Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2020

Free Speech Blacklists Pose a Threat to Democracy

Many second amendment supporters fear that one day, gun control advocates will use state gun registries as a shopping list to find and steal all the privately-owned guns. These fears seem well-founded, especially in light of recent comments by certain candidates for the presidency. But there is another kind of registry we should be just as concerned about: free speech registries. Does that concept sound familiar? Perhaps not. It’s terrible branding, if you're a proponent of such measures. Much better to stoke public fears with words like “ dark money .” But make no mistake, when politicians and special interest groups talk about donor disclosure for nonprofits, this is what they envision – a list of people against whom they can retaliate for speech they dislike – a blacklist.   When a nonprofit interferes with your grand political scheme, it’s easier to bully their individual donors than it is the full time employees. Employees don’t have to fear for their employment i

A Teacher Walkout Leader’s Distorted View of School Choice

The Tulsa World recently published a piece by a leader of the teacher walkout a few years ago predictably opposing Governor Stitt’s proposal to expand the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program. There is much to take issue with in the piece, which is full of disinformation, but perhaps the most preposterous claim is the following: You’ve probably also heard of “school choice.” The term is extremely misleading because it implies that parents don’t have a choice, when the reality is every parent already has school choice for their child. Parents can choose to send their child to a public school, private school, religious school or even home school. School choice isn’t about giving parents more options. It’s about using taxpayer dollars to give wealthy families a discount on their choice of school. (emphasis added) Try telling that to the truancy officer. The model of public education in America is that we assign every student to a government school base

Spending Big on Public Education

Well, it’s not quite a record, but it’s close. Last school year (2018-19), per-pupil spending on public education in Oklahoma reached $10,000 (rounded by $4 and adjusted to 2015 dollars), only a little behind the zenith reached ten years earlier. That year (2008-2009), the federal government threw money at banks and states in an effort to reverse the beginning of the Great Recession. Across the nation, public education was at first insulated from the recession’s effects while taxpayers suffered job and home losses. But now, despite a gradual decline in public education funding for several years, Oklahoma’s public education spending has speedily and fully recovered, and then some. For several years, per-pupil spending in Oklahoma public schools fell to levels last seen in the 1990s. But then, two years ago, Oklahoma’s legislators apparently resolved to show they could spend as freely as any before them. Funding had recovered almost to the level seen in 2000 (see the chart).  

How to Fix OKC’s Transit: Get Rid of It

As a new resident of Oklahoma City's downtown, I have had the "privilege" of getting acquainted with the city's public transit system. I don't have a car, so I rely on alternative means of transportation; so far, none of the public options have impressed me. The streetcar is pretty, but I walk faster than it generally moves to my destinations and have yet to benefit from it. The buses aren't much better, so I have resorted to private solutions like Lyft to get around town.  Unfortunately, my experience with OKC's public transit system isn't unique. Sadly, public transportation often doesn't work all that well, especially given the cost. Only 20 percent of OKC residents are satisfied with the city's public transportation system, according to OKC's most recent survey of residents. Any private sector service with numbers that low would be starved for business, creating room in the market for a better company to provide service to cons

Muddy, Shallow Thinking Versus Clarity in Education Reform

Monopolies are the best! If we are to gain maximum efficiency and create the greatest value for people, monopoly is the way to go. Competition creates administrative inefficiency since instead of one set of managers, there are as many as there are companies, and all of them cost money. Competitive companies make products that do the same basic things, but waste resources by making products with different features. Standardized products would save money. Were research and development under one roof, instead of many competitive ones, researchers could coordinate more closely, saving money and ultimately being even more innovative. Monopolies would therefore benefit everyone. Everything in the first paragraph is, of course, balderdash . Monopolies, especially those created by government, stifle innovation, develop bloated management, produce too little at low quality, and charge too much. Why? Because they can. They’re monopolists. Without competition and with nearly guaranteed

Lack of Transparency by the Oklahoma Supreme Court Continues to Amaze

Squirrels hide acorns for the winter by burying them in the dirt. It is somewhat amusing to watch squirrels in Florida engage in this little ritual, since they live in a place where there is no winter coming. It’s just what squirrels do. They are programmed to hide their nuts. The Oklahoma Supreme Court seems to have a similar modus operandi: the Court’s default is to hide its actions from public view, even when there is no reason to. Allow me to explain. The Court recently heard a legal challenge to an initiative petition that seeks to change how Oklahoma draws its legislative and congressional districts (spoiler alert for a future post: the redistricting initiative is a terrible idea). The Court scheduled the case for oral argument on January 21 of this year in the ceremonial courtroom in the State Capitol building.   This may sound routine, but for the Oklahoma Supreme Court, it is notable. Unlike most appellate courts in the country, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ve

No License, Sherlock: Licensing for Private Investigators

What does a private investigator do? Surely, we’re all familiar with various movies and shows featuring the exciting adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Magnum PI. However, reality is often disappointing, and the fact is private investigation is usually dull and relatively safe. Private investigators are tasked with conducting surveillance and fact-finding missions for their clients, but they gain no special powers to do so.  My recent paper deals with the licensing of private investigators. Oklahoma’s private investigator licenses are governed by the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET), which follows the advice of a committee made up of people who run private investigative agencies. Improved competition is not likely to be in the best interest of these agencies, so it is questionable whether they should be in a gate-keeping position they could easily turn to their advantage. Private Investigators must undergo a series of trainings and pass an

Senator Sanders Misses the Mark On Oklahoma Education

Minimum Wage for Teachers Senator Sanders recently wrote an op-ed for the Oklahoman. Among other radical ideas, he proposes a federal minimum wage for teachers of $60,000. In a free market, a minimum wage hurts those who earn less than the minimum wage. If they can’t produce more value than the minimum wage, they will be unemployable. For teachers, who operate in a regulated market, it will still be more difficult for inexperienced teachers to find a job. Incentives to pursue further training and education, or to take on additional roles like advising clubs or coaching sports will be diminished. Or perhaps young teachers will be required to take on one or more of these extracurricular activities to justify their higher cost.   Lost in the promise of a minimum wage is the idea that the best teachers should be paid the most. Instead, most public school teachers in Oklahoma are paid in lockstep - meaning that an outstanding teacher makes the same as a mediocre teacher with th