Sunday, October 28, 2012

Latest Barresi Fail: School Grading System Misses the Mark

For those of you keeping score at home, it's Oklahoma School Superintendent Janet Barresi 1, old-fashioned common sense 0. 

We're referring to the Barresi-supported and highly flawed school grading system, which just this week gave more than half of Tulsa schools grades of D or F. That's right, Sooner fans, we now know that urban schools with lots of poor children have more academic problems than—surprise!—suburban schools with children from higher income families.

In other words, Barresi and her staff spent time and money to prove exactly what we (and everybody else) already knew.

As a Tulsa World editorial noted, this unfair grading system "seems designed to cast local schools in the worst possible light."

Moreover, the neither the state Department of Education nor the state legislature is likely to do much to assist the failing schools. Quoting again from the World editorial, "[I]f recent history is any guide, their 'help' will consist of shifting more money away from the local schools and loading them with more standardized test requirements."

No wonder Tulsa Public School Superintendent Keith Ballard has been critical of the state plan. Unlike Barresi, Ballard is working every day to solve real-world problems facing the school, not serving up an ideologically driven rating system that stigmatizes poor children.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gov. Mary Fallin: Big Spender (of Taxpayer's Money)

While we're on the subject of Gov. Mary Fallin's big spending ways (see yesterday's post), let's take a closer look at the not-so-austere spending plan the governor follows when on the road.

How about trips on the state plane from Oklahoma City to her house at Grand Lake? Yes, Sooner fans, the Oklahoman discovered four such trips at a cost of about $1,200 a pop.

Or how about the state plane ride to Arizona and Las Vegas, a trip the Oklahoman said cost a cool $15,700, including a overnight at a Marriott resort for $240 and a meal that cost $172.Yum!

Oh wait. That's cheap compared to Gov. Fallin's two nights at the Ritz Carlton in southern California at $470 a night. (She was there for an all-important Fortune magazine event and all of us Okies just love Fortune.)

Thanks, Oklahoma taxpayers, thanks soooooo much. 

To be fair, the newspaper noted that Gov. Fallin does pay for most of her own meals while traveling, which is good. And she has been a frugal traveler on many other occasions, the Oklahoman reported.

That's as it should be. But what sticks in our craw is the governor's insistence that the state has to tighten its belt and live within its means.

If that's what Gov. Fallin really believes, she's already failed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dr. Tom's Fantasies: Sen. Coburn Plays the (Bogus) Anarchy Card

AltTulsa has been AWOL this election season—so many other projects!—but it's not too late to remind Sooner state voters of the nuttiness of our current political leaders.

We're thinking of Sen. Tom Coburn's town hall meeting a couple of months ago when the good senator went just a tad overboard in some of his—we hesitate to use the word—judgments.

Speaking to a crowd at the University of Tulsa in August, Dr. Tom rounded up the usual suspects—the federal government is too big, Obama's too weak—but he got more than a little hyperbolic over Attorney General Eric Holder.

"I've never seen less regard for the rule of law than in this administration," Coburn said."Respect for the law is what holds this country together. This administration has set about to destroy that." Coburn continues, "That's how anarchy starts." 

Destroying the rule of law! Anarchy! Yes, indeed, it's all Eric Holder's fault!

But Coburn didn't stop there. Oh no. Holder, he continued, was an "inappropriate person" to be the attorney general. And this: Holder will turn out to be "one of the worst attorney generals in our nation's history."

This is a popular Wingnut talking point, endlessly promoted by the blowhards on talk radio, but—like Coburn's charge—it is notably short actual evidence of "anarchy" and lawlessness.

It's also evidence of Dr. Tom's highly political memory. Unless our math is wrong, Dr. Tom was an adult during the Nixon administration. Does the name "Watergate" ring a bell? Anyone? Or how about the name of Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell? He's the one who went to jail for his part in the Watergate scandal.

Seems like Richard Nixon and John Mitchell would be great candidates for Dr. Tom's charges of anarchy and lawlessness. On that point, the good senator was selectively silent.

Understatement of the Week: Barresi Bombs

AltTulsa's nomination for the Political Understatement of the Week, from today's Tulsa World. The topic: Oklahoma School Superintendent Janet ("My Way or the Highway") Barresi. 
Barresi becoming political hot potato 
Ya think?

Rep. Sullivan's Far-Too-Sentimental Swan Song

First District Rep. John Sullivan got "primaried" this year—a conservative Republican defeated for reelection by an even more conservative (read: wingnut) Republican, Jim (Tea Party) Bridenstine. 

So Sullivan's going away, but not before a sentimental journey through his brilliant (cough, cough) political career. Sullivan wants the good people of Tulsa to know he's delivered—bringing federal dollars to the First District. 

That was Sullivan's message last month when he spoke to the Tulsa Metro Chamber, touting federal earmarks as his political legacy. The improvements to Interstate 44 in Tulsa, Sullivan said, are an example of federal money that has helped the community. "I will never apologize for that," Sullivan said.

Oh wait. Conservative Republicans like Sullivan are supposed to hate federal spending. It's undermining the nation, they scream. We need a balanced budget, they shout.

That's the party line. But Sullivan, like a lot of GOP pols, wants it both ways. He wants to rail against taxes and federal spending at the same time he's working the system to bring home the pork to Tulsa.

And then there's this: Sullivan got a standing ovation after his talk to the Chamber. That was mighty nice of the assembled business folks, mighty nice indeed. Guess they forgot about Sullivan's time at the Betty Ford Clinic in California. That's part of the congressman's legacy as well.

Big State Dollars: Gov. Fallin's Taxpayer-Funded Travel Totals More than a Quarter Million

Gov. Mary Fallin is on the road again. Or so it seems.

Yes, Sooner fans, The Oklahoman has looked into the governor's travel schedule and discovered the governor's travels over the last 21 months have cost taxpayers a whopping $273,000.  
Nice work if you can get it.

The Oklahoman's story, reported in the Tulsa World, shows that Travelin' Mary has been flying off to such places as Boone Pickens' ranch (in the hated state of Texas!), Arizona (for important OU and OSU football games) and Jolly Ole England (promoting the state's aerospace industry).

Oh, and there was that trip to Ireland for her daughter's wedding. That trip cost taxpayers $13,300 for security, the Oklahoman reported.

And the trips keep on keepin' on; read all the details here.

Remember when the governor called for austerity in state spending? If so, you're doing better than Travelin' Mary. For her, it's do as I say—and never mind what I do.