that will fulfill our collective duty to protect the country? Our conclusion: Vote to preserve Republican control of Congress, regardless of which presidential candidate wins.



One nominee, Republican Donald Trump, is the wildest of wild cards. The other, Democrat Hillary Clinton, is a serially dishonest political lifer. In different ways, both would promote policies that harm this nation. Whether Trump or Clinton wins, conservative control of Congress is needed as a bulwark against their misguided policies.

Trump has broken with conservatives on several issues, most notably trade. On other issues his current positions are more orthodox, although the caveat is that any Trump stance appears subject to change. And, he’s prone to repeated crude and offensive behavior. He’s a flawed candidate, to put it mildly.

Yet his flaws don’t somehow make Clinton an acceptable alternative. She shares many of Trump’s worst defects and pairs them with an agenda that will harm economic growth and leave the United States weaker in world affairs.

Clinton would combine the worst policy instincts of the Obama administration with constant ethical controversies. She wants to aggressively raise taxes, which will reduce private-sector employment and lower wages for virtually everyone.

On trade, Clinton is no better than Trump. Having once called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard,” she now opposes that same trade agreement - a transparently political flip-flop.

On energy, Clinton calls climate change “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.” To rank this above economic growth and national security demonstrates an appalling lack of seriousness. She supports regulations that would eliminate much oil and gas drilling. This should concern not only energy-producing states like Oklahoma, but all citizens because energy independence - the United States is well on its way - is a national security linchpin.

Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state is notable for its lack of accomplishment. The Russian “reset” she championed is a miserable failure. The Middle East is in greater chaos than ever with repercussions that threaten U.S. security. Her handling of the Benghazi attack was abysmal.

As for temperament, Clinton’s disparagement of fellow Americans is particularly revealing. Trump supporters are “deplorables” and even “irredeemable,” while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic supporters are “children of the great recession living in their parents’ basement.” Leaked emails detailing conversations between Clinton and staffers, and snippets of her behind-the-scenes speeches to various groups, expose Clinton’s true feelings about issues.

Clinton’s “extremely careless” - the FBI director’s words - handling of classified information as secretary of state threatened national security and likely endangered lives. People who have done far less have spent time behind bars. (The decision by several top aides to plead the Fifth, despite immunity from prosecution, also is telling.) Donors to the Clinton Family Foundation received special treatment from then-Secretary Clinton, a flagrant conflict of interest that raises red flags about her judgment. And that ethics problem will persist since Clinton plans to maintain the foundation if she wins the White House.

Many Americans, disappointed in both nominees, may be tempted to stay home on Election Day. Instead, they need to vote. Failure to weigh in on House and Senate races would be potentially disastrous.

In this distressing election year, voters need to put protecting the United States first, above all other concerns. Maintaining GOP control of Congress would go a long way toward doing that.

Our advice: By all means vote on Nov. 8, then pray for this country.

___

Tulsa World, Oct. 15, 2016

Four-day school week is the least awful among unacceptable choices the state leaves districts

Financial necessity has forced too many area school districts into shorter school weeks.

School leaders at four-day districts say they’re making the best of it and even finding some advantages to the choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to educate children.

Years of insufficient state school funding were followed last year by three budget failures and the threat of an even worse situation next year. As a result, nearly a third of the state’s school systems have been forced to go to a four-day week.

We don’t shame the districts for taking the least awful among unacceptable alternatives, but we insist that it’s the wrong way to educate our children.

Education is about retaining knowledge, and a three-day lull in the process will necessarily lead to lost time as teachers are forced to start over on lessons.

For younger students, the extended school day is exhausting. They will certainly be more antsy and less able to learn at the end of a long day.

The four-day school week is also a hardship on working families, which now must face child-care issues. We worry that some parents will be forced to leave their children in situations that will prove unsafe. Some will leave their older children unsupervised, opening the door to all kinds of trouble.

For poor children, the four-day week means a separation for three consecutive days from what is often their only reliable source of food.

In Sunday’s Tulsa World, reporter Nour Habib did a good job of looking at how school districts are making the transition. The districts’ leaders say they’re solving problems as they can and have found there are some relatively modest advantages to the move. For example, superintendents say they have found it easier to recruit new teachers with the four-day week.

But, if they had adequate funding, we think many superintendents would make the obvious choice to go back to the five-day week. It’s been the model for running schools for ages because it works.

The state’s inadequate funding of its public schools has reduced things to this level: We’re denying children a day of school every week because we can’t afford to keep the doors open.

___

Lawton Constitution, Oct. 16, 2016

Epidemic?

There are heartwarming stories. And there are heartbreaking stories that just seem to avoid solutions.

A Greater Lawton Rotary Club story in Friday’s Constitution fits the former category. Last week Rotarians were visiting children at John Adams Elementary School distributing 38 dictionaries to third-graders. The Rotary Dictionary Project is a wonderful way, especially in these times of stretched public school funds, to support the community’s efforts to build literacy among young children.

It also shows the children that in addition to parents, guardians and teachers, there are other members of the community - outside the education establishment - who support them and encourage them to learn while in public school. Message: Education is important.

Meanwhile, there was a series of disheartening stories last week from Oklahoma Watch. It’s a nonprofit investigative journalism team based at the University of Oklahoma specializing in in-depth reporting. It is running an ongoing series of stories decrying the lack of mental health services in Oklahoma, especially rural areas.

Last week it reported about the growing use of illegal street drugs - heroin and methamphetamine - as evidenced by deaths and overdose cases. Law enforcement has been busting meth labs in our area and some people have been arrested.

The story noted that in the Bartlesville area - which had been hit hard by prescription drug abuse - a crackdown by a new state law may have had unintended consequences: the rise of the use of street drugs in that Washington County city.

“It’s here,” a city detective said, “and I think it is going to make meth look like Christmas.”

Meanwhile, a central Oklahoma community mental health center director said: “The drug problem in this state is definitely an epidemic. It’s a massive issue, and it permeates all socio-economic levels.

“Underlying much of the problem is untreated mental illness. Combined with the lack of jobs, generational poverty, family environment and even boredom, a shortage of mental-health providers can increase the prevalence of addiction,” the story noted. Anyone have the antidotes?

If it is generally well-known that Oklahoma has a huge drug abuse problem, then that may well be why private-sector investment is sparse and job growth is low.

We understand the problems, but what are the solutions? Who is going to pay for it? We don’t know yet.

State Questions 780 and 781 partially address the crime-drugs-crowded-prison issue. If both are approved, certain felony crimes would be reclassified as misdemeanors and there would be no prison time in the future for some offenses. A state agency would calculate the savings from avoided prison time and send those dollars to the counties for a locally managed rehab program.

Voters will decide SQ 780 and SQ 781 on Nov. 8.

In the meantime, all of us need to look for ways to develop programs like the Rotary Dictionary Project in the hope that better-educated children and later young adults will avoid the drug scene.

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