Archive for June, 2014

Lawsuit Threatens To Redact the Repeal of Common Core

State Capitol bulding of OklahomaHold the phone! HB 3399, which repealed Common Core standards in the state of Oklahoma, is the subject of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a group of parents, teachers, members of the State Board of Education, and former US Attorney General Robert McCampbell. The lawsuit challenges the repeal, calling it unconstitutional because HB 3399 gives the state legislature power to review and amend, or otherwise disapprove of curriculum drafted by the education board.

HB 3399 (PDF) directs school districts “to develop and implement curriculum, courses and instruction” in place of those required by Common Core. It also calls for “the State Board of Education to adopt English Language Arts and Mathematics standards.” I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds like the control is left with the education board, and merely supervised by the legislature.

An amendment to the bill struck language calling for the Board to implement curriculum, and instead calls for it to adopt subject matter standards while individual school districts develop the curriculum. It returns power to local schools, giving them control over the content and methods of education, while encompassing a broad description of what types of courses must be included, often referencing other existing state law.

Section 3 gives the legislature power to review the Board’s standards, but the word “curriculum” was struck from the original language of the bill. The legislature does not control curriculum under this law. It also requires the board to receive certification from the State Board of Regents, who are appointed in successive terms by the Governor, according to the Oklahoma Constitution.

What comes under scrutiny in the lawsuit is Section 4 of the bill, which calls for the legislature to review the new standards prior to their implementation. Without Section 4, the education board could draft any standards it wished, essentially even copying Common Core, and the entire law would have no effect. Section 4 gives HB 3399 teeth, and ensures the intent of the law is carried out.

McCampbell requested the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision be expedited, and a hearing is currently set for July 14, 2014.

BONUS MATERIAL

Here’s my favorite part of the bill. It’s Section 3, Subsection D, Paragraph 3:

3. The State Department of Education may participate in a multistate or multigovernmental cooperative pursuant to the requirements of the Oklahoma Central Purchasing Act, but shall not bind the state, contractually or otherwise, to the authority of any other state, organization or entity which may supersede the authority of the State Board of Education.
Isn’t that just beautiful? So Oklahoma may collaborate with other states in order to enhance our education process, but our sovereignty remains intact.

And finally, the Oklahoma State Constitution states in Article 13, Section 1, “The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated,” and in Section 5, “Section 5 – creates board of education whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law. “The supervision of instruction in the public schools shall be vested in a Board of Education, whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.”

For more Oklahoma, Texas, and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and Ryan Hill’s Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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Oklahoma Republican Primary Recap

All right Standard Excellence readers! Round one of primaries are over in Oklahoma for the 2014 mid-term elections, and I’m a little exhausted.

Let’s have a quick recap, shall we?

All incumbent US Representatives facing primary challengers won last night. Both Republican Senate nominations have been decided, though the Democratic race is headed to a runoff. Joy Hoffmeister easily won her bid for the Republican nomination for State School Superintendent. A few state House & Senate races will have runoffs, along with the 5th District Congress.

I’m happy to report that Clark Jolley will not be included in that runoff, though I am sad to report that neither Randy Brogdon nor T.W. Shannon will be representing Oklahoma in the Senate. It’s not the best news of the week, but I’m sure we will all get over it.

Expectations vs. Outcome

With the exception of the Senate race, which I though would go to a runoff, the races turned out about like I expected last night. For the most part, things did turn out about like I expected them to, but my hope for the Senate race was that T.W. Shannon would win enough support to force a runoff. Meanwhile, I knew picking Randy Brogdon was a bit of a lost cause.

Back in 2010, I had really hoped Brogdon would’ve become our next Governor. He had a good run, and came closer than many would have thought possible in the primary. Ultimately he lost to Mary Fallin, who easily defeated her Democrat opponent in what was a landslide year for Republicans in Oklahoma. Practically every Republican won. It was a good year in so many ways, and could be called the year of the Tea Party nationwide.

Now how did the candidate who got 39% of the vote in a race against Mary Fallin manage to garner next to zero publicity on this one? I have lots of thoughts on that, so look for a piece reflecting on his losses (and that of Shannon) soon.

From the very start, beginning with early voting and absentee ballots, James Lankford held a moderately strong lead through the end of the night, when at about 8:30 the AP called the race in his favor. My congratulations go out to Mr. Lankford, and I don’t think he’ll have much trouble in November.

Superintendent

I’m very pleased with the results of the State Superintendent primary. Joy Hoffmeister easily won the GOP nomination, with a resounding 57.6% of the vote. Barresi came in third place, just behind a somewhat unknown Brian Kelly, each of whom ended up with 20%. So the incumbent State School Superintendent who brought Common Core to our state wound up in last place. I would call that a pretty strong message.

I know a lot of teachers who have not been at all happy with the way things have gone the last few years in Oklahoma education. Last night their voice was heard loud and clear. Centralized education was not good for our state, and has failed us for long enough. Now that the Common Core standards have been repealed, it’s time for a Superintendent who believes in something better. That is the way to truly raise our standards and prepare our state’s youth for the challenges of tomorrow.

Governor

Mary Fallin won the nomination. What, did you expect anything different?

She did have opponents, however, and even without any significant funding that I’m aware of, they managed to acquire 25% of the vote between the two. Not everyone is happy with Fallin’s governorship, but enough people are either not paying attention or don’t understand that she has had to be continuously pushed in a conservative direction since taking office that she had no trouble keeping Republican voters happy.

Senate

James Lankford on stage at Tea Party rallyJim Inhofe easily won his re-nomination also.

Here’s a quick breakdown on the unexpired term special election, to replace outgoing Senator Tom Coburn. In all three categories (absentee ballots, early voting, election day) James Lankford held a strong lead. Randy Brogdon, who had grassroots support, though nothing on the level of his 2010 campaign for Governor, only managed to pull in 4.8% of the vote. My skepticism remains on whether that would be different were he included in News9’s debate/questionnaire held the Wednesday before the election, especially given he would have provided a contrast between the close-to-identical policy positions of Lankford and Shannon. Much more could be said, but either way his campaign was run on a shoestring budget for a statewide race, and the grassroots are markedly less rallied and motivated than they were in 2010.

All in all, Lankford came out with a strong show of support, and T.W. Shannon has thrown his support behind him, issuing this highly gentlemanly statement.

Other Races

I have a ton of races I want to cover, and will do so in the coming days as there are a number of runoffs. Unfortunately, I also have this pesky full-time job that occupies most of my creative energy, and I also like to eat occasionally. Let me quickly state that I’m pleased with Kevin Calvey’s win amongst a pool of several other Republicans. There is no Democrat challenger, so he will be returning to the state legislature. State Senate District 40 will go to a runoff between Ervin Yen and Steve Kern (yes, that’s the husband of Sally Kern, and pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in Oklahoma City). The winner of that runoff will face Democrat Chad Caldwell, but Republican voter turnout was more than double, so my logical instincts would lead me to believe the seat will go to the winner of the runoff.

If you are interested in the results of another race, the Oklahoma State Election Board has all the results available online.

As the election year goes on, look for more coverage of local and statewide elections, and as always: for more Oklahoma, Texas, and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and Ryan Hill’s Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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Oklahoma Senate Primary

In three days, the currently crowded Republican candidate landscape will be reduced to one or two in each race. I think the Senate (non-expired term, replacing Senator Tom Coburn) will go to a runoff, based on polling data I’ve seen recently.

The News9 poll sampled 580 likely voters in May, of which 33.8% said they would support James Lankford, 31.9% T.W. Shannon, and a meager 4.5% Randy Brogdon. This was over a month ago, but was the basis for their choosing of candidates to participate in their televised debate.

Other polling data suggests each of the two front-runners could be ahead of the other, so any way you slice it I believe we’re headed to a Senate runoff.

Given this, and given you have 3 days to make up your mind if you plan to vote on Tuesday, it would be helpful to know a little bit about what distinguishes these candidates.

There’s actually 7 candidates here. I would love to go in depth on all of them, but time will not allow. Instead I’ll focus on the three I consider the most viable and give you links on the rest.

Disclaimer/Forewarning

It just so happens that I know all three of these candidates to some degree. Honestly, I like all of them on a personal level. They each have their strong points, and all at least claim to believe in states’ rights. The extent of that conviction and others might be a point of dispute, but at least on paper they all agree the federal government has taken power that does not belong to it, which power should be returned to the states. They also all agree spending is out of control and the budget needs to be balanced, and that the federal government should not have control over education. You’ll find some differences in the area of foreign policy

What follows, however, doesn’t really have anything to do with my opinions of their personalities, or whether they might be “a family man” or anything along those lines. It has more to do with their records. After all, they’re running for Senate, the highest legislative body in the United States, and what they’re going to do there is what really matters. I’m not going to sugar coat my opinions or cut anyone slack for their shortcomings. We can’t afford shortcomings in the Senate right now. It’s vital that things change there, so please keep this in mind as you read on.

Controversy

Some “attack ads” have been circulating in this primary round.

What? Oh no! I can’t believe it, this is so out of the ordinary and unthinkable!

Retiring Senator Tom Coburn has weighed in to condemn the ads, and just so everyone knows, he is condemning the ads against both Shannon and Lankford. It’s not just a one-sided thing. I’ve seen a lot of people saying they don’t want to vote for Shannon because of his attack ad. Well that’s a pretty ignorant opinion, because first of all, an attack ad shouldn’t be your basis for voting, and second, Lankford supporters have the ads as well.

Just stay out of the mud. It’s ridiculous to base your vote on who is nice and who is mean. Base your vote on substance.

Fundraising: Lankford has raised nearly twice as much as Shannon. That’s not really a controversy, but it’s worth being aware of.

In my research, I have come to the conclusion that all three candidates lack communication skills in speaking to Generation Y. Don’t believe me? Check out their websites (in the text below) and look for the bullet points. The bumper sticker slogans. The three-word chants. Where are they?! In this age, a prospective voter should be able to click on a link, and look at tweet-sized descriptions of policy positions. In fact, I’m thinking about volunteering to do the first ever Vine campaign for the entire Republican party come November. I’m just saying.

Shannon comes the closest, with collapsible topics on his issues page. Brogdon at least has them all on one page, while Lankford gives each issue its own dedicated page.

But don’t worry, I’ve condensed things to bullet points for you. You’re welcome. Now here’s the candidates…

James Lankford

Congressman James Lankford (R-OK) Though he could have run for his house seat again, once Coburn announced his retirement, James Lankford was quick to throw his hat in the ring for Senate. The current Congressman has been quite popular since his election in 2010.

I do like Lankford. I’ve known him for a few years now, and am happy with most of the work he’s done as a Congressman. His family is also very nice, and a man’s family can tell you a lot about him.

Though he doesn’t explicitly say it on the website, I think he opposes Common Core. It’s primarily a state issue, but he is opposed to federal intrusions into education in general, and says education is a state issue.

During the televised debate on News 9, Lankford had to back up a few times when questioned about the national debt. He says he’s not responsible for the debt, and if he is, then so are Inhofe and Coburn. Though he is not single-handedly responsible for our national debt and has, in fact, worked to reduce the deficit, he did vote for three separate debt ceiling increases, and lost the support of FreedomWorks partially as a result.

In his defense, on his website he points out, “In the past three years, we have cut the federal single year deficit in half, but we still have a long way to go.” Also, in the past he told me even the “most aggressive” budget, which was Rand Paul’s at the time, wouldn’t balance for a number of years. That is true.

However, two paragraphs later on the same webpage, he says, “Our grandparents would have NEVER said, ‘times are tough, I think I will make life tougher for my children and grandchildren so it will be easier on me.'” I call that a contradiction, because every vote to increase the debt ceiling is a vote to make life tougher for our children, and ourselves.

  • Opposes amnesty.
  • Has fought to uncover the truth on Benghazi and Fast & Furious.
  • Opposes nuclear Iran.
  • Says every area of budget could be reduced and have waste eliminated.
  • Wants food stamps to be only for food, and would recipients to qualify and to work.
  • Cosponsor of fair tax in the House, but is more optimistic about simplifying existing tax code.
  • Opposes federal control over education. I haven’t specifically heard him say he opposes Common Core, but that’s the impression I get.
  • 63% Constitutional Record according to Sooner Tea Party.
  • 74% Lifetime Score with FreedomWorks. Voted Yea on H.R. 325 in 2013 to increase the debt limit. Also voted to increase the debt in 2011 (S. 365). Subsequently voted Nay on passage of S. 540 in 2014 (to not increase the debt limit).
  • Has repeatedly voted to repeal, replace, or inhibit Obamacare.
  • Endorsed by Mike Huckabee, Dan Newberry, Darrell Issa, Trey Gowdy

Randy Brogdon

Oklahoma Senate Candidate Randy BrogdonMy, oh my, this man could have been my Governor right now. He really could. He came close in 2010, with 39% of the primary vote. Compared to Mary Fallin’s 54%, it wasn’t really all that close, but was still a significant showing, and enough to get his name wide out in the open. Initially, he was going to run for Governor again in this election, but when Coburn’s seat opened up, Randy Brogdon switched gears and organized a Senate campaign.

I met him at one of the original TEA parties, back when TEA meant Taxed Enough Already, and we rallied without much of an agenda other than being fed up with the overreach of Washington. They were formative days for a movement that is still very much alive, and from that movement emerged a State Senator who really believed in the principles of liberty and Constitutional government. I was very excited and threw my support behind him.

I truly hope I’m underestimating his chances, because I love where this man stands on most issues, and he has a record to back it up (in no particular order here):

  • For traditional marriage. In Oklahoma this should help his campaign. I lean toward non-government marriage, but this is by no means a campaign issue for me. Let’s take care of $17.5 trillion first.
  • Opposes amnesty.
  • Opposes worldwide military overreach, but not an isolationist, as some might call it. I would call him a reductionist.
  • Supports Connie Mack “penny plan” – save 1 penny out of every dollar of federal spending. Would balance budget in 8 years, according to Connie Mack.
  • Repeal 16th Amendment (that means eliminate income tax), abolish the IRS.
  • Says entire federal budget would be $800 billion if returned to Constitutional spending, and could operate on tariffs.
  • 95% Constitutional voting record according to Sooner Tea Party.
  • Endorsed by OCPAC (Oklahoma Conservative PAC).

T.W. Shannon

T.W. Shannon speaking at Republican dinnerShannon has received an endorsement from FreedomWorks, an organization I’ve worked alongside before and have highly respected for years. Their endorsement means a lot to me, but as with all critical thinking processes, is not my only measure of whether I support a candidate.

Shannon co-authored the bill that repealed Common Core, and has said and done many things as Speaker of the House that I really liked. For example, when a bill was presented that would make texting while driving illegal, his response was that “distracted driving is already illegal,” and therefore did not need new laws. If you’re reading this you are probably already aware that he was the first African-American Speaker in Oklahoma. You may not know the he is also very tall, looks great in a suit, and used to work for a business consulting firm that I also did work for, which is where I met him before he was in the state legislature.

  • Opposes amnesty
  • Does not want Iran to be allowed to produce nuclear power/weaponry.
  • Has FreedomWorks endorsement, as well as that of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Mark Levin.
  • Opposes government intrusions on privacy in the name of security (presumably opposing legislation like SOPA, PIPA, CISPA).
  • Wants to abolish EPA and let states manage environmental issues.
  • Wants to increase defense spending.
  • Wants to balance budget without increasing taxes. (Seems like a bit of a contradiction compared to the previous statement, but nonetheless this is what he said.)
  • Prefers Fair Tax.
  • 43% Constitutional voting record according to Sooner Tea Party. 74% score according to Oklahoma Constitution Newspaper’s Conservative Index.

Bonus links:

Shannon & Common Core

JC Watts Defends Shannon

The Other Candidates

Also participating in the debate were Kevin Crow, Andy Craig, Eric McCray. Jason Weger is a candidate but did not participate. I have a few brief notes from what I gathered about Crow, Craig, and McCray, who have surprisingly difficult names to distinguish over AM radio.

McCray – balanced budget amendment, gold/commodity standard, end the Fed, use excise taxes & tariffs instead of income tax.

Craig – would entertain a flat tax, but prefers Fair Tax.

Crow – this guy yells a lot. Sounds mad. Complained about money in the *cough cough* more well-funded campaigns, and said “We’re not having an auction, we’re having an election!” Yelled about some sort of bubble. Has son named Cato, and would entertain naming a second son the same so that he could be the proud father of Cato the Elder and Cato the Younger. Overall an entertaining fellow, but probably not fit for office at this time.

For the full broadcast of the Senate debate, you can visit the Lee Matthews podcast.

I Conclude Thusly

Thusly isn’t a word. I’m just trying to fit in with Millennials.

T.W. Shannon is a great guy, and would probably do a decent to pretty good job should he win the election in November. I’d be happy to have him as Oklahoma’s next Senator, but he is not the grassroots candidate, and cannot be my first pick. That title (my first pick and grassroots candidate) must go to Randy Brogdon.

Randy Brogdon is the only candidate that has consistently shown he will stand for the Constitution, reduce or eliminate taxes, and stand up to pressure from Democrats and fellow Republicans when they go the wrong direction. And for that he has my support and endorsement.

Unfortunately, grassroots may be the only support he has, and time has taught me that in this state, we don’t have enough grass, or there aren’t enough roots (however that should go…) to win a statewide election. I remain hopeful that there’s more support for Brogdon in the eastern parts of the state than the Oklahoma City area where I am.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my long-winded approach to yet another candidate review. Look for some brief endorsements or voting guides in the next two days, and of course continuing coverage of Oklahoma and national politics here on Standard Excellence.

For more Oklahoma, Texas, and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and Ryan Hill’s Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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Meet the 5th District Congressional Candidates

About a week ago I made it to a 5th Congressional District candidate forum. All but one of the 6 Republican contenders were present, and each had the opportunity to answer submitted questions relevant to the race. This was my first exposure to some of them, so it was good for me to meet a few of them and hear from them all directly.

Oklahoma Candidates for 5th Distict Congress

Candidates for Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District 2014: Shane Jett, Harvey Sparks, Patrice Douglas, Steve Russell, Clark Jolley

With the primary coming up in ten days – that’s June 24, 2014 – it’s pretty important that you know who you’re voting for. So please, allow me to shed a little light from my perspective! I’m not telling anyone who to vote for or making any endorsements, but I’ll let you know what I think about each of the six contenders to replace Congressman James Lankford. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can We Stop the Next Shooting?

police briefing after school shootingToday started like any other American Tuesday, and the alarming reality of yet another school shooting has flashed across the national newswire.

It’s become a rather common story: School Shooting. X Students, Gunman Dead. Some crazed teenager or lonely adult decides they can’t take it anymore, load up on ammunition, and often with a stolen firearm unload on someone or someones at a place that is supposed to be a sort of safe haven. And for a day or two, maybe a week if it’s bad enough, the cable news channels will be covering every aspect of the event, from the motivation of the gunman to 3D breakdowns of just how things unfolded.

But I wonder, just how of this even seems real to us anymore? Read the rest of this entry »

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An Update From Standard Excellence

Recently you may have noticed a lull in the posting frequency here at Standard Excellence. You may have also noticed a lull in the number of writers. Both of these observations would be quite astute.

In fact it’s been quite a busy year, and due to a number of factors it’s been a little difficult to keep up with articles on the website. I like to do third person newsy type stories, where I cover local political stories from a liberty-minded perspective, and in some cases attend events and report on things that may get little newspaper attention. All of this takes time and transportation.

With car troubles dominating the first quarter of the year, and all the breakdowns I had last year, money’s been a bit tight, forcing me to limit how much extra driving I’m doing outside my 15-mile daily work commute. Texas has been out of the question, and what’s more, I don’t have another writer in Texas anymore. I’m still very sad about that. Long story short, I just haven’t been able to keep up with Standard Excellence like I’d like to.

So I needed something to change. Something new, something different. Something more exciting! Read the rest of this entry »

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