Editor’s Notebook: Tinker a focal point, ObamaCare unpopular, “race to the top” critics, waiver worries

 Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation last week celebrated announcement that the Air Logistics Center (ALC) at Tinker Air Force base will become the focal point for Air Force sustainment and logistics.

However, the shift is part of a significant $450 billion spending cut over the next decade. Tinker and other Air Logistics Centers will lose employment as a result of the decision, but a joint press release from four members of the Oklahoma delegation explained “the impact of losses on Oklahoma will be less than in other states.”

The delegation was nonetheless critical of some aspects in the new arrangement that could undermine the speed and efficiency of aircraft repair and maintenance. Joining in the joint statement on the ALC announcement were U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe of Tulsa and Tom Coburn of Muskogee; and U.S. Reps. Tom Cole of Norman and James Lankford of Oklahoma City. 

According to their joint release, the Air Logistics Command at Tinker “repairs and maintains bomber, refueling and reconnaissance aircraft, among others. Many crucial airborne accessories also are maintained at the center, including life-support systems. The center provides cradle-to-grave support for a variety of aircraft, including the E-3 AWACS, C/KC-135, B-52 and B-1. It is responsible for depot-level repair, modifications, overhaul and functional check flight of the B-1, B-52, C/KC-135, E-3 and the Navy’s E-6 aircraft.

“Engines managed include a substantial inventory, from the older Pratt & Whitney TF33 to the state-of-the-art F119. Units: 72nd Air Base Wing, 76th Maintenance Wing and Aerospace Sustainment Directorate.”

The restructuring is moving quickly, Air Force officials said, and will be fully implemented by next October 1.

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Public opinion about the still-new federal health care law is astonishingly negative, and reached an all-time low level of support in the October tracking poll of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Critics of the law, including Jason Sutton of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) seized on the news Wednesday (November 2) as the latest evidence that the law headed for massive transformation or possible repeal.

The foundation reported only 34 percent of Americans surveyed now have a favorable view of the law, the lowest support since its enactment. An absolute majority of Americans (54 percent) view the law negatively. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s narrative accompanying today’s release noted:

“While Democrats continue to be substantially more supportive of the law than independents or Republicans, the change in favorability this month was driven by waning enthusiasm for the law among Democrats, among whom the share with a favorable view dropped from nearly two-thirds in September to just over half (52%) in October.”

Real Clear Politics, Sutton reported in a blog note, is tracking “shows how opposition to the law has steadily increased in the 19 months since the healthcare bill was passed and signed into law in March 2010.”

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Conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly delivered a pointed critique of the federal “Race to the Top” process for early childhood education grants. She characterized the grant process as “a bribe, pure and simple,” and said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was mistaken in pursuing the federal money.

Equally critical of the grant program, in a new policy briefing, are William A. Estrada and Melanie P. Pallazo of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Estrade and Pallzo wrote, “We believe the federal government has no business dictating education policy to parents, local school districts, and the states. In addition, we believe this focus on early education hurts parental choice, pushes children into an institutional setting far too early, and fails to improve student learning.”

The home school group has consistently opposed expansion of tax-financed pre-kindergarten schooling.

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 Advocates of school choice are fretting over the policy implications of a Washington Post news story highly critical of after-school tutoring programs, including those that allow students in need to access private programs.

This week’s release of the latest state “needs improvement” list, taken in conjunction with Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi’s determination to seek a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, has triggered concern that school choice, which has advanced incrementally in Oklahoma, could actually slip under Republican rule.

Superintendent Barresi has said her agency will seek one of the Obama administration’s waivers.