keep the film rebate

The Outsiders, Twister, Rumble Fish, The Grapes of Wrath ... You’ve probably heard of these films, and know that they were shot, at least in part, in Oklahoma. What you probably don’t know is that the film industry in Oklahoma is growing at a rapid pace, bringing jobs and money to our state, largely thanks to a $5 million tax rebate program our state has. That rebate program has recently come under attack with the introduction of Senate Bill 1623, which aims to do away with most tax incentives that Oklahoma offers.

According to Chris Freihofer (member of the Casting Society of America, owner and operator of Freihofer Casting in Norman), he cast seven feature films out of his office in 2011 alone. Freihofer supplied dozens of principal roles and thousands of paid extras. The Motion Picture Association of America reports that Oklahoma film generated $168.5 million in wages over the course of 2009-10, and a 2010 economic study by Oklahoma City University reported that the state’s film industry generated $11.8 million for 157 full-time positions. The MPAA also reports that 4,699 people were employed by films in Oklahoma.

Should Oklahoma film incentives be cut, it is estimated that the state will lose most of its film industry. According to the Oklahoma Film & Music Commission, the state lost out on six films, including the Warner Bros. production, Thunderstruck, due to the incentive cap having been already met. Many more films will pass us by if the rebates are cut entirely.

A quick look at the upcoming films in Oklahoma brings excitement to members of the industry in Oklahoma. The film adaptation of August: Osage County is set to begin scouting for locations in Oklahoma soon. A film about Oklahoma native and World War II paratrooper Jake McNiece is currently in pre-production, with the producers rumored to be scouting Oklahoma locations. The producers of Just Crazy Enough are in talks to produce another movie in Oklahoma in 2012, and many low-budget independent films are set to begin production in the coming year. If the tax incentive program is repealed, Oklahoma will lose out on these productions, as well as many national and regional commercials.

The MPAA reports that Louisiana, which has no incentive cap, generated $308.7 million in wages and 7,632 jobs over the course of 2009-10. North Carolina, sporting a $20 million per feature cap, reported 9,280 jobs and $200.5 million in wages. Texas reported $1.5 billion in wages and 41,269 jobs in the same period. In stark contrast to these three states, Arizona — which generated $329 million over 2009-2010 — has reported a sharp drop in its revenue from film since cutting its incentive program in 2010. Though exact numbers are still lacking, some estimates put the decline at more than $100 million in lost wages.

If SB 1623 passes, the 157 (and growing) permanent jobs in film production will shrink dramatically, and the $168 million will all but disappear. Despite Oklahoma film growing steadily, our lawmakers are poised to throw away $168 million industry to save $5 million. No matter how the math is done, this doesn’t add up.

—J. Alan Davidson Tulsa

Blinded to science

Oklahoma has received a second consecutive “F” for its science teaching standards from the Fordham Foundation, resulting in much commentary about the need to improve those standards. All the states bordering Oklahoma received a higher grade.

Certainly, this must be a serious concern for Oklahoma.

How concerned is the Legislature?

Anti-science creationist inspired bills — House Bill 1551 authored by Sally Kern and Senate Bill 1742 by Josh Brecheen — are currently being considered. These would ostensibly promote “critical thinking, logical analysis and open and objective discussion of scientific theories,” primarily evolution, among others. They promote the use of supplemental textbooks and instructional materials.

The authors of these bills are ignorant of science. Brecheen’s comments concerning evolution (News, “Evolving debate”, Oklahoma Gazette, Feb. 22) is just one example: There are no credible scientists “who harbor significant skepticism toward Darwinian Theory.” There are no renowned scientists asserting evolution is “laden with errors”. His claim that tax dollars are being used to teach the unknown is stunningly nonsensical.

There are about 17 million peerreviewed scientific research papers indexed at the National Library of Medicine, and none cast doubt on the science of evolution. None. The intention of the legislative authors is to facilitate the introduction of unscientific religious claims into science classes.

It’s noteworthy that the proponents of these bills have not mentioned “intelligent design” in their comments. Considerable propaganda exists claiming intelligent design is a nonreligious alternative to evolution. The Dover, Penn., school board was taken in by this lie. They were sued in federal court and lost, costing the community millions of dollars. The court determined intelligent design is religion. Attempts to project religious doctrine into science classrooms have a perfect record of losing First Amendment challenges in federal court. Let’s not do this to our children or Oklahoma.

—David Grow Edmond

Choosing school choice

In Karl Springer’s commentary (”No school takeover,” Gazette, March 21), the superintendent’s train analogy is accurate. In fact, it exemplifies the fundamental problem with public schooling, a monolithic one-track train.

Perhaps 40,000 kids shouldn’t be on the same train on the same track to begin with. A train is a vastly outmoded form of transportation for 40,000 children all traveling on different paths. The few bright spots in the OKC public schools are not the miserable performance of Douglass High School and the like but independently operated charter schools, or specialty schools like Classen School of Advanced Studies. Pity the unfortunate parents and children who don’t make the cut, as they should have more options.

The only feasible option for many faced with the dire situation of OKC public schools is to move. All of us know numerous caring parents who have uprooted from one place or decided against living in other places simply due to the schools. Has Mr. Springer ever wondered how entire OKC neighborhoods are affected when generation after generation of caring parents decide to uproot themselves from OKC neighborhoods just because of the school they would be stuck with?

Does this not contribute to suburban sprawl and the associated infrastructure costs? How many people have moved to Edmond, Deer Creek and now Piedmont, because of the schools? Look at the most recent census or just ask a Realtor.

Instead of a state takeover, how about a true parental takeover? Empower the typical parent of an OKC school child with choice and support the dreaded voucher. There will be thousands of failed educations before the latest and greatest plans you allude to saves the schools and any gains you make are contingent upon your successors. Have a heart, Mr. Springer, and make your and other administrative roles unnecessary. It’s fatal conceit to assume a handful of all-knowing bureaucrats can maximize the success of 40,000 children better than 40,000 sets of parents equipped with the power of choice and a voucher.

—Matthew Trimble Oklahoma City

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