Monday, October 21, 2019

OCPA column: Clinging to belief in the "free lunch"

Clinging to belief in the “free lunch”
By Jonathan Small

While your parents probably warned you there’s no such thing as a free lunch, meaning a price is always paid, that’s a lesson lost on many policymakers. An obvious example is the continued argument that Oklahoma is allowing “our share” of Medicaid dollars to go to other states because we have not added able-bodied adults to the program as allowed by Obamacare.

Those who make that claim either don’t understand how Medicaid expansion is funded—through increased federal debt—or they don’t care and are willing to mislead Oklahomans. Contrary to the claims of expansion proponents, there isn’t a pot of federal money for Medicaid expansion that is simply divided by the number of states choosing to participate. Instead, Medicaid spending increases every time the program is expanded.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, recently pointed out how Medicaid-expansion finances really work. If Oklahoma were to expand Medicaid, there would be a 90-10 federal-state cost split. Lankford noted Oklahoma expansion would require a “pretty significant increase” in federal spending, but the federal side would be funded via debt while state government would have to make real financial choices.

“The federal government has the great benefit of we just print more money,” Lankford said. “We don’t have to worry about having it balance. Oklahoma’s government has to figure out how they’re going to tax more, what they’re going to do less of, because they’ve got to balance at the end of it.”

As originally passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act included numerous tax provisions that paid for the law–on paper. But many of those taxes have never taken effect, have since been repealed, or both. To cite just one example, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted in July to repeal the ACA’s “Cadillac tax,” which has not taken effect but will eventually impose financial penalties on those whose insurance plans are considered too lavish, including plans serving many states’ teachers.

Put simply, Obamacare was never truly “paid for” and today is substantially funded by increasing debt.

The U.S. government’s public debt is more than $22 trillion and on pace to hit $28.7 trillion by 2029. Medicaid expansion plays a significant role in that growth. At a recent meeting of the legislative Healthcare Working Group, Clay Farris, an official with the consulting firm Mostly Medicaid, pointed out that Medicaid’s nationwide spending totaled $7.2 trillion from 1966 to 2014, including both state and federal funding. The program is now projected to spend $5.5 trillion total from 2014 to 2022. “We’re going to have spent almost as much in eight years as we did in the first 50 years,” Farris said.

Oklahoma’s decision to (so far) decline Medicaid expansion not only reduced welfare dependency in this state, but also reduced the debt burden handed down to our children.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Speaker McCall announces new oversight effort by House

Speaker McCall announces new oversight effort by House

OKLAHOMA CITY – Building off of greater oversight and transparency initiatives by the House over the past three years, House Speaker Charles McCall has launched a new initiative to increase legislative oversight and assess the performance of agency governing boards.

“The Legislature has been too deferential and hands-off with these governing boards for most of state history, and the House is going to change that,” said McCall, R-Atoka.

Speaker McCall is assigning House committees to regularly monitor the governing boards of more than three dozen state agencies and identify legislators to attend governing board meetings as necessary – including attendance at private executive sessions as authorized by state law – so legislators can be better informed and increase their watchdog role over agencies.

Additional government oversight by the House began in 2016, when the House launched more robust budget hearings for the largest state agencies. In 2017 and 2018, the House exposed waste and mismanagement at agencies through agency accountability hearings. In 2019, the Legislature created the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, which next year will start providing legislators with independent budget information and agency performance reviews.

“Citizens want more oversight of government, and we are continuing to deliver it,” McCall said. “The House is continuing to build on the oversight efforts we have made in the past three years. This time, we are rolling up our sleeves, getting out of the Capitol and visiting agency governing boards ourselves to inform our policymaking. This work will occur year-round – regardless of whether the Legislature is in session.”

The initiative has five goals:

  • Improve legislator understanding of agency governance and operations
  • Assess each board’s oversight efforts and the effectiveness of the agency
  • Monitor whether state appropriations are being used as intended and if adequate consideration is being given to potential liabilities attached to federal or other grants agencies may pursue
  • Ensure enactment of new and existing laws, including rulemaking, is consistent with legislative intent and facilitates effective service delivery to the public
  • Determine if executive sessions closed to the public are being used properly

“Oklahomans elected a record number of new legislators to bring real change to government, and this increased oversight is one way we will fulfill that voter mandate,” McCall said. “Between this House initiative, the creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency last session, and the fresh eyes the Stitt administration is bringing to the executive branch, it is very much a new day of accountability in state government.”


Oklahoma has nearly 200 boards and commissions overseeing state agencies. Many have existed for decades, or even since statehood.

“Quality Oklahomans serve on several of these boards, including many appointed by the legislative branch, but we as elected state representatives need to do more to monitor what these boards are doing or not doing. It is our constitutional duty,” McCall said.

A preliminary list of 40 boards that will be monitored and the committees assigned to them can be found here. Additional boards may be added in the future as warranted.

“The reality is there may need to be some wholesale restructuring of agency governance models in order to truly optimize government and improve service delivery for citizens. This effort will help sort out when and where that approach may be necessary,” McCall said.

McCall said the initiative complements efforts the governor’s administration is making to more proactively manage state agencies.

“Governor Kevin Stitt is doing a tremendous job providing stronger oversight of agency operations from the executive branch, and we are joining him in that effort from the legislative branch,” McCall said. “The direct hire and fire ability the Legislature recently granted the governor over some agency leaders, and the rebalancing of at-will board appointments, is already resulting in profound, positive culture change at state agencies. Oklahoma needs to build on this progress by placing additional agencies under similar structures.”

McCall added: “House members will not be attending these meetings as participants or to direct these entities. We will be there to observe and use information gleaned to improve our policymaking while ensuring agencies are giving taxpayers the best return on their investment. It will also heighten our ability to respond to constituent inquiries about agencies and services.”

Executive sessions

Since its enactment in 1977, the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act has contained a provision authorizing legislators to attend private, executive sessions of governing body meetings, but the provision has rarely been invoked.

“This is an important oversight component of the Open Meeting Act that we intend to start use,” McCall said. “There are legitimate reasons for executive sessions, but when they are used for the wrong reasons, it is to the detriment of Oklahoma citizens.”

Guidelines will be put in place to ensure confidentiality of executive sessions is maintained when a House member attends.

“House members will not be able to publicly share information discussed in those sessions if it is confidential information. However, if a representative observes something truly egregious, we will not hesitate to exercise our constitutional authority and independence as the situation warrants,” McCall said.

Some House members have already started attending governing board meetings – including executive sessions.

Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, attended a Board of Education meeting and executive session in July. Reps. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, and Mark McBride, R-Moore, attended a University of Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting in September, and plan to attend meetings of other university governing boards in the future.

“The House members already attending these meetings have been warmly welcomed by the board members and agency staff, and we expect that will continue,” McCall said. “Ultimately, we see this as a partnership to foster better communication and cooperation between elected officials and agencies that results in a more functional government for Oklahomans.”

View Governing Board Monitoring Assignments here [PDF].

Thursday, October 17, 2019

OKGOP Chair and Vice Chair dispute financial woes, call for each other to resign

Oh boy. The OKGOP chairmanships since the 'golden age' of Gary Jones and Matt Pinnell have pretty much been Dysfunction Junction, but none have resulted in something quite like this.

To set the background, the Oklahoma Republican Party is having some major financial problems. This is a pretty well established fact. Fundraising has been lackluster to nonexistent, while spending has apparently taken the budget well into the red. Some of this is the result of longterm issues, while some of this is new.

Yesterday, Vice Chairman Mike Turner was featured in a News 9 interview where he slammed Chairman David McLain for the OKGOP's severe ongoing financial woes and called for his resignation. Specifically, Turner said:
"The chairman should step aside for the good of the party."
The News 9 story touts documents leaked to them by party insiders that show the OKGOP with more than $18,000 in outstanding bills and less than $75 in the daily operations account.

Then, Chairman McLain issued the following press release calling for the resignation of Vice Chairman Turner:

Regarding the news story released earlier today: I have in front of me, a complete spreadsheet of payables which clearly document the fact that at no time has our utility services been threatened.

As of today, I have documentation showing we have in excess of $20,000 in our account. Point being, Mr. Turner either deliberately provided false information OR did so out of ignorance of the facts. Either way, I am obliged to protect the integrity of the Oklahoma Republican Party and set the record straight.

Also, at my election on April 6th of this year, I received 70% of the party’s confidence from ALL segments of the Republican Party. Not just one segment. ALL.

The Central Committee has called for the immediate resignation of Mike Turner as the Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party and will be giving an official call to order of the State Committee this week.


David McLain, Chairman
Oklahoma Republican Party
Some sources are indicating that the RNC has bailed the OKGOP out with a $20,000 infusion of cash to help float through the current set of financial problems, although Chairman McLain has not made any comment to that point except in the above press release.

Transparency and openness on the OKGOP's financial situation would go a long way toward shedding light on its true state and charting a path forward. Hopefully we will see that happen quickly.

I sat on both the state and executive committees during the chairmanships of Jones and Pinnell. We had very clear budget reports and financial statements during their tenures, detailing exactly where every penny the state party had was going. Although I've not been on either committee for some years, I have seen financial statements from two of the last four chairs, and none had the transparency or detail given under Jones and Pinnell, and none of the chairman since have had the kind of fundraising success they had.

Some of that is a result of a massive shift in how politics and campaigns work today. The political parties are less important than they used to be, and outside groups play a much bigger role in elections. Social media has also made it easier to access volunteers without having to route through existing party infrastructure.

That said, it certainly seems to me, from my outside perspective, that the state GOP has suffered from poor leadership for some time, and the effect has been devastating to the party's finances. I'm appalled that the party of fiscal responsibility would find itself operating in debt to such a degree as it has during much of the past decade.

The OKGOP has some major hurdles ahead of it if it wants to successfully retake the 5th Congressional District, stave off legislative losses in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, and continue making progress on taking more county offices across the state. Those goals may have to happen independently of the state party.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Rep. Hern raises $300k in Q3, endorsed by Tulsa metro mayors

Kevin Hern raises over $300k in Q3, announces local endorsements

TULSA, OK – After closing books on fundraising in the third quarter, Kevin Hern announced this morning that he raised over $300,000 during the July-September fundraising period, indicating powerful support for his re-election campaign.

“A strong showing of support this quarter is a direct response to the radical policies of the far left,” said Hern. “Oklahomans see what is happening in our nation’s capital when people like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff call the shots and they are horrified, as am I.”

Following Hern’s formal campaign launch in early August, he received endorsements from a number of mayors in Oklahoma's First Congressional District:
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum
Bartlesville Mayor Dale Copeland
Owasso Mayor Chris Kelley
Coweta Mayor Evette Morris
Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie
Broken Arrow Mayor Craig Thurmond
Sand Springs Mayor Jim Spoon
Glenpool Mayor Tim Fox
Collinsville Mayor Bud York
Wagoner Mayor Albert Jones 
“After nearly a year in office, I’m excited to see support for my re-election from constituents and local leaders,” said Hern. “It shows that putting business principles to use in our government works. It has worked for President Trump for the last 3 years, and it is working in Congress. Together, we’re seeing a revolutionized economy, skyrocketing consumer confidence, and the lowest unemployment numbers in a generation. I’m glad to have the support of so many great Oklahomans heading into next year’s election!”

Congressman Hern was previously endorsed by House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan who held a rally for Congressman Hern in early August and by both U.S. Senators from Oklahoma. 

Bice raises $168k in 3rd Quarter for 5th District campaign

Stephanie Bice for Congress Raises $168,000 in Third Quarter

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 15, 2019)  - Stephanie Bice, conservative Republican candidate for Congress in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, has raised more than $350,000 from more than 1600 individual donors in just over five months. Bice raised $168,000 in the third quarter.

More than 91 percent of Bice’s contributions came from Oklahoma.

The totals include no loans from the candidate and the campaign remains debt-free. 

“I’m grateful to the more than 1,600 Oklahomans who have invested in our campaign,” Bice said. “It’s clear voters are ready to elect new Republican leadership to Congress. I appreciate their trust in me and share the goal to put an end to the dysfunction and inaction in Washington.”

Bice for Congress campaign manager Matt Blubaugh said the campaign’s 3rd quarter fundraising is no surprise to those on the ground in the district.

The National Journal recently named the fifth congressional district as the number one most likely House seat to change party hands in 2020. The Washington Post rated it as the second race most likely to flip.

Democrats in Oklahoma, including prominent Oklahoma City campaign consultant Cassi Peters, have noted that Stephanie Bice has the best chance of all the candidates running to defeat Kendra Horn. In Sunday’s Oklahoman, Peters acknowledged that Bice “could give (incumbent Democrat Kendra) Horn the biggest general election challenge.”

Bice is a life-long resident of Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District and has a proven track record of supporting Oklahoma’s conservative ideals with her votes as an Oklahoma State Senator.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Broken Arrow state rep pleads 'not guilty' to felony DUI

Some might remember that back in August, State Rep. Dean Davis (R-Broken Arrow) was arrested for driving under the influence. He was booked into jail for DUI, speeding, and 'obstructing or interfering with police officer'.

While in jail, Rep. Davis made several phone calls to elected officials, including talking to two fellow House freshmen and leaving a voicemail for Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado. He asked his legislator friends to call the sheriff or city police chief to "help him out". He told Rep. T.J. Marti (R-Tulsa) that "This is not going to help Broken Arrow at all because they just made an enemy, and that’s not good at all."

Now, with his political career in peril, Davis is pleading 'not guilty'. From

Rep. Dean Davis Pleads 'Not Guilty' to Felony DUI
If Davis is found guilty of a felony, he is immediately expelled from office, by constitutional mandate.

Early last August, freshman lawmaker, Dean Davis of Broken Arrow, was arrested on a dark stretch of road in deep south Broken Arrow. The event was not recorded and Davis refused to provide samples for alcohol toxicity tests.

It's not his first DUI charges, so, DA Steve Kunzweiler filed felony charges, given his previous guilty plea, years ago.

The only solid evidence is the many phone calls Davis made in the few hours after his detainment. Other than that, it'll be a matter of who is more believable, to the district court.  Next court date in Oct. 28th.

The journal records this latest entry:


As SoonerPolitics pointed out, the State Constitution pointedly disqualifies felons from holding a legislative seat. If Davis is convicted of a felony, he will be removed from office.

Music Monday: Batman Theme

This week's Music Monday is the theme song to the old television show Batman. My kids are obsessed with the show, and love racing around the house to this song.


See below for all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at

September 30th, 2019: These Are My People (Johnny Cash)
September 23rd, 2019: Pictures at an Exhibition (Great Gate of Kiev)
September 16th, 2019: The Streets of Laredo (Piano Puzzler)
September 9th, 2019: I'm Ready To Go
August 26th, 2019: It Is Not Death To Die
August 5th, 2019: 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
July 29th, 2019: Let It Be Said Of Us
July 15th, 2019: Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor
July 8th, 2019: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
July 1st, 2019: Medley of Sousa Marches
June 24th, 2019: Seventy-Six Trombones
June 17th, 2019: I Want To Be That Man
June 3rd, 2019: "Les Toreadors" from 'Carmen'
May 20th, 2019: Lonesome Road
May 13th, 2019: Mr. Mom
April 29th, 2019: Have Faith in God (Muskogee's hymn)
April 15th, 2019: The Government Can
March 25th, 2019: Transcendental Étude No. 4, "Mazeppa"
March 18th, 2019: St. Patrick's Day in the Morning
March 11th, 2019: What Wondrous Love is This
March 4th, 2019: Scandinavian Waltz
February 18th, 2019: Adagio for Strings
February 11th, 2019: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 4th, 2019: Columbia, Gem of the Ocean
January 7th, 2019: Loch Lomond
December 31st, 2018: Auld Lang Syne
December 24th, 2018: Remember O, thou Man
December 17th, 2018: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 10th, 2018: Carol of the Bells (medley)
December 3rd, 2018: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 26th, 2018: Happy Birthday
November 19th, 2018: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
November 12th, 2018: Hymn to the Fallen
October 29th, 2018: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
October 22nd, 2018: Hymn to Red October
October 15th, 2018:  Indian Reservation ("Cherokee People")
October 8th, 2018: Wagner's 'Columbus Overture'
October 1st, 2018: Danny Boy
September 24th, 2018: Dvorak's 'From The New World' Symphony, 4th Movement
September 17th, 2018: Deep River
September 10th, 2018: Muleskinner Blues
September 3rd, 2018: Boomer Sooner
August 20th, 2018: Psalm 23
August 13th, 2018: Ashokan Farewell
August 6, 2018: How the West Was Won
July 23rd, 2018: I Just Can't Wait to Be King
July 16th, 2018: 'Jupiter' from 'The Planets'
July 9th, 2018: Hail to the Spirit of Liberty
July 2nd, 2018: Turn The Tide
June 25th, 2018: Good Guys Win
June 18th, 2018: Watching You
June 11th, 2018: Adoration
June 4th, 2018: March from 'A Moorside Suite'
May 28th, 2018: Taps
May 21st, 2018: Listz's La Campanella
May 14th, 2018: Handful of Weeds
May 7th, 2018: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
April 30th, 2018: Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 ("Heroic")
April 23rd, 2018: Blow Ye The Trumpet
April 16th, 2018: Asturias (Leyenda)
April 9th, 2018: Old Mountain Dew
April 2nd, 2018: His Life For Mine
March 19th, 2018: See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes!
March 12th, 2018: Choctaw Nation
March 5th, 2018: Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal
February 19th, 2018: The Olympic Spirit
February 12th, 2018: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
January 29th, 2018: Hail to the Chief
January 23rd, 2018: Waltz in A-Flat Major, Op. 39 No. 15
January 15th, 2018: Bleed The Same
January 8th, 2018: Saint-Saëns' Symphony No.3 'Organ' (Maestoso)
December 25th, 2017: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 18th, 2017: I Saw Three Ships (The Piano Guys)
December 11th, 2017:Who Is He In Yonder Stall
December 4th, 2017: Carol of the Bells (Mannheim Steamroller)
November 27th, 2017: Joy to the World!
November 20th, 2017: We Gather Together
November 13th, 2017: Mansions of the Lord
November 6th, 2017: Träumerei
October 30th: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 23rd, 2017: In Christ Alone
October 16th, 2017: When I'm Knee Deep In Bluegrass
October 9th, 2017: I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
October 2nd, 2017: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major (Brahms)
September 25th, 2017: Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor ('Pathétique')
September 11th, 2017: Have You Forgotten?
September 4th, 2017: Bach's Double Violin Concerto
August 28th, 2017: Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord
August 21st, 2017: The Heavens Are Telling The Glory of God
August 14th, 2017: Beethoven's 5th Symphony
August 7th, 2017: 'Lift High The Name Of Jesus' medley
July 31st, 2017: Fanfare for the Common Man
July 24th, 2017: Variations on 'Happy Birthday'
July 10th, 2017: Summer (Presto) from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
July 3rd, 2017: Freelance Fireworks Hall of Fame
June 26th, 2017: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
June 19th, 2017: A Christian Home
June 12th, 2017: Ol' Man River
June 5th, 2017: Choctaw Cowboy
May 29th, 2017: Armed Forces Salute
May 22nd, 2017: Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor
May 15th, 2017: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major
May 8th, 2017: The Army Goes Rolling Along
April 17th, 2017: He Is Alive
April 10th, 2017: Surely He Hath Borne/And With His Stripes/All We Like Sheep
April 3rd, 2017: Here Comes Carolina
March 27th, 2017: 'Spring' from Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'
March 20th, 2017: Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation") Finale
March 13th, 2017: The Pigeon on the Gate
March 6th, 2017: Finlandia
February 27th, 2017: When I Can Read My Title Clear
February 20th, 2017: William Tell Overture - Finale
February 13th, 2017: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 6th, 2017: White Winter Hymnal
January 30th, 2017: Hail, Columbia
January 23rd, 2017: Hail to the Chief
January 16th, 2017: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
January 2nd, 2017: Auld Lang Syne
December 26th, 2016: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
December 19th, 2016: I Wonder as I Wander
December 12th, 2016: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 5th, 2016: A Christmas Festival
November 28th, 2016: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 21st: Beethoven's 'Hymn of Thanksgiving'
November 14th: Hymn to the Fallen
November 7th: This World Is Not My Home
October 31st, 2016: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 24th, 2016: 'Mars', from 'The Planets'
October 17th, 2016: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
October 10th, 2016: Spain
October 3rd, 2016: International Harvester
September 26th, 2016: 'The Imperial March' from Star Wars
September 19th, 2016: Awake the Trumpet's Lofty Sound
September 12th, 2016: Before the Throne of God Above
September 5th, 2016: The Hunt
August 29th, 2016: Liberty
August 22nd, 2016: Summon the Heroes
August 15th, 2016: Bugler's Dream
August 8th, 2016: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
August 1st, 2016: 'Prelude' and 'Parade of the Charioteers' from Ben-Hur
July 25th, 2016: How The West Was Won
July 18th, 2016: Six Studies in English Folk Song
July 11th, 2016: From Everlasting To Everlasting
July 4th, 2016: The Stars and Stripes Forever
June 27th, 2016: Rule, Britannia!
June 20st, 2016: Bugler's Holiday
June 13th, 2016: Ride of the Valkyries
June 6th, 2016: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, Allegro Vivace
May 30th, 2016: Armed Forces Salute
May 23rd, 2016: Paid in Full (Through Jesus, Amen)
May 16th, 2016: Overture from 'Carmen'
May 9th, 2016: L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1 - Prelude
May 2nd, 2016: My God Is a Rock
April 25th, 2016: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
April 18th, 2016: Paganini's Caprice No. 24 in A Minor
April 11th, 2016: Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune
April 4th, 2016: Hark The Sound/I'm a Tarheel Born
March 28th, 2016: Rustle of Spring
March 21st, 2016: 'Ode to Joy' sung by a 10,000-voice choir
March 14th, 2016: Hard Times Come Again No More
March 7th, 2016: 'The Suite' from Downton Abbey
February 29th, 2016: Moonlight Sonata
February 22nd, 2016: Liebestraum No. 3
February 15th, 2016: Help Is On The Way
February 8th, 2016: God of Grace and God of Glory
February 1st, 2016: 'My Story'
January 25th, 2016: Israeli Concertino
January 18th, 2016: What Grace is Mine
January 11th, 2016: "Meditation" from Thaïs
January 4th, 2016: Praeludium and Allegro
December 28th, 2015: Appalachian Carol
December 21st, 2015: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 14th, 2015: O Holy Night
December 7th, 2015: Christmas Fantasy
November 23rd, 2015: Simple Gifts
November 16th, 2015: Preacher Tell Me Like It Is
November 9th, 2015: Armed Forces Salute
November 2nd, 2015: Amazing Grace
October 26th, 2015: The Harmonious Blacksmith
October 19th, 2015: Liberty Fanfare
October 12th, 2015: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
October 5th, 2015: Elgar's 'Enigma' Finale
September 28th, 2015: Stayed on Jesus
September 21st, 2015: Great Gate of Kiev
September 14th, 2015: Nearer, My God, To Thee

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Senate Pro Tem appoints Rick Nagel to Judicial Nominating Commission

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat appoints Rick Nagel to Judicial Nominating Commission

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat on Friday announced his appointment of Rick Nagel of Norman to the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

The JNC selects judicial candidates that the governor then considers for appointment to state courts. The Senate President Pro Tempore is responsible for appointing an at-large, non-attorney member of the JNC.

Nagel’s term as an at-large member begins immediately. He will serve a two-year term which expires in October 2021.

“The JNC plays an important role in shaping the courts in Oklahoma. It’s incredibly important that the women and men considered by the governor for judicial appointments be immensely qualified to serve as wise and impartial jurists. Rick Nagel will bring a welcome perspective to the JNC in how it selects the pool of judicial candidates passed on to the governor. I appreciate his willingness to take on this important job and I have full confidence Rick will do an excellent job serving on the JNC,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Nagel is the managing partner of Acorn Growth Companies. He serves on the board of directors of the State Chamber of Oklahoma and is involved in many civic organizations, including the Oklahoma Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Engineering.

Friday, October 11, 2019

After he takes your guns, Beto is coming for your church

CNN held a 'LGBTQ Town Hall' yesterday with nine of the 39 Democratic presidential candidates. During the debate, Robert Francis O'Rourke (strictly called Beto by the fawning media) had the following exchange with moderator Don Lemon:

Lemon: "... should religious institutions -- like colleges, churches, charities -- should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?"
O'Rourke: "Yes. [wild audience applause] There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans."

Adore, celebrate and worship this sexual perversion or else, you bigots! seems to be the refrain on the Left these days.

This is the same Robert Francis O'Rourke who infamously said that if elected President, he's coming to take your guns.

Pastor JD Hall of, a Christian polemics and news site, had the following comment on O'Rourke's plan:
We presume that collecting AR-15’s is a necessary first step to “stopping” Christians who believe in traditional marriage from exercising their religion. Please note: First they will come for our guns. Then they will come for our religion… in that order.
If standing on Biblical beliefs and teachings means losing tax-exempt status, then so be it. "We ought to obey God rather than men", the apostles told  the authorities of their day when they were told to stop preaching the truth of God. May the church of today likewise stand firm on truth.

OCPA column: Failing to understand act of forgiveness

Failing to understand act of forgiveness
By Jonathan Small

Ask yourself, which is worse? Losing a brother to mindless violence, or losing your brother to mindless violence and then clinging to bitterness and resentment for the rest of your life?

Neither outcome is desirable, but one is still worse than the other. And only in the latter case is part of the outcome under your own control. It seems some activists don’t understand that fact.

In Dallas, Texas, former police officer Amber Guyger, who is white, entered the wrong apartment by mistake, believing she was entering her own apartment. When she saw the tenant, Botham Jean, a black man, she reacted by shooting and killing him.

The resulting outrage is understandable, as is the desire for justice. Guyger was recently convicted and sentenced to prison.

But during victim impact statements, Jean’s younger brother Brandt surprised many by offering Guyger forgiveness. A professing Christian like his late brother, Brandt Jean said, “If you are truly sorry, I know I can speak for myself: I forgive you.” He also urged Guyger to become a Christian, saying, “I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you.”

For many who viewed that exchange, it was an incredibly moving moment. But some activists deride the moment as “cheap absolution” that gives whites a free pass for acts of racism.

In reality, forgiveness is crucial to defeating racism. And it was also the only path forward that would not allow bitterness to consume Brandt Jean.

As Martin Luther King Jr. noted, “Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.”

To his credit, Brandt Jean chose a fresh start. And all people who care about racism must be willing to do the same.

Clinging to bitterness does not punish those who’ve done you wrong. Instead, it becomes a form of self-punishment that can devastate your health and mental well-being for decades. Consider the contrast between Antifa activists, who hide behind masks and “protest” via acts of physical violence and property destruction, and Brandt Jean, who spoke the truth, forgave and hugged his brother’s killer. The former group’s rage achieves nothing positive; the latter’s gentle action moved millions of hearts and minds.

As a black man I am under no illusion about the realities of racism. But, having been on both sides of the equation, I also understand the value of forgiveness. It benefits not only the offender, but the offended.

Put simply, a world without racism is incompatible with a world in which people are enticed to withhold forgiveness.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

1889 Institute: Why are OKCPS teachers begging for basics?

OKCPS Teachers Begging for Basics
1889 Institute identifies $34,000 in basic supplies teacher have had to beg for.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (October 9, 2019) – The 1889 Institute has published a study that identifies $34,000 in charitable solicitations by Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) teachers in their efforts to obtain basic necessities for classrooms that the district should be automatically providing.  Entitled “Why Are OKCPS Teachers Begging the Public for Basics?” the paper highlights 64 separate solicitations from teachers across the district for basics, including frogs to dissect, whiteboard supplies, sets of dictionaries, chairs to fit tables for small children, and basic physical education supplies. All of the solicitations are from the website and were identified on August 22, 2019.

“We did not look at the entire state’s Donors Choose solicitations on that date, but the Piedmont district, which spends about 70 percent of what OKCPS does, had no teacher solicitations for basic necessities on that date,” said 1889 Institute Director Byron Schlomach. Schlomach authored the report with research assistance from fellow 1889 Institute analysts Mike Davis and Ben Lepak. Schlomach pointed out that the necessities identified are only a small proportion of all the Donors Choose solicitations since his study only sought to identify true classroom necessities.

The report points out that OKCPS is not a low-spending district in the state, but is relatively well-funded. Therefore, the study argues, the fact that OKCPS teachers are effectively begging for necessities, like bulbs for district-provided projectors and printers due to poorly-maintained school copiers, is strong evidence that priorities are poorly decided.

Schlomach said he got the idea for the study from his wife having to do a Donors Choose solicitation for copy paper last year, since her campus was not being provided with it. “I wondered if other teachers were being denied such basic supplies. Clearly, they are,” said Schlomach. “Now, I only wonder what I don’t know. How much have teachers spent on basics the district should be readily providing, given that I know the district can afford them? How many teachers around the state are dealing with the same neglect from their district administrations?” he asked.

About the 1889 Institute
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Why Are OKCPS Teachers Begging the Public for Basics?” and other reports on public education finance can be found on the nonprofit’s website at

State Sen. Joseph Silk launches 2nd District congressional bid

State Senator Joseph Silk announces run for U.S. Congress

Silk set to run for Oklahoma Congressional District 2 in eastern Oklahoma in 2020 election

 It has been an honor to have served the good people of State Senate District 5 in southeast Oklahoma the past 5 years. Although very difficult and frustrating at times, my family and I have been blessed with many new friendships and support along the way. I believe I have represented those who elected me well, and even though some of the things we tried to accomplish for Senate District 5 and the State of Oklahoma were not completed, many things were and I am grateful to have played a part in it.

With the current leadership in the Oklahoma Legislature, Oklahomans have a tough road ahead. Unfortunately, even though republicans have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the vast majority of them are very liberal and fall in line with the establishment instead of being champions for true constitutional, conservative ideals. By the time grassroots Oklahomans weed them out and replace them with actual Statesmen and Stateswomen, I will be term limited.

After much thought, seeking counsel, and prayer, I have come to the conclusion my energy and efforts will be best be utilized elsewhere therefore I will not be seeking re-election to the Oklahoma State Senate. Instead, I will be filing to run for U.S. Congressional District 2 here in eastern Oklahoma.

We as conservatives must change the way engage in the political arena. We have settled for status quo legislators who say one thing and then do nothing. We must demand that our government officials stop playing politics and actually take action on protecting individual freedoms and upholding the Constitution.

 If we continue down the road of electing and re-electing legislators who have no history of aggressively attacking current issues, our country will not be recognizable in the future. It is for that reason, that my family and I will sacrifice and press on through the political landscape in order to fight for a country that future generations can enjoy.

You can follow our campaign for U.S. Congress at .

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Results Map: Muskogee voters pass $110M school bond

(click to view larger)
Voters in Muskogee approved a $110M school bond today with 68.15% of the vote, clearing the 60% approval threshold for bond passage. The above graphic shows precinct-by-precinct results, illustrating the percentages above or below the 60% mark in each voting district.

Two minuscule precincts were unanimous in their voting -- Precinct 36 (the far western edge of the school district) had five votes cast in favor and none opposed, while Precinct 46 (the darkest red) has a single vote cast in opposition and none in favor.

Aside from the unanimous precincts, the top three precincts for the Yes vote were Precinct 23 (84.4% yes; 238-44), Precinct 17 (83.05% yes; 98-20), and Precinct 38 (79.96% yes; 455-114).

The top three precincts voting No were Precinct 55 (49.06% yes; 26-27, the only outright majority for the No side), Precinct 45 (54.04% yes, 107-91), and Precinct 37 (56.67% yes, 17-13).

Below is a table with results by precinct. I'm hoping the formatting holds and is readable. If not, you can go to the State Election Board website and navigate through their results page, find the Muskogee election, click 'View As', then 'County Details', then click 'Precincts' to get the raw figures without percentages.

Precinct  Yes vote % No vote % Total Vote +/- 60%
5 246 61.50% 154 38.50% 400 +1.5%
7 457 63.03% 268 36.97% 725 +3.03%
9 423 67.79% 201 32.21% 624 +7.79%
11 95 60.90% 61 39.10% 156 +0.9%
13 147 59.76% 99 40.24% 246 -0.24%
17 98 83.05% 20 16.95% 118 +23.05%
21 177 75.64% 57 24.36% 234 +15.64%
22 278 71.47% 111 28.53% 389 +11.47%
23 238 84.40% 44 15.60% 282 +24.4%
28 100 68.03% 47 31.97% 147 +8.03%
36 5 100% 0 0% 5 +40%
37 128 58.45% 91 41.55% 219 -1.55%
38 455 79.96% 114 20.04% 569 +19.96%
45 107 54.04% 91 45.96% 198 -5.96%
46 0 0% 1 100% 1 -60%
47 45 66.18% 23 33.82% 68 +6.18%
49 13 68.42% 6 31.58% 19 +8.42%
55 26 49.06% 27 50.94% 53 -10.94%
61 17 56.67% 13 43.33% 30 -3.33%
3055 68.15% 1428 31.85% 4483 +8.15%

Justin Van Kirk announces for Tulsa City Council District 7


TULSA, OK – Today, local conservative businessman Justin Van Kirk formally announced his candidacy at the Tulsa Republican Women’s Club luncheon. The guest speaker, Congressman Kevin Hern, gave an update on the latest from Washington D.C. Van Kirk announced that he has entered the race for Tulsa City Council District 7 which encompasses mostly south Tulsa. Van Kirk, owner of Affordable Auto which is also located in the district never imagined the day he’d run for public office.

“Right after attending Rhema Bible College, my wife, Lily, and I started one of our first companies about 10 years ago and have been focused building those ventures ever since. We’ve been blessed. All we knew growing up was hard work, sacrifice, commitment, and determination to leave this world better than we came into it. We were both born and raised understanding and respecting conservative values at all levels of government.”

Van Kirk is a conservative Republican businessman who believes in a limited government, conservative values, and is guided by his faith. He and his wife are active in their church, Life.Church, are avid athletic players, and world-wide travelers. Van Kirk states that:

“We were both born and raised with a strong foundation to believe and follow conservative values. That meant more than in politics – that was in work, life, family, and community.”

Van Kirk is challenging the Democrat incumbent, Lori Decter-Wright who narrowly won her election in 2018 on a special election. She earned 27.40% of the vote and pursuant to Oklahoma law, that was enough to win. Tulsa council races are non-partisan. The election between Decter-Wright and Van Kirk will be held on August 25, 2020. 

Van Kirk adds that now is the right time for him to run, stating, “I'm ready to transfer my business ownership skills from the private sector into government and I want to help make a difference in a way that is not being done right now. The conservative values that we believe in are being fought against – it just doesn’t make much sense to me. Tulsa has so much opportunity and I'm ready to help it grow, recruit new jobs by encouraging new startups, increasing public safety, and prioritize the city's budget with a free-market mindset.”

To learn more or get involved, please visit

Muskogee voters to decide on $110M school bond today

Today, voters in Muskogee will be deciding on whether to adopt or reject a $110,000,000 school bond, the largest ever considered in the Muskogee Public Schools district. The proposal would spend $37,000,000 on a new football stadium and athletic complex, $5,000,000 on upgraded technology, and about $68,000,000 on demolition/reconstruction or remodeling of most school sites within the district.

The bond would increase the school district's portion of property taxes from 20 mils to about 32 mils, costing approximately $120 per year on a $100,000 property.

The district chose to pursue a lease-purchase bond instead of the more-traditional general obligation bond. Under a lease-purchase bond, the district obtains a loan for the full amount up front in order to begin construction and spending, as opposed to waiting for property tax collections to start coming in before projects can move forward. Lease-purchase bonds have been controversial in the past, as they essentially allow schools to bypass constitutional limits on indebtedness and can tie up bond capacity for longer periods of time than traditional bonds.

Voters in the district approved a bond in 2013, about 38% of which has not yet been collected and spent. This proposed bond was touted by school administration as a 12-year obligation, but a recent article in the Muskogee Phoenix quoted County Assessor Ron Dean as saying that it could extend into 16 years, depending on local growth rates.

Some highlights of the bond election details:

  • Activity Center and Varsity Stadium: $37,000,000
  • Freshman Academy @ Alice Robertson: $18,000,000
  • Tony Goetz Elementary: $13,000,000
  • Muskogee High School: $12,000,000
  • Sadler Arts Academy: $10,000,000
  • Early Childhood Center: $6,000,000
  • Technology acquisition and installation: $5,000,000
  • Benjamin Franklin Science Academy: $2,000,000
  • Grant Foreman Elementary: $2,000,000
  • Irving Elementary: $1,000,000
  • Creek Elementary: $1,000,000
  • Pershing Elementary: $1,000,000
  • New Tech at Cherokee Elementary: $1,000,000
  • Whittier Elementary: $1,000,000
  • TOTAL: $110,000,000
According to the 2017 Bond Transparency Act fact-sheet posted by MPS, there is still about $18,000,000 remaining to be collected and spent from a bond that was passed in 2013. Those bonds would still be collected and allocated as specified regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's vote.

You can view specific building projects, maps and details at this link. You can see concept renderings of the proposed building projects here, also provided by MPS.

School bonds require a 60% affirmative vote for passage. The last bonds received over 80% of the vote. However, the high percentage of funds in this round going toward a new stadium and athletic facilities has sparked more opposition than usual, it would seem.

The below graphic shows the proposed schedule of construction if the bond is approved. Projects on the athletics complex, Alice Robertson and Tony Goetz schools would begin almost immediately, while the rest of the schools wouldn't see work until mid-late 2020 or late 2021.

Due to the structure of the lease-purchase bond, about $20,000,000 to $30,000,000 would go to paying the bond owners. There's a lot of late-breaking conflicting information (this didn't seem to get covered in the MPS campaign materials), some saying that it's figured into the $110,000,000 figure (such as the aforementioned Phoenix article) and others saying that it would be on top of the full bond price. I'll be honest, bonds aren't my specialty. 

MPS estimates that the top per-year cost of the bond would be about $60 for a $50,000 assessed property, $120 for a $100,000 property, $240 for a $200,000 property, and so on.

Polls will be open from 7am to 7pm. Don't forget to exercise your right to vote, as this will impact everyone who lives within the MPS district.

Monday, October 07, 2019

State task force awarded DOJ grant to address rape kit backlog

Attorney General Hunter Announces State Awarded Grant to Address Rape Kit Backlog

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today announced the state has been awarded the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Grant to help collect, prioritize and test a number of the sexual assault forensic evidence kits that have been identified in police evidence rooms.

The three-year, $2.4 million grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, will fund the initiatives put forth by the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Task Force after an audit identified over 7,000 sexual assault evidence kits were in police evidence rooms statewide.

A sexual assault evidence kit, also known as a rape kit, is a forensic exam used to collect evidence from a victim of sexual assault. The SAFE Task Force has met over the last two years to address the backlog.

Attorney General Hunter said applying for the grant was a natural decision by the task force to help with continued reform.

“We have made tremendous progress over the last few years in improving the entire process in our state,” Attorney General Hunter said. “This funding is going to help us expedite the reforms we have implemented, like the collection and testing of rape kits, while putting more resources toward helping victims. It will also assist us as we continue to reform the system to ensure the backlog never happens again. The grant announcement wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of the members of the SAFE Task Force, who have given so much time and attention to this very important issue.”

Governor Kevin Stitt, who earlier this year signed legislation recommended by the task force and also signed an executive order extending the work of the task force through 2023, commended members’ efforts.

“Because of the work and dedication of the members of the SAFE Task Force, our state now serves as a national model on how to end the backlog,” Governor Stitt said. “It is thanks to our significant progress in overhauling the system that our state was able to receive these funds to expedite the collection and testing of some of the kits. I applaud the members of the task force, who continue to do an exemplary job on behalf of victims of sexual assault.”

The conditions of the grant stipulate that the funding may only be used to inventory the existing numbers of unsubmitted rape kits, testing the kits and assign designated personnel to pursue new investigative leads and prosecutions and to support victims throughout the investigation and prosecution process.

The grant may also be used to develop evidence-tracking systems, train law enforcement on sexual assault investigations, conduct research on outcomes in sexual assault cases and increase the collection of offender DNA.

The state will use the funding to collect rape kits currently in law enforcement custody, categorize them to determine which kits will be submitted for testing and hire four positions. The positions will include a project manager that will assist district attorneys in re-opening cases, a victim advocate who will work directly with victims, a lead investigator and an additional agent who will work on cases.

Funding will also be provided to pay for overtime for lab technicians already on staff at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

SAFE Task Force

Made up of lawmakers, law enforcement officials, victim advocates, a survivor of sexual assault and other stakeholders, the SAFE Task Force has overhauled how rape kits are handled in the state.

The task force has developed a priority list for which untested kits would be submitted for testing.

Additionally, during this year’s legislative session, the task force proposed three pieces of legislation that all eventually passed and were signed into law.

The legislation included:

  • The use of one standardized kit;
  • A requirement for law enforcement agencies to submit kits for testing within 20 days;
  • A mandate to keep all kits for at least 50 years or the length of the statute of limitations, whichever is longer;
  • Requirements for all medical providers, law enforcement agencies, forensic labs and other agencies that have custody of sexual assault evidence collection kits participate in a statewide electronic tracking system being implemented by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation; and
  • Additional training for law enforcement related to sexual assault response and evidence collection.

The task force continues to meet regularly to ensure the successful implementation of all initiatives.

Treat taps Sens. Paxton, Rader to lead Senate's redistricting committee

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat appoints redistricting committee leaders

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat on Monday announced his appointments to lead the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting.

Treat appointed Senator Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting and named Senator Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, as vice chair of the committee.

“The Senate will conduct its redistricting process in a thorough, bipartisan, and professional manner. I have full confidence Senator Paxton and Senator Rader will do a great job in leading the select committee’s efforts,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Treat said internal Senate discussions are ongoing regarding the redistricting process. He said other members of the select committee, including Democratic members, would be announced at a later date. Treat said Senate staff already is at work gathering information.

Legislative redistricting takes place every 10 years following the release of U.S. Census data. The state Constitution provides that each legislative chamber oversees redistricting efforts to ensure districts are updated as necessary to reflect any population changes.

Also, Treat announced the hiring of Keith Beall as Senate redistricting director. Beall will lead Senate staff efforts on redistricting and help coordinate Senate efforts to encourage Oklahomans' participation in the 2020 Census. Beall has prior experience with the redistricting process.

“Keith Beall has a wealth of knowledge and experience on redistricting in Oklahoma. I know he will do an exemplary job for the Senate and am pleased he accepted my challenge to join the Senate team,” Treat said.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

David Hill jumps into 5th District race, joins crowded GOP field

David K. Hill, an Oklahoma City businessman, has joined the race for the 5th Congressional District, becoming the second Republican candidate to announce this week. I don't have an official press release yet, but the following is posted on his campaign website,

David Hill is a dedicated father, a successful businessman, and a conservative outsider who has never held public office.  He started turning wrenches at the age of 16, fixing and rebuilding classic cars. Now David owns and operates MAR-K, the nation’s leading manufacturer of over 6,000 component parts for classic automobiles and trucks.

Before acquiring MAR-K, David spent 28 years in leadership positions across the education, energy, manufacturing, and technology industries, including at Logic Energy Solutions, Petrosmith, and Kimray Inc., where he was named one of Oklahoma’s “Most Admired CEOs” by The Journal Record.

David lives in Edmond, Oklahoma with his wife of 26 years, Shannon.  They have six wonderful children, including three strong, independent daughters and three selfless sons who all serve in the Army.   David Jr. graduated from West Point and serves as a first lieutenant in the Army flying Black Hawk helicopters.  Lauren is a University of Notre Dame graduate who works in IT security in Chicago.  Hunter is a senior at West Point and upon graduation in May will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.  Tucker serves in Army ROTC while studying mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University. Finally, Katherine is a senior and Ashley is a sophomore at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma City.

An avid runner, David co-founded the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, already in its 20th year, which has raised millions of dollars for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.  He and Shannon also founded Providence Hall Classical Christian School (Now The Academy of Classical Christian Studies). David and his family are members of Christ the King Catholic Church in Oklahoma City.

David believes Congress is broken.

Nancy Pelosi and the career politicians in Washington have taken us down the wrong path.  They want socialized medicine, open borders, higher taxes, bigger government, and a complete elimination of our First and Second Amendment rights.  They have launched a “Green New Deal” that threatens to shut down our energy industry and tank our entire economy.

Now the politicians have made harassment, investigation, and impeachment of President Trump their top priority, ignoring American families struggling with sky-rocketing healthcare costs, facing an opioid epidemic that ravages our communities, and suffocating regulations that weigh down our economy, costing us jobs.

It’s bad for Oklahoma, it’s bad for America, and it’s time to say enough is enough.

David Hill won’t go along to get along.  He’s not a career politician.  He’s a fixer, a tough negotiator, and a leader.  He’ll fight to fix Congress.  He’ll answer to Oklahomans, and he’ll put an end to Nancy Pelosi’s crazy liberal experiment.

OCPA column: Getting exactly what we paid for?

Getting exactly what we paid for?
By Jonathan Small

In politics, policymakers often appear baffled that spending increases alone don’t usually change outcomes. Few seem to understand that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

The latest example of this reality comes in Oklahoma’s school system, where massive spending increases are now being used to fund a long-used form of instruction that experts say is doomed to failure. Yet our public schools plow full steam ahead with the discredited method, regardless of results or taxpayer costs.

Oklahoma Watch recently reported that in classrooms across the state “students are taught to read using a theory that has been discredited by decades of research by brain scientists”—the “three-cueing theory” that formed the basis for “whole language” learning. Instead of being taught phonics-based reading instruction, children are encouraged to guess words based on surrounding cues, including pictures or other words.

The difference between phonics-based instruction and “three cueing” has been compared to the difference between knowing how to read and knowing how to pretend to read.

Test scores show that too many children in Oklahoma are not learning to read. In the 2018-2019 school year, 61 percent of the 53,472 third-grade students tested in Oklahoma public schools were found to be performing below grade level in English on state tests.

Over time, such results compound and turn into bigger problems. In the worst cases, the end result is a school-to-prison pipeline, as can be seen from the very high rate of illiterate people now behind bars in Oklahoma prisons.

Sadly, Oklahoma’s struggles with teaching children to read are nothing new. In 2008, former Sen. Earl Garrison, a Muskogee Democrat who had been a school administrator, wrote, “More than 20 percent of our state’s population, or nearly 400,000 people, can’t read.”

Subsequently, a third-grade reading law generated notable improvement in a short amount of time, but then lawmakers watered down that law to allow children to be socially promoted again even if they cannot read. That took the pressure off schools, and results have since plummeted again.

Then in 2018, policymakers told us that spending increases were needed to improve academic results, and that tax increases were required to boost spending. So they increased taxes and school spending at a historic clip, yet the most recent academic results on state tests showed either decline or stagnation.

Faced with that reality, status-quo education forces now simply respond: Increase our spending even more.

But if additional spending pays only to maintain a system of reading instruction that doesn’t teach children to read, then Oklahoma taxpayers will be left in a strange position. They’ll be hoping they don’t get what they paid for.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.