- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Muskogee Phoenix. Sept. 16, 2017.

Elementary students in Oktaha Schools are receiving an additional meal each day before they go home.

At least 350 students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade receive the extra meal.

The school district is paying for the meal while it awaits approval of its request to join the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, which is administered through the Oklahoma Department of Education.

It seems pretty obvious that when a child is hungry, that child can’t focus on learning.

“Most kids, from noon until they get home at 4 or 5 o’clock, they’re starving,” said Oktaha Superintendent Jerry Needham.

Kindergarten teacher Ashton Stout said the program enables students to go home with full stomachs.

“For some of these, it’s the only meal they have until they go to school the next day,” Stout said.

The school district is fulfilling an opportunity to help children in need of a good meal. And there is a good chance students will be able to concentrate better on homework on a full stomach.

The district should receive word on its application shortly.

Oktaha is doing the right thing.


Tulsa World. Sept. 17, 2017.

In four years, the city will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot. The official preparation, however, began last week.

The organizers made it clear that it will be a commemoration not a celebration. That is fitting.

It took decades for Tulsa to come to grips with the 1921 Race Riot. The riot, one of the worst in U.S. history, was left out of Oklahoma history books and rarely spoken of in Tulsa. But it was no secret in north Tulsa, and that eventually led to a movement that finally brought the riot into the light. It is always interesting, if not disturbing, to hear native Tulsans say that they were surprised to learn as adults of the riot.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many Tulsans, the Greenwood Cultural Center was built. Then came the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation and the statue commemorating the riot. Still, work remains to be done.

The race riot devastated the Greenwood area, once known as Black Wall Street for its thriving black business area. The riot, however, destroyed most of the business district and most of the surrounding homes. Dozens of people were killed and thousands left homeless.

The Greenwood District has been revitalized in recent years. Its current success coincides with the revival of downtown and the growth of the Brady Arts, Blue Dome and East End districts. Tulsa and those leading the charge to see the Greenwood District grow and prosper ought to be proud of their efforts. We believe they are, but they also know that the work is not finished.

“I want this district to have the same foot traffic and the same respect as other districts of the city,” the Rev. Jamaal Dyer, project manager of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission, said last week. “It’s not just African-American history. It’s American history, and we should all work toward making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

To that, we say, Amen.


The Oklahoman. Sept. 19, 2017.

With the authority as governor to define the scope of a special session of the Legislature, Mary Fallin chose to include a variety of items instead of focusing primarily on repairing a $215 million budget hole. This reduces the likelihood of significant gains being made.

The special session, set to begin next Monday, became necessary after the state Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional a $1.50-per-pack tobacco cessation “fee” approved by lawmakers in the final week of the regular session. The fee was projected to produce $215 million during fiscal year 2018, and that total was built into the budgets of four state agencies.

Those agencies now face budget shortages later in the fiscal year, and fixing that problem is paramount. Fallin listed this as the No. 1 item on her special session agenda.

However, she also included four other items:

- Address the need for further consolidation and other efficiencies across state government.

- Produce legislation to clarify exemptions to a 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles, approved by the Legislature this spring and upheld by the state Supreme Court this summer. Concerns have been raised about the tax’s impact on the trucking industry in Oklahoma.

- Address a pay increase for public school teachers.

- Potentially address “a long-term solution to the continuing budget shortfalls.”

Of those other four, only the vehicle tax has the prospect of being handled in short order - something that should be a principle concern given that a special session will cost taxpayers roughly $30,000 per day. On the other hand, partially rolling back this tax increase would further complicate the budgeting issue.

More consolidation? Anyone concerned about government spending favors this idea, but streamlining has been discussed for the past several years with little action taken. We doubt lawmakers will now rush to consolidate, and besides any such effort first requires strategic planning.

Teacher pay raises? The Republican-controlled Legislature has been unable to produce workable legislation during the past two regular sessions, despite this issue being on the front burner. Given that, there’s little if any reason to believe a pay raise plan can be created and agreed upon during a special session.

As to the call to look at long-term solutions to the state’s ongoing budget shortfalls, Fallin noted that for too long, “we have attempted to balance our budget . with the use of one-time resources. We must develop a budget based on stability, not volatility.”

She’s correct. However, this item is so broad that it could basically amount to redoing the entire budget again.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus, said the Senate is ready to work, but added, “There is no time to waste on ideas that haven’t been completely vetted. Let’s focus on ideas we’ve vetted - like a cigarette tax increase - that will help address the immediate shortfall and provide recurring revenue going forward.”

The governor has opted to do otherwise, as is her prerogative. But skepticism from Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, who said his caucus has “no intention of raising taxes on Oklahoma families and businesses just for the sake of growing government,” gives some indication of the potentially difficult road ahead.

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