The new year brings with it the promise of new beginnings. A chance to reset. To do better. In that spirit, 1889 offers the following resolutions to policymakers across the state.
1. Reduce occupational licensing
This originally read “End (or greatly reduce) occupational licensing,” but let’s be a little more realistic. If Oklahoma would even start moving the right direction (that is, shrinking the number of occupations for which a license is required, instead of growing it), it would be a huge win for the state. It would improve the overall economy. It would allow more people to find a job they are good at. Government rarely gets a shot at such an obvious win-win.
2. Reduce the number of branches of government to a manageable number.
We will follow John Adams’ lead and suggest only three – legislative, executive, and judiciary – and recommend getting rid of the TSET, the Corporation Commission, and the host of other independent agencies with unelected oversight in Oklahoma. Agencies with no accountability to the executive or the legislature end up forgetting they are ultimately accountable to voters and taxpayers. When they don’t have to convince the legislature to fund them every year, and don’t answer for their jobs to the governor, agencies run amok and pursue their own goals.
3. Teach students to read.
As 1889 has previously written, the evidence shows that phonics works for (nearly) every student. Whole word instruction does not.
4. Open up school choice for all.
We know that competition brings out the best in businesses. Why should schools be any different? And why should state funding
be used to prop up failing local school districts? Let parents decide what school is right for their kids – whether it’s their local public school, a school in a nearby district, charter, or private.
5. Prioritize classrooms when creating school budgets.
Research shows that past a certain minimum funding threshold, additional education dollars do very little to improve education outcomes, unless they are properly directed. There does not need to be a separate non-teaching employee for every teacher.
6. Encourage high school students to graduate with 60 hours of college credit through policy changes.
This is the lowest hanging fruit on this list. Between Advanced Placement, CLEP, and online schools offering dual enrollment, every interested student should be able to leave high school with an associate’s degree, saving two years of tuition and getting them into the work force two years earlier.
7. Fix the courts.
about this one a lot. It starts with selecting the right judges. This requires a better selection method, including public access to the process and the right selection criteria, such as a commitment to interpreting the law, not creating policy. 1889 Institute favors a selection method based on the federal method where the governor nominates and the senate confirms, with a single, long term – somewhere in the range of 18 – 20 years.
8. Stop gambling on ways to bring the next big big thing to Oklahoma.
By the time plodding bureaucrats get the next big thing, developed elsewhere, to come here, its pinnacle has already passed. Instead, make the state welcoming to all businesses. Create low tax rates with a broad bases. Preferably, eliminate the work-discouraging income tax. Taxation discourages the taxed activity. Production is hard. Consumption is easy. Taxing consumption will interfere less in the free market – consumers are less likely to under-consume because consumption is easy.
10. Set measurable goals for outcomes when creating or renewing spending programs.
Assume for a minute that eventually we really do run out of other people’s money. Shouldn’t we prioritize spending programs that do what they’re supposed to? Isn’t a good way of knowing which programs work to attach measurable outcomes to the spending, and measure those outcomes year after year? And wouldn’t it make sense to kill programs that don’t work or don’t work well enough to justify their cost?
Oklahoma, we can do better this year.
Mike Davis is a Research Fellow at 1889 Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.