Roundup of Oklahoma editorials

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Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Journal Record, March 31, 2014

State dental care nothing to smile about

A trip to the dentist can mean little when it's a semiannual cleaning and exam. It can mean a lot more when it's a root canal. In either case, the important part is going, an act taken for granted by many.

But there are Oklahomans who haven't seen a dentist in a long time. Among the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the territories with available data, Oklahoma ranked last for dental visits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 56.7 percent of adults had been to the dentist in the past year, compared to a national average of 68.5 percent.

Gov. Brad Henry in 2007 organized a task force to study the state's oral health status and provide recommendations. The task force reported in 2009 that less than 20 percent of Medicaid-covered children had seen a dentist for preventive care in the preceding year. It also acknowledged that insurance coverage for dental care, while lagging behind medical insurance, had risen. Despite that, the ratio of children without dental coverage compared to those without health coverage was 2.6 to 1.

Twenty-one states have oral health programs that share $5.9 million per year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help strengthen their efforts. Oklahoma is not among them.

Fifty-eight percent of Oklahoma's third-graders have had some kind of tooth decay, and 22.6 percent of Oklahoma children that age have untreated tooth decay.

It's no better for Oklahoma seniors. Among those 65 and older, 54 percent have lost at least six teeth to decay, and 26.8 percent have lost all their teeth for the same reason.

Not-for-profit dental insurer Delta Dental of Oklahoma has a foundation that provides grants to free and low-cost dental clinics and programs to help provide care. It also engages in a lot of public awareness and award scholarships to dental students who intend to practice in Oklahoma.

On Wednesday, Aspen Dental's MouthMobile, a 42-foot dental office on wheels, will be in Oklahoma providing free dental care to people identified by Neighborhood Services Organization. And on Saturday, four Oklahoma Aspen Dental offices will offer free care to those in need who make an appointment.

Those are terrific programs, but the state needs more of those, and must heed the recommendations of the task force. Access to care, access to insurance and public education will lead to a healthier Oklahoma.

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The Oklahoman, March 31, 2014

Oklahoma students pay the price for educators' stunt

Don't be fooled by Monday's weather forecast in Oklahoma City — partly cloudy with the temperature about 80. For many of the state's public school districts, this is a snow day.

Yes, administrators and teachers will abandon their posts in order to converge in Oklahoma City, to tell lawmakers that common education funding is inadequate. Students, having already lost several days due to real snowstorms, will get another day off for no good reason.

Not one member of the Legislature is unaware of how public schools feel about education funding. Lawmakers understand that school budgets have been cut in recent years. But they also know the check written to common ed is always larger than any other government entity. And they're aware that no superintendent believes his or her district gets enough financial help from the state — ever.

Many Tulsa-area educators will be in attendance Monday. This isn't surprising, given that their administrators tend to be particularly vocal. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard has voiced concern about a proposed income tax cut and its potential impact on education funding. "I believe we need to come to the Capitol and say, 'There needs to be more funding for services," he said at a forum early this month.

Ballard was joined at the forum by Dave Lopez, interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools. Lopez won't be throwing the schoolhouse doors open Monday, a decision he called "a no-brainer" for several reasons.

One is that the district is working to make up the 10 days it lost to weather-related issues this school year. Adding one more day to the list would be counterproductive. The other reason, Lopez said last week, is that "the strategy of marching at the Capitol isn't always successful and sometimes backfires."

This one may not backfire. But it probably won't make much of a difference. It definitely will be a disservice to students who should be in school.

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Tulsa World, March 29, 2014

Sept. 11 conviction sends important message

The conviction of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is more than justice for his role in terrorism, it is a testament to the ability of the U.S. judicial system.

Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, was convicted last week of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists. He faces life in prison.

His capture last year and this conviction make him the most senior adviser to bin Laden to be tried in a civilian court since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Americans will remember Abu Ghaith as the man who sat alongside bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks and praised the terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania, and promised that there would be more attacks.

The trial lasted three weeks in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, with Abu Ghaith taking the stand in his own defense, and it took the jury two days to return its guilty verdict.

This trial is further testament that terrorists can be tried in a civilian courtroom with little distraction. In fact, the whole trial was low key.

It also sends an important message to the world that the United States stands for justice. Abu Ghaith got the fair trial that is promised in the Constitution and was found guilty by a jury of U.S. citizens.

There was no military court and no lingering sentence in the infamous Guantanamo prison facility. Abu Ghaith's trial was as swift as most any criminal trial in the United States.

Abu Ghaith received a fair trial and the verdict he deserved. And it tells the world that our system of justice works for everyone.

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