Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Governor Fallin’s Temper Tantrum

April 29, 2014 6 comments

This afternoon, Governor Fallin announced that she was fed up with the Oklahoma Legislature – especially those yokels in the House. Maybe it was the fact that her pals at the Oklahoman called them out on Tuesday. Perhaps it was the overreach and triviality of some of the bills they’ve passed. It could have even been that three months into this legislative session, they still haven’t done anything about the @#% running down the walls of the Capitol like something out of a second-rate horror film. Here’s the best report I could find on it from the Claremore Daily Progress.

OKLAHOMA CITY — In what critics describe as an attempt at political manipulation, Gov. Mary Fallin took a swing at legislators Tuesday, announcing she would be rejecting their bills that were awaiting her signature until they tackle the state’s “major issues.”

By noon Tuesday, Fallin rejected 15 of 16 House bills awaiting her signature that she claimed didn’t have “substantial” benefits, are “redundant” or are “just bad policy.” At a press conference announcing her decision, she pledged the vetoes of House-proposed bills would continue until the House tackles issues that she believes are important to Oklahomans rather than special interest groups.

“Lawmakers continue to find ways to avoid passing meaningful legislation,” she said. “We cannot continue to ignore the big issues facing the state.”

Fallin said the House needs to pass legislation dealing with storm shelters at schools, set the budget for this coming year, look at funding Capitol improvements, fix the pension system and improve the health of Oklahomans.

“I’ve used my executive power, my executive authority to set aside ‘minor issues’ so that we can have more time to deal with major issues here at the Capitol and hopefully get the attention to get those things done,” she said.

Among the causalities of Fallin’s pen were bills that came from legislators across the state. They dealt with issues like expungements, regulating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, liquor industry regulations and a bill that she claims makes it easier to sell stolen watches.

“Gov. Fallin developed an aggressive agenda this session to move Oklahoma forward, however moving that agenda through the legislative process requires developing relationships with legislators across the state,” said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, in a statement.

He said legislators have passed an income tax cut, pension reform measures, and a ban on youth access to e-cigarettes, which were all part of the governor’s agenda.

“The members of this body are closest to the people and have listened to their constituencies on issues such as common core, school testing and bond proposals. We know there are serious issues left to resolve and the House intends to work every day, regardless of political rhetoric, to have a successful session for the people of Oklahoma,” he said.
Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said he didn’t understand why the governor Tuesday vetoed two of his bills that he said were requested directly from her office.

He said one of the bills was designed to save tax dollars by allowing state agencies to better use their purchase card authority.

“The governor is essentially vetoing her own request bill,” Murphey said. “It makes no sense.”

I went to the Oklahoma Legislature Bill Tracker and found 17 bills that Fallin has vetoed in the last two days. I then imagined the letter that she sent our lawmakers, knowing full well that we’ll never know for sure just how accurate this is. After all, we could file an Open Records request, but she’d just claim executive privilege, or some such nonsense.

Dear Legislators,

This isn’t going to be easy to hear, but I’m not happy. For months now, I’ve told you what is important to me. Have you listened? Apparently not. You’ve passed bills over all of these frivolous issues like crime, state purchasing, liquor laws, and child support, but you’ve failed to touch the walls of the Capitol.

Fine, to be fair, nobody should touch the walls without a hazmat suit. We also have to finish the American Indian Cultural Center. We don’t want it to end up like that mansion along I-35 in Sanger, Texas that we all drive by and wonder about. Look it up. It’s a real thing!

And I don’t care how many signatures my general election opponent collected on his measure to fund storm shelters for schools. Why haven’t you done anything with my bill to allow districts to exceed their bonding capacity  and build their own shelters? Sure, there are about 100 districts with relatively little bonding capacity in the first place, but this is critical. I’m trying to win an election help the kids!

What about the pensions? We still have work to do to convince our voters that the defined benefit plans of teachers and other state workers are what’s making the state go broke. If we don’t do that, how can we possibly keep cutting taxes in a way that has no appreciable benefit to the middle class? How can I continue to justify the sweetheart horizontal drilling deal for our benefactors? If we don’t get this done, Jeb Bush will never come see me again! No more Koch and ALEC money for you until something changes!

Speaker Hickman, I know you feel that you’re passing laws that are what your constituents think they want, but don’t forget whose coattails you’re on now.  I know you think you can fool me by passing some of my minor agenda items too. None of that matters until I get a shiny new Capitol with walls you can safely lean against while you’re doing nothing for the people of Oklahoma. Sometimes I wish former Speaker Shannon would just quit his incessant campaigning and come back to the House and to the job we’re still paying him to do.

Keep this up, and I will confiscate your parking spaces. You’ll be parking at the Hodge Building. That place is practically a ghost town anyway.

Your humble servant,

The Honorable Governor Mary Fallin

Yeah, I’m sure it was pretty much like that:


Click the links below to see the full text of bills that have been vetoed.

HB1473 – State government; modifying provisions related to use of state purchasing card; effective date.

HB2461 – Crimes and punishments; requiring law enforcement officials to execute certain certification requests; requiring written notification of denial; effective date

HB2539 – Crimes and punishments; clarifying certain provision; effective date

HB2609 – Criminal procedure; expungement of criminal records; modifying certain qualifications; effective date

HB2627 – Intoxicating liquors; modifying prohibited employment by ABLE Commission personnel; effective date

HB2607 – Crimes and punishments; making certain acts unlawful; effective date

HB2832 – Revenue and taxation; directing the Oklahoma Tax Commission to issue a separate exemption card to certain persons authorized to make purchases on behalf of an eligible veteran; effective date

HB2976 – Public health and safety; requiring hospitals to provide parents of newborn infants certain educational information; effective date

HB3000 – Civil procedure; requiring mediator disclose if party participated in mediation in certain cases; effective date

HB3001 – Child support; suspending support payments after certain time if parent prevents visitation or hides child; effective date

HB3026 – Relating to the Job Training Partnership Act; deleting language relating to the State Council on Vocational Education; effective date; emergency

HB3027 – Education; repealing section of the Student Tracking and Reporting (STAR) Pilot Program; effective date; emergency

HB3052 – Public finance; Division of Central Accounting and Reporting; duties; effective date; emergency

HB3158 – Motor vehicles; authorizing submission of notarized affidavit for certain purposes; effective date

HB3358 – Contracts; repealing provisions related to sales of secondhand watches; effective date

HB3367 – Crimes and punishments; expanding scope of state preemption to include knives; effective date

HB3457 – Counties; modifying powers of county commissioners; effective date

Education Reform Candidate Meeting

November 19, 2013 25 comments

Over the weekend, the Republican Party held a state superintendent candidate forum in the 2nd District. The incumbent, Janet Barresi attended. So did an undeclared challenger, Linda Murphy. Murphy, some will recall, ran for the position twice in the 1990s, and actually came pretty close to winning in 1994. Joy Hofmeister, the former State Board of Education member who resigned to run against Barresi, did not attend.

At the 4:00 mark Murphy begins her talk. It’s pretty consistent with the things I’ve seen from her over social media in the time I’ve had this blog. She strongly opposes the Common Core and feels the Barresi-led SDE leads with a top-down style, much as did the Garrett administration for 20 years before her. While I encourage you to watch the entire video, I’m not going to comment much on Murphy’s remarks. They were straight-forward and hardly inflammatory.

Barresi, on the other hand, begging at about the 26:30 mark, delivers a bizarre string of insults and inaccuracies that lasts over 30 minutes. I understand the nature of campaigning – especially in a primary. Politicians have to energize the base. They have to deliver the red meat. Here’s one educator’s overview of her remarks, in case you don’t want to sit through the whole thing.

  • 31:30 Barresi states that a student scoring Limited Knowledge on the 3rd grade reading test is two grade levels behind. This statement is flawed on a couple of levels. First is that the reading test is not a diagnostic tool intended to determine that piece of information. Second that a student scoring Limited Knowledge may be only one correct response behind a student scoring proficient. If she had said Unsatisfactory, I might have let it go. Still, the test doesn’t measure reading level. It never has.
  • 32:00 Barresi claims that 75% of all special education students are incorrectly identified, and that if we would teach them to read, they wouldn’t be in that position. This is patently false. I don’t know where she gets her numbers. She probably makes them up on the spot 80% of the time. This statement is an insult to everybody who has ever served on an IEP team and worked within a program to provide assistance to a student.
  • 35:45 Barresi states that under her watch, the social studies content standards were re-written to emphasize American Exceptionalism over pop culture. I’m trying to remember all of the End-of-Instruction questions over the Roaring Twenties, Elvis, and New Coke, but my mind must be struggling this morning. The truth is that she allowed a Texan with an extremist agenda to provide technical assistance during the re-write. Additionally, high school students now only study and test over American History since 1878. Earlier content is covered in fifth and eighth grade. As with all subjects covered in lower grades, our teachers do a good job teaching the material, but the level of critical thinking is a little less sophisticated than it is in high school.
  • 35:30 Barresi makes it clear that Oklahoma will eventually develop our own science standards, and that they will not include a discussion of evolution, carbon footprints, or global warming. “It’s not the truth.” Apparently, our efforts to develop critical thinkers will also lead to a generation that doesn’t get a chance to develop as scientists.
  • 40:30 Barresi begins to string the education establishment doesn’t want to be transparent and accountable theme throughout the rest of her remarks. This is also false. It’s the central message of her campaign though. She’s betting on the public disliking their own elected school board members, superintendents, and principals more than they dislike her in order to win re-election.
  • 41:00 She claims that the A-F scale is simply a conversion of all the information that was in the previous 1500 point API scale. This is also not factual. Yes, both measures had student achievement data, dropout and graduation rates, and attendance as factors. Scores counted differently in the API than they do for A-F, though. And API didn’t count the lowest-performing students three times – a factor that amplifies the effects of poverty.
  • By the way, and this is completely a sidebar here, someone posted this great file in a Google Doc, showing district-by-district, the grades with enrollment, poverty, and bilingual figures. Districts are ranked by poverty level, and the document runs 14 pages. The first district, Tushka, received an A-. While they should be congratulated for being a high-poverty, high-achievement school, keep in mind they’re the only A on the first 4 pages. The key statistical terms here are trend and outlier.
  • 42:00 This is one of my favorite parts. Even if you don’t want to watch the entire video, you have to see Barresi using air quotes to describe the OU/OSU “researchers” who discredited the A-F Report Cards. Having a state education leader so openly hostile to intellectualism and knowledge is unsettling, to say the least.
  • 43:00 Barresi states, “We put out a grade card that counts every student.” That’s true, unless you consider the students whose writing tests were still being re-scored six months later. Or the students not included due to the testing disruption. Or fifth, seventh, and eighth grade social studies.
  • 45:45 Barresi says what should really be at the top of all of her campaign literature: “If you don’t measure it, it doesn’t matter.” This is the mindset and practice most antithetical to the reasons all of us entered education in the first place. Sure we want to see student growth. Sure we root for the kids who struggle. We also put in the time with them. And we do countless things you can never measure. No test, no OAM, no VAM, and no third-party survey will ever effectively measure music, art, and the overall affective experience of schooling. Efforts to try are the work of narrow-minded people with an agenda. Everything schools do for kids has value – even the things you can’t measure.
  • 46:55 Barresi repeats her red meat line that she’ll “be damned if we’re going to lose another generation of children in this state.” As I have said before, this statement is an affront to all the educators who have devoted their careers to the children she holds up as props.
  • 53:50 Barresi states that she sees “chiefs from other states dealing with huge deficits.” Apparently she doesn’t understand that Oklahoma districts are still operating with budgets lower than they had before the recession. Or that cuts to school funding in Oklahoma are the deepest in the nation.
  • 55:00 Barresi states that districts are “holding back $770 million” that could be used in the classroom. To date, she has still not documented this. If she has the figures of each district’s June 30, 2013 carryover, she should release them. She also misstates how those funds are used. They don’t go to pay June, July, and August salaries. Those are encumbered before the end of May, typically. Districts maintain a carryover to help them manage the funding gap between the start of the fiscal year (July 1) and the availability of ad valorem funds several months later. For most districts, it takes four or five months for revenues to balance out with expenses. Since districts receive different percentages of their funding from state aid, there is naturally a variance in how much each one holds back.
  • 56:30 She claims that the SDE has reduced spending during their tenure. Well so have school districts, and for the exact same reason. Both have received less in appropriations from the legislature. Believe me; if she had more, she’d spend it.
  • 57:00 Barresi brags about firing so many people when she started the job that she had to answer phones herself. (I think that may have been the last time a phone was answered at the Hodge Building. I kid.) Yes, she fired people who opposed her politically, and she fired people with decades of experience. She fired staff who had tirelessly helped districts for years and replaced them with, in many cases, people who can’t or won’t answer questions. That isn’t to say that the SDE has no quality employees. I’m just saying they’re in shorter supply than before she started firing people.
  • 57:30 Barresi blames Obamacare for funding problems. She claims that insurance premiums are increasing at a record rate. Yes, they’re increasing quite a bit. But it’s not a record. This serves her politically, allowing her to glom onto the most divisive issue in the country right now. It’s smart, from a political perspective. It’s also completely disingenuous.
  • 59:00 She states that she would rather fight to put money into her initiatives than into the classroom. She’s thumbing her nose at you, first grade teacher with an increased class size. She’d rather give the money to charter schools and Teach for a minute or two America.

Yes, it’s all campaign bluster. But these are her positions. These statements differ from what she says when she visits your schools and praises your teachers. Remember that the next time she shakes your hand and tells you she appreciates you.

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