Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Teacher Pay Raise Plan Lacks The Major Component

The real question to ask about potential teacher raises next year in Oklahoma is whether the Republican majority in the legislature is serious about finding the money to fund them or if it’s just another GOP meaningless political performance.

I tend to think it’s the latter at this point. In fact, public education and higher education funding is getting slashed once again THIS fiscal year as we found out yesterday. The state faces a revenue failure, which means revenue collections came in recently with a more than 5 percent drop over the budget estimate.

The revenue failure means an immediate $11.1 million cut for public education and a $4.6 million cut to higher education, according to a media report. This, combined with an expected $878 million shortfall for next fiscal year, probably means the grandiose plan for teacher raises is mainly political posturing.

A House committee, however, has passed a measure that, if passed and signed into law, would increase teacher salaries by $6,000 annually over three years, but there’s a huge problem with the plan. It doesn’t identify the funds to pay for it.

Gov. Mary Fallin, of course, has advanced a proposal to increase sales taxes on everything from doctor’s visits to funeral services. Perhaps, we should call these death taxes. Pay more at the doctor’s office for, let’s say, a bleak diagnosis, and then pay more for dying later. But even if the proposal passes, and I doubt it will, would it be enough to fund teacher raises? I don’t think so.

I’ll address Fallin’s plan later in this post, but I want to focus for a moment on the plan to raise teacher salaries. Under the plan, teachers would receive a $1,000 raise the first year, a $2,000 raise the next year and a $3,000 raise the following year. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this plan, although the hyperbole surrounding it seems a bit much.

For example, the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Michael Rogers, a Republican from Broken Arrow, who heads the House Education Committee, was quoted in the media like this about the plan:

Everyone would like to be able to do more now, but we have to deal with the reality of the current fiscal situation. Not only can this plan be achieved, but it would put us on track to being a leader with surrounding states in teacher compensation.

I appreciate Rogers’ enthusiasm for the raises because Oklahoma teachers are paid some of the lowest salaries in the nation, but it leaves out a major point. What’s to prevent surrounding states from raising their teacher salaries as well and offering better benefits. I find it highly unlikely Oklahoma will become “a leader with surrounding states in teacher compensation” in any conceivable future right now.

Yet the main sticking point is Fallin’s “bold” sales tax plan, which expands the tax to services not previously taxed by the state. Some of those new taxes make sense, but others don’t. The largest segment, for example, of the new tax revenue would come from the use of utilities, such as electricity and natural gas for heating, which would impact low-income households and people on fixed incomes the most. That doesn’t make sense for humanitarian reasons. (Note the lack of sanctimonious outcry by the Oklahoma Policy Institute.) What’s more, unlike State Question 779, an overall state sales tax hike proposal that was defeated by voters in November, the new money in Fallin’s proposal wouldn’t even be dedicated to education.

So the money could go to fund the legal defense of the array of lawsuits brought against the bizarre legislation that gets passed each session, or it could go to projects and initiatives that only benefit a small segment of the population, or, more than likely, it would just allow the state to come a bit closer to breaking even while the wealthiest Oklahomans and the state’s oil and gas titans enjoy the extra money they’ve received from recent income tax cuts and tax breaks

The middle class and low income households will pay for those tax cuts to benefit the rich like they always do here under the prevailing conservative philosophy now rooted deep in the state’s red soil. It’s called the Oklahoma Standard.

Planet In Peril: Senate Republicans Ignore Pruitt Email Controversy

Republicans have confirmed the appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency without a full vetting of his well-known and established ties to the oil and gas industry.

That might seem like old and expected news by now, but Pruitt has just been ordered to release hundreds of emails based on an open records request submitted about two years ago by the Center for Media and Democracy. Pruitt had stonewalled on the request, but now a local judge has ordered him to turn over the information.

Perhaps, it might seem redundant to further establish that Pruitt, as the state’s attorney general, served the interests of the oil and gas industry far more than he worked to ensure the viability and extension of the state’s environmental health.

We already know, for example, that he sent a letter to the EPA during his tenure, arguing it had over estimated the amount of air pollution coming from oil and gas activity. The letter, as we found out, was actually written by staff of Devon Energy, a local Oklahoma City firm.

<pIt’s hard to imagine any deeper type of collusion that that. In addition, by presenting the letter as his own Pruitt committed a clear act of plagiarism, which in other places did cause a huge uproar. The local corporate media here didn’t really care about that aspect of the story.

We already know, too, that oil baron and billionaire Harold Hamm, the founder and chief executive officer of Continental Resources, another Oklahoma City oil and gas firm, served as an honorary chairman for Pruitt’s most recent campaign.

Pruitt’s connection to Hamm is especially telling since the oil mogul has been actively involved as a Republican in politics on the national level. Hamm served as an energy advisor for both presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Hamm obviously promotes his own company’s vested interests in his political work by arguing for less federal environmental regulations of the oil and gas industry when, if fact, there’s a need for much more oversight.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Pruitt’s career as attorney general for Oklahomans is what he didn’t do. Pruitt has done nothing to try to stop the manmade fracking-induced earthquakes that plague our state and damage our property. Normally, attorney generals work on behalf on the state’s citizens to protect them from fraud and unscrupulous and damaging business practices. This wasn’t the case for Pruitt.

So, again, it might be redundant to prove once again Pruitt’s close ties to the oil and gas industry. What’s a few more jaw-dropping revelations about his service as a useful tool for the industry and his lack of concern for the environment or the property of hard-working Oklahomans? We know all that.

Yet Republicans may well have calculated wrongly here. What if the emails eventually reveal—and this is only speculation—some form of deep corruption that will render him unfit to serve as the EPA head? What happens then is yet another Trump-style debacle related to his cabinet picks, advisors and appointees. Of course, at this point in the Trump administration, the daily spectacle is becoming normalized. It would just be business as usual. These, however, are not normal times as we need to keep reminding ourselves.

Making the emails public are vastly important for the historical record. The larger issue, however, is that Pruitt’s appointment will likely set back environmental progress when it comes to climate change and regulations of carbon emissions, which accelerate global warming.

It’s not difficult to argue at this point, no matter what the emails reveal, that Pruitt’s actions as attorney general show that he cares virtually nothing about the environment and will use the EPA to increase the profits of oil and gas companies to the detriment of the planet. That’s what we call here “the Oklahoma standard” now arrived in Washington, D.C.

Bill Would Require Father Permission For Abortion

One of the controversial anti-abortion bills receiving consideration by the Oklahoma Legislature this session has drawn widespread media attention and has embarrassed the state throughout the nation once again.

House Bill 1441, sponsored by Justin Humphrey, a Republican from Lane in southeastern Oklahoma, would require women seeking an abortion to have the “written informed consent of the father” before proceeding. The provision alone is ludicrous in its essence because it doesn’t take into account many factors, such the basic right of women to control their bodies to the myriad of situations that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy.

But it was what Humphrey said about the bill that drew coverage throughout the country. In an interview with The Intercept site, Humphrey said:

I understand that they [women] feel like that is their body. I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant. So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.

But what if the birth control failed or what if the woman doesn’t want her sexual partner to know about it or what if the relationship situation doesn’t warrant discussing the issue with anyone but medical professionals? These are just some of the issues.

The idea that women don’t have personal agency when it comes to their bodies is an insult to them.

What’s more Humphrey’s comments are just silly in a truly remarkable sense that drew some form of coverage, along with The Intercept, from (and this is just a partial list) The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Newsweek, Vox and Slate.

The bill would obviously draw a major lawsuit on constitutional grounds and undoubtedly cost the state money in legal costs at some level even if Republicans dispute this.

This is what I call another performance bill by conservative Republicans. They enact a performance for their deeply seated conservative base, knowing full well such extremist bills will never be implemented.

Another bill drew widespread attention as well, although without some of the theatrics. Under House Bill 1549, sponsored by George Faught, a Republican from Muskogee, women would be prohibited from receiving abortions if based on the fact that the fetus has a genetic abnormality.

This bill, too, would draw a major lawsuit in terms of its constitutional legality. Here the question rests simply on a women’s right to an abortion as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. It also shows a streak of cruelty against women who might well know the fetus has little likelihood of surviving inside or outside the womb and perhaps put their own lives at danger. To abort a fetus in these situations is often a deeply personal and emotional decision, and it should be made by women with medical guidance and without any intrusion from the government.

Both bills are moving forward as the conservative performance here goes on to the laughter and horror of people throughout the country. Meanwhile, the state faces a major budget shortfall, and our low-paying teachers are flocking the state to teach in other places that will pay them and appreciate them better than what they find in Oklahoma. Funding to higher education was cut by nearly 16 percent last year.

Flynn Resignation Leaves Questions Unanswered

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation on Monday over the ongoing controversy surrounding the Trump regime’s connection to the Russian government is a good sign some of our country’s major institutions—our spy agencies, the U.S Justice Department under former leadership, the media—are still holding strong.

It’s a hopeful sign but still meager, and it’s only a beginning, and there’s still so much missing, mainly information about the authoritarian President Donald Trump’s personal, financial and campaign connections with the government of Russia. Because Trump has refused to release his tax records, for example, and with the ongoing complicity of his voter base and disinterested fellow Republican colleagues, we still don’t know the extent of his business dealings in Russia.

Just knowing specifically how much money Trump business concerns have and perhaps still are generating from Russian ties would, at the very least, open up more avenues for media scrutiny and perhaps force real official investigations.

Let’s back up. Flynn resigned Monday after it became clear that after the Nov. 8 election he discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak the sanctions former President Barack Obama issued against Russia for meddling in our recent presidential election by hacking into Democratic Party email accounts and then revealing content that hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

As an aside, it’s important to note the mainstream media reported the content of these emails with breathless urgency, although they revealed little but what seemed like typical infighting in a political campaign. The mainstream media frame, however, made them seem like a huge deal. Meanwhile, the real story—the Russian hacks and the Trump campaign’s apparent ties to Russia—wasn’t pursued with the same breathless urgency before and after the election until now. That is and remains the real story because it deals with how an authoritarian government and longtime adversary of the U.S. meddled in our election to get a particular candidate elected president. The story has grown by immense proportions in the media now that Trump is president, but it has been around for the telling for a while now.

Flynn initially told the press he didn’t discuss the sanctions with the ambassador to perhaps tell him they would be mitigated under a Trump administration, which, if true, might have even been against the law, according to some speculation, but then he backed away from that initial claim and indicated it might have been possible he actually did discuss the sanctions. It also became apparent he at least told Vice President Mike Pence in the Trump administration that he hadn’t discussed the sanctions. Pence had defended Flynn, repeating his lie.

The speculation had been that Flynn, a diehard Trump loyalist, had to resign for lying to Pence, but White House press Secretary Sean Spicer Tuesday said Trump actual knew about the lying allegations for weeks. Why did he wait until now to ask for Flynn’s resignation?

All this means that it’s also quite possible Trump even asked Flynn to tell the Russians he would mitigate the sanctions. When the controversy didn’t die down, however, something had to happen with the hope the story would go away, although even this scenario doesn’t fit with how Trump operates through disruptions and nonsense claims of “fake news.” His voter base, for now, and certainly his closest surrogates don’t care whether Trump tells the truth or not. The Republican leadership, for now, doesn’t seem to care if Trump tells the truth, either. Why would they hold Flynn or anyone in his administration to some truth standard at this point?

So why did Flynn really have to resign? What’s one more liar among a pack of liars under an administration that consistently uses lies to disrupt the reality? Meanwhile, The New York Times reported yesterday that members of Trump’s campaign and some of his associates had communicated with Russian intelligence agents and government officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

What has become increasingly likely is that Trump himself is personally tied in ways to the Russian government to an obvious but greater extent than we know—we do know he has had business dealings in the country and admires President Vladimir Putin—and the not-so obvious, such as his potential direct knowledge and encouragement of that country’s role in helping him win the presidency. This would constitute a grave constitutional and existential crisis in our country, and it would mean the nation is quickly descending into an authoritarian state and becoming an extremely unique type of Russian satellite or partner country. Unfortunately, the Flynn resignation hasn’t shed much light yet on these very real possibilities and potentially could even lead to media disinterest in the issue, which is what Trump and members of his regime must hope.

Then there’s that intriguing dossier put together by former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, that contains, among other information, salacious information about Trump. CNN recently reported that “U.S. investigators” have corroborated some of the non-salacious materials in the 35-page document. I could care less about the personal information, which is a sideshow. Everyone, though, should want to know the full extent of Trump’s and his regime’s connection to Russia.

Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns and Republicans don’t care. As The New York Times columnist Charles Blow has pointed out, Trump is a “pathological liar” so we can’t trust what he says. Others have pointed out Trump’s obvious mental illness, which may include “malignant narcissism.” As Trump’s cabinet and appointees takes office, how much can we expect some of its members will actually investigate the man who appointed them to office? It’s probably not likely.

What needs to happen is resistance inside and outside official agencies. More than likely, it’s not going to come from top officials, but that’s not an absolute given. Perhaps, there’s a brave soul or someone with a conscience who will reach a breaking point. Will it take more leaks from our national security operations to open up more media and official investigations?

Regardless, people need to show up on the streets to express their support for our country’s basic democratic institutions under an unhinged president.

The Performance Goes On: Oklahoma Senate Bills Seek Religious Intrusion In Public Schools

Two Oklahoma Senate bills introduced this legislative session, if passed and signed into law, could weaken the ability of schools to clearly teach basic scientific concepts.

Senate Bill 393, introduced by state Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate, would require public school administrators to help teachers “present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and would allow teachers to “critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”

This is common coded language by religious extremists and activists to allow creationism or religious precepts about the origin of life to counter the theory of evolution in public classrooms and force teachers to present unclear information about climate change. The language might seem innocuous but its vagueness is the danger.

There is no scientific controversy about the validity of the theory of evolution or climate change. There is controversy among religious extremists over the theory of evolution and a controversial propaganda campaign by the fossil fuel industry to deny the impact of manmade global warming, but it has nothing to do with real science or what students should be taught.

A vast majority of credible scientists believe and have shown proof through the scientific method that planetary life evolved and carbon emissions have accelerated global warming not he planet. Again, there is no scientific controversy despite the media attention given to the views of right-wing religious figures and politicians, such as Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

The bill contains a disclaimer that it isn’t about promoting “religious or non-religious” doctrine” but it could very well be instrumental in forcing teachers to discuss untruthful information promoted by religious zealots under the pseudo-science called intelligent design and oil and gas companies, which are concerned with their profits.

These “scientific controversy” type bills have been relentlessly introduced in the past in the Oklahoma Legislature and usually die in the committee that first considers them. SB 393 has been assigned to the Education Committee. Are Republican legislators, who dominate the Senate and House, so emboldened by President Donald Trump’s election that they will dispense with truth as well this year?

Senate Bill 450, introduced by state Sen. Mark Allen, a Republican from Spiro, is a much longer bill that, if passed and signed into law, could also make it more difficult to teach real science in Oklahoma school.

A version of this bill, called the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, has now been introduced each session for the past several years just like the scientific controversies bill. It too dies in committee. Its aim is to broaden and increase student religious speech and acts in public schools, from speeches to school-sanctioned religious organizations.

Under the bill, schools “may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint . . .”. According to the bill:

Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.

I doubt that any art teacher would “discriminate” against a student for, say, creating a painting that depicts some religious theme, but this would also open the door for students to challenge, again, the scientific method in classes. A science teacher would then have to accept assignments that use reductionist religious dogma to prove points instead of accepted and credible research. This has the very real potential to dumb down Oklahoma students, who live in a state with terrible medical access. How many potential physicians will get steered in the wrong direction by the religious zealots?

The bill, which has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee, also attempts to codify the expression of student religious groups and student speeches at school events.

Let’s hope both bills die again in committee, which would hinder the ability of public schools to educate students in Oklahoma. Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE) is once again helping in the fight to defeat these two bills.

What’s also important to note is that these two bills, along with other introduced conservative bills that would diminish reproductive rights and the rights of the LGBT community, are a conservative performance that has nothing to do with the real business of the state, which faces a $863 million budget shortfall next fiscal year. The type of people who support this divisive legislation year after year aren’t promoting the state’s best interests.

Progressives Need Unifying Voice

I realize I’m repeating myself in some ways in this post, but I think it’s worth it in the long-term if we remind ourselves that progressives need to speak within a unifying narrative.

These are not normal times in our country. The authoritarian President Donald Trump expresses clear signs of untreated mental illness, including narcissism, and he is a pathological liar. As Hillary Clinton correctly pointed out a while back, “ . . . he is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander-in-chief.”

Can and should progressives unite to define their protest against Trump and his Republican supporters under the broader framework in the above paragraph? Right now various factions opposed to Trump continue to fragment the message with pleas for money or signatures on petitions for their own special causes or concerns. The progressive response to the new president and his actions has been almost as myriad and erratic as Trump’s tweets. The daily grind of the news cycle makes progressives lose focus as we righteously but maybe not so strategically jump from one outrage to the next.

I believe we’re very much losing the information war. What’s making it through the clutter are the senseless tweets of a person, who is mentally ill. Do you hear about what Trump tweeted today? The world awaits in breathless anticipation to that refrain. I believe Trump has us where he wants us right now. He has a captive audience.

Meanwhile, there are important developments surrounding the Trump administration that truly matter that get lost or forgotten in the daily clutter. We still don’t know enough about the investigation into how the government of Russia most likely influenced our presidential election to get Trump elected in the first place. Note this recent post in Mother Jones, which was followed by this report in The Washington Post.

No one has the one right answer to Trump. What I know is that I’ve been writing liberal political commentary for a long time, and I’m on a lot of email lists. I’ve been bombarded by progressive organizations and progressive media outlets asking me for money or to sign petitions. But how much money should we donate and how many petitions opposing each of Trump’s nominees and appointments do we need to sign until we suddenly figure out that each one is going to be confirmed despite our efforts?

I appreciate the humor and satire pointed in Trump’s direction. Melissa McCarthy’s brilliant and witty depiction of Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live received widespread attention as it should have. Andy Borowitz, writing in The New Yorker, always gets it right on a intellectual level and makes us laugh in the process. Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher can be funny and relevant. But even though we need this form of progressive comedy just to keep us balanced and to relax, we can’t win this one with humor, especially humor that fragments into satire on various topics just like all our special interests groups. Spicer is a petty Trump tool, but Trump is a pathological liar.

We need to take our protests to the streets and speak in one voice. I’m not arguing we should be humorless. But the destruction of democracy in the most powerful country in the world—at least for now—is a very serious matter.

Here’s the nuanced part of my argument if you’ve gotten this far into this post. I’m not saying we shouldn’t oppose specific actions or non-actions by Trump and his fellow Republicans, some of which are amazingly immoral, such as the recent travel ban targeting Muslim countries or Trump’s treatment of the Mexican president over the wall, nor do I think we can or should do away with our specific political identities. But I do think we do need some unification under a larger, simpler narrative. I love and totally agree with the slogan, “No ban. No wall.” But that’s just one area of protest under the Trump regime’s flood-the-field tactics that range from consequential matters to the inane. As I argued earlier, I don’t have the answer. No one does. But we can look for one.

The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called Trump “mentally ill.” His colleague and fellow columnist Charles Blow called Trump a “pathological liar” and urged us to say and write it aloud. Say it with me. Trump is a pathological liar. Clinton used the “temperamentally unfit” line repeatedly in her campaign. Collectively, they have given the progressive movement all the cover it needs to stress these points without nuance or any qualification. Let media outlets parse through it in their qualified, rhetorical and always contrarian formulas.

It should be obvious that a mentally ill, pathological liar, who is temperamentally unfit to be president, will, along with those Republicans who support him and work with him, commit terrible and hurtful acts and deeds, whether legislated in some legal sense or done in secrecy. It amazes me that some progressives react in amazement when Trump signs some new order or when Congressional Republicans announce a new, morally challenged initiative. One way the Republicans might break their support for Trump, though, is if progressives can stay unified in their criticism of him as he melts down in the coming weeks and months.

It’s true, however, that Trump will most likely not get impeached or removed from office because of his mental state and erratic behavior on Twitter, but his actions can be tempered if we speak together in one voice. Our voice, if spoken in unison, could help our legal and governmental institutions withstand the Trump onslaught. Some of these institutions—the judiciary, for example—are are showing signs they’re holding strong. The mid-term elections in 2018 will give also Democrats an opportunity to gain control of least one of the legislative chambers and help moderate what Trump can do. Again, we need a larger, unifying narrative to make that happen.

Donald Trump is a narcissistic pathological liar unfit to be president. We need to repeat some version of this as often and publicly as possible no matter what specific Trump/Republican action we’re addressing, whether it’s his attacks on immigrants based on lies or his narcissistic tweets rooted in mental illness. This isn’t hyperbole or attack politics. This is trying to prevent the country from descending into tyranny.

Maybe another larger frame might emerge later, such as the Russian scandal, but for now Trump’s erratic behavior seems to be a prevailing and uniting view among progressives.

But Who Will Vote For It?

The Oklahoman calls it a “bold plan,” but Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State address, which offered up a mixture of proposed tax cuts and hikes, left out any real solution to the state’s bleak financial situation or how any of her proposals might make it through our right-wing legislature.

The proposed tax cuts—no more sales taxes on groceries and ending the corporation tax—which by current calculations would leave the state with a budget shortfall of even more than the estimated $868 million depending when they take effect. She also wants to raise the cigarette tax and the fuel tax, the latter hike dedicated to road and bridge work, but she needs to get those hikes through a recalcitrant Republican-dominated legislature and an angry Democratic minority, who probably won’t and shouldn’t play her game.

All tax hikes take a three-fourths majority for approval, which even The Oklahoman concedes will need Democratic Party support because the party they politically support, the Republican Party, has broken Oklahoma through unwise tax cuts and breaks in recent years that have primarily benefited the wealthy.

Somehow, out of this fiscal mess, teachers will get raises, according to Fallin’s so-called bold plan.

In her prepared remarks, Fallin said, “Let’s act on a permanent pay raise for our public school teachers. It is what the public and families want. The pay raise may need to be phased in and it may be targeted, but it must be done.”

Yet voters overwhelming voted down a proposal to give teacher raises in the Nov. 8 election. Also, the key words in the above statement are “phased in” and “targeted,” both qualified by the word “may.”

Where does the money even come from to raise teacher salaries and what about state workers outside of education? Well, Fallin also argued for expanding the sales tax base:

Many decades ago, when the Legislature first contemplated the sales tax laws to boost revenues, the economy depended on the manufacture and sale of goods. As the economy in the United States has shifted from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy, the way we impose taxes and collect revenue no longer reflects the current economy, but instead an outdated system that has not changed much since its inception.

But what services will be taxed and how much and will Republican legislators vote in favor of an overall plan to raise taxes.The lack of specifics in the speech is glaring.

I’m obviously in favor of ending the sales tax on groceries, which impacts lower-income people the most because they must spend a higher proportion of their money on the necessities of life, but could it work out the legislature cuts millions more in tax collections by eliminating that tax and the corporate tax without expanding the sales tax base. Yes, that could easily and probably will happen.

Fallin’s speech struck me, as I read through it, as fairly rote, general, maybe even a bit lethargic. Perhaps, that’s the most we can hope for these days. To her credit, she did mention criminal justice reform in a state that imprisons the most women in the nation on a percentage basis.

But there’s no getting around the facts. Oklahoma once again faces a major budget shortfall. It has cut education funding the most of any state in the nation on a percentage basis since 2008. Teachers trained here are still flocking to other states for better pay. The legislature also cut funding to higher education by nearly 16 percent this fiscal year. The prevailing priorities among Fallin and the Republican-dominated government when it comes to education is quite clear if you judge it—and you should—by the heavy cuts in funding.

It could be worse, of course, and it probably WILL get worse in Fallin’s last two years as governor and under the authoritarian presidency of Donald Trump.