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Cole Mourns Loss of General Charles McGee

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Washington, D.C. — Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) issued the following statement in remembrance of Brigadier General Charles McGee, who recently passed away.

“We lost a true American hero over the weekend with the passing of Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee, who left a remarkable legacy during his 102 years on earth,” said Cole. “Not only did he serve as an airman who flew 409 fighter combat missions in three wars, he was also a known civil rights leader who fought for racial equality by bringing attention to the black pilots who served our country and encouraging several generations of young Americans to enlist for military service. 

“As a representative of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I had the distinct privilege of meeting and speaking at a ceremony honoring then-Colonel General McGee when he was a spry 92 years old. I was delighted to see him again just two years ago as one of the honored guests during the annual State of the Union address in the House chamber of our Capitol. During the speech, he was singled out by former President Donald Trump, who had promoted McGee to Brigadier General, recognizing also McGee’s great grandson, who wanted to become an astronaut and was seated with him. It was truly an amazing moment.

“General McGee was an amazing man — erect, sharp, confident, serene and unflappable. At the time of his retirement, he had flown more combat missions in three different wars than any other pilot in the history of the United States Air Force. It was a privilege to be in his company, shake his hand and thank him for his service to America. As a grateful nation, we will never forget his service. Indeed, it will continue to inspire generations to come.”

Toby Dawn Throws Angry Apples

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January 14, 2022 by Tom Deighan

Peanut, our chihuahua, must always visit the backyard first thing in the morning, especially since his bladder surgery. So, when an apple landed next to him in the grass the other morning, he sniffed it and hiked his little leg.  When the second and third apples landed in our yard, however, he ran for the pet door. “Shame, shame, shame!”  My lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre, was throwing apples over the fence at me. “Shame on you, Mr. Superintendent, for closing schools!” Apples are in short supply, so I immediately began gathering them up (except Peanut’s apple, of course). 

Like all of us, Toby Dawn McIntyre runs hot and cold on this issue. He has shamed me for opening schools, and he has now shamed me for closing them. But in fairness to Toby, I released a book this week about open schools, so I might deserve a few apples tossed my way. (Sweet irony!) Nevertheless, my book is not about shaming schools for opening or closing.  It is about raising awareness of the thousands of unknown schools in our nation that never closed preemptively or indefinitely due to COVID, so fearful districts can reopen permanently with confidence.  Eventually, Toby ran out of apples and calmly sat on our back porch, and Peanut happily hopped on his lap.

This is the first time Duncan voluntarily closed due to COVID, but we closed due to actual conditions, just as we have done for the flu, but this week was a triple-whammy of Flu, COVID, and other illnesses. On Wednesday morning, we hit critical mass. Staff and student absences were growing, and dedicated employees all over the district were coughing. Staying open was courting disaster, so I closed schools.  I am 100% accountable for this decision, so any apples tossed my way are understood. (Just don’t hit Peanut.) 

High profile educational leaders, from both sides, are tossing apples, too.  Some are fearfully demanding schools close preemptively.  Others castigate schools for closing even due to actual sick people, as Duncan did this week.  Both sides of the debate obsess about schools that preemptively close, but they say little about schools that have been open this whole time. Instead of pointing fingers, maybe they can find answers from the “open” schools, so we can end this plague of school closures.

I started my book, The Lonely Struggle for Open Schools, on December 18th last month after hearing about more preemptive closures. Thousands of schools in our nation never closed preemptively or indefinitely, and by telling Duncan’s story, I hoped to raise awareness that open schools are not only possible but also safe as we prepare for the 2022-23 school year. All proceeds will be donated to the DPS Foundation.

I can forgive people who have never run school districts for throwing apples at those of us who do; that’s part of the job.  As we prepare for our fourth school year with COVID, however, parents and educators need hope. We have enough models, data, and examples at this point to empower schools instead of throwing apples. It is time to reassure and support parents with the hope of open schools for the 2022-23 school year. The political theater of shaming schools for opening and/or closing has not gotten us anywhere. This is a new year, so maybe we can finally empower schools to permanently reopen by studying the schools that have been open safely and successfully.  

Toby Dawn, Peanut, and I sat there silently for a moment on the back porch, when he finally spoke up. (Toby, not Peanut.) “I’m sorry, Tommy Boy,” he said, “I was mad and just wanted to throw something . . . I also knew you liked apples.”  For future reference, that’s what Toby calls a win-win, and Peanut certainly agrees.  Meanwhile, keep throwing apples.  Soon, I may have enough for a pie! 

Tom Deighan is superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. You may email him at  deighantom@gmail.com and read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com

Our First Lady’s Timely Message of Hope

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On November 30, 2021, another tragic school shooting unfolded in Michigan, claiming 4 students’ lives and injuring another 7 people.  And just three days later, Oklahoma’s First Lady Sarah Stitt brought the Hope Summit to Duncan, Oklahoma.  The room was full of educators, health care workers, and law enforcement, all looking for Hope. 

The specter of a school shooting haunts all of us, but as we entered the Hope Summit, it was a looming reality and a real-world manifestation of the most prescient reality facing most educators in that room – the void of mental health services in Oklahoma. It is our other pandemic. 

Oklahoma, like many other states, has neglected rural health, mental health, and juvenile services in recent decades. Consequently, schools have become de facto mental health and juvenile detention substitutes, but public schools can no longer fill this need. Incidents like the Michigan shooting – the latest in a pattern that began with Columbine over 20 years ago – not only illustrate the worst-case scenarios but also the day-to-day reality of mental health and juvenile services in public schools. Our students are struggling on a scale that I have never witnessed during 27 years as a public educator.  

Sadly, the perpetrators’ behaviors have almost always predicted a capacity and intent for such extreme behavior, and to the general public it sometimes appears like schools, law enforcement, and health care professionals failed to act.  In reality, however, there is no reliable intervention structure for such troubled students. Clearly, after twenty years we now face a perfect storm that none of us can adequately address alone.  No one person or entity caused this problem, and no one can fix this problem alone. Together, however, I believe Oklahomans can do anything.

By the Grace of God, students with violent tendencies are rare in any given school district, but the potential impact of their behavior is devastating. School shootings are not the only concern, either, for staff and students in our public schools are increasingly being assaulted with impunity by students who desperately need interventions. The grim reality, however: Oklahoma has no reliable options for such troubled children. 

These children and their families deserve the help they need, and quite frankly, Oklahoma’s public-school staff and students deserve to attend school without fear of preventable violence. Children who pathologically engage in violence are extremely rare, and these children can be saved, but they need intense interventions that a public school cannot provide, and there are not enough psychiatric or juvenile justice safety nets for them.  There is Hope, however, for we have an opportunity to rectify this. 

Oklahoma currently has $1.9 billion in ARPA funds available to address issues directly related to the pandemic.  Perhaps a small amount of this funding can be set aside for county or multi-county juvenile mental health and treatment centers.  Violent children need intensive intervention, regardless of the root cause.  Educators, health-care professionals, and law enforcement can address this, but we cannot create a statewide system on our own. 

Coincidentally, rumors of a threat to Duncan Schools surfaced as I was literally finishing this article. Fortunately, no threat was substantiated as of publication, but it certainly underscored the urgent need for stronger mental health supports in our Great State. What better place to start than with our children?  God Bless our First Lady for championing this critical issue and for providing Oklahoma Hope. 

Tom Deighan is superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. You may email him at  deighantom@gmail.com and read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com

Cole Mourns Loss of Bob Dole

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) issued the following statement after hearing about the passing of former Senator Bob Dole, who served the United States in many capacities for nearly eight decades. 

“Bob Dole was not only ‘Mr. Republican,’ he was ‘Mr. America,’ too. Senator Dole carried the scars of service to our country in combat for his entire adult life. The Senator served in peace as well as war as a county prosecutor in Kansas and a Member of both the U.S. House and Senate, where he rose to Majority Leader, one of the most powerful positions in American politics,” said Cole.

“Of course, Bob Dole’s service to his beloved Republican Party was exemplary. He served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1976 and, 20 years later, the Republican presidential nominee in an epic clash with former President Clinton. Dole lost that race, but his vigorous campaign held the highly regarded Clinton under 50 percent of the popular vote and probably saved the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House.

“Despite his intense loyalty to his party, Bob Dole was widely admired on both sides of the aisle and was famous for his ability to assemble bipartisan coalitions in pursuit of important national legislation. His partnership on the issue of hunger with the late Democratic Senator George McGovern was legendary. So, too, were the coalitions he created between rural Republicans and urban Democrats to pass the famously bipartisan ‘Farm Bill.’ It is revealing that in a gesture of respect and civility, his old adversary Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for service to our country.

“As a senior party official, a political consultant and a Member of Congress, I campaigned and interacted with Senator Dole on countless occasions beginning in the 1980s through the 2010s. And I bumped into him several times at the World War II Memorial escorting groups of his fellow Second World War veterans to and through ‘their Memorial’ in Washington, D.C.

“Bob Dole was always the happy political warrior with a cutting wit, a slashing style and verve for the fight that was unmatched in politics. As a next-door Kansas neighbor, Bob Dole knew Oklahomans and Oklahoma issues well. He had countless friends in our state and will be deeply missed and sincerely mourned in Oklahoma.

“I extend my deepest sympathy to his amazing wife, Elizabeth, a former cabinet secretary and Senator in her own right, as well as the entire Dole family. There is no doubt my party has lost a great Republican, but, more importantly, America has lost a great patriot and I have lost a wonderful friend and role model.”

Photo: Then presidential candidate Bob Dole (center) is pictured with former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, Congressman Frank Lucas and then Oklahoma Secretary of State Tom Cole. The photo was taken at the Oklahoma state capitol before Keating endorsed Dole for president before the 1996 Oklahoma primary.

The Fall Breaking Point and Funyuns

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For many educators, Fall Break is the best break because it marks the end of the hectic march connecting school years. Since Spring Break, we have ended one year (with the endless reports) and started another. Then in August, school starts again, and a new generation of reports begins. Virtually everything converges in the days before Fall Break, from grades to budgeting, so for your local educators, it really can be the Fall Breaking Point. Thankfully, hunting season is here!  

We lowly educators are not alone this year, however. Many parents and students have also developed a twitch, or worse, a blank stare. I also see it across the service industries:  restaurants and retail workers and customer service people are at the Fall Breaking Point. Whether they work at a drive-thru or the counter at City Hall, ask them, and I bet they have been cussed lately. People are downright mean. Surly. Abusive. Beavis and Buttheads. No wonder people are quitting in droves. Economics are surely a factor, but I bet they are also tired of getting attacked over the most trivial of matters. 

My job connects me to people from all walks of life, so I can assure you that it’s not just limited to frontline workers. If you are nearing the breaking point, just consider those in law enforcement. In addition to endless attacks on their credibility in recent years, they face Beavis and Buttheads who are also potentially armed. Furthermore, substance abuse is the other pandemic in this pandemic, exacerbating domestic abuse, child abuse, and other horrendous crimes. When I knock on a door during the school day, I am greeted by happy children, but when they knock on a door, they brace for violence instead of smiles. 

It gets worse, however, for those who have traditionally maintained our safety nets are nearing the Fall Breaking Point, too. Pastors and counselors are dragging after this two-year slog through COVID and all the baggage it has produced.  Our medical professionals, however, may have suffered most after living in bizarro universe for the past two years. When our mental and physical health providers are barely holding on, what will the rest of us do?

Regardless of your profession or position, however, the COVID age has depleted you. If you are human, something about this is getting to you: politics, economics, supply-chain issues. Did you realize there was a Funyuns shortage recently. Come on, man!  Funyuns, for God’s sake!  

Fortunately, I read in a good book once that none of us is facing anything alone. If we are stressed, we can be reassured that our fellow brothers and sisters are stressed, too. Sometimes, just knowing that we are not suffering alone is the blessing. When you’re ready to tear into that clerk because you cannot get your favorite snack, consider how many cussings they have endured lately. Don’t be the one who breaks them this fall.  

We have heard that misery loves company, but that only applies if that company somehow makes things better. More accurately, it should be misery loves kind company, for we can only reduce others’ stress if we offer love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as alternatives. Against such things, Beavis and Buttheads don’t stand a chance. Otherwise, we just make each other more miserable. So if you are near the Fall Breaking Point, just remember that literally everyone you know is also angry about something. Instead of pushing them over the edge, however, reassure them that we will somehow get through this. And if that doesn’t work, get a hunting license. Even if you don’t kill anything, sitting out in the cold for a few hours would likely do us all some good. Wear lots of orange, however, because the other hunters are mad about Funyuns, too, and they are definitely armed. 

Tom Deighan is currently the superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. Email him at deighantom@gmail.com  Read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com

The TLE Dinosaur with a Tiny Brain

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Generations have been taught that the spike-tailed Stegosaurs had a brain the size of a walnut, but I recently discovered that its brain was closer to the size of a tennis ball.  I also learned on the interweb that those iconic battle scenes between Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus from Land of the Lost never happened because they reportedly lived millions of years apart.  This fake news makes me question everything I learned from Saturday morning television.  Were the Sleestak lizard people really evil, or were they simply misunderstood by the unenlightened Pakuni?  Most importantly, does the fossil-record tell us if these ancient peoples went extinct because the maskless Marshall family infected them with the COVID?  Where are the fact-checkers when we need them! 

Nevertheless, Tyrannosaurus Rex was the Cretaceous classmate of a 15,000 pound sauropod with a brain the size of two walnuts. The 50-foot long Ampelosaurus lived about the same time as T-Rex, which we compared last week to the impractical federal testing system with high-stakes teeth that relies on the itty bitty arms of keyboarding 8-year-olds for survival. If T-Rex is “The Testing Dinosaur with Little Arms” (last week’s article), then the Ampelosaurus is the TLE Dinosaur with the Little Brain.

TLE is the Teacher-Leader Effectiveness model adopted by Oklahoma eons ago in 2010 as part of Oklahoma’s failed bid to receive Race to the Top funds that inadvertently hatched two voracious monsters: Common Core State Standards and Oklahoma’s TLE.  TLE was part of an ambitious federal plan to tie teacher performance to test scores and usher in a golden age of incentive pay, but just as the testing dinosaur struggles with little arms, the TLE Dinosaur wrestles with a brain too small.  Consequently, for over a decade, teachers and principals have wasted precious instructional time corralling the Ampelosaurus while simultaneously chasing pterodactyls away from children on the playground. (Disclaimer: state-mandated drills have virtually eliminated staff and student carry-offs by Pterosaurs.)    

While TLE may have begun with great intentions, it is now an outdated model tied to the federal testing dinosaur that compares groups of children to other groups of children. Although politically useful, this testing system is educationally worthless as a real-time guide for instruction.  In 2021, teachers now rely on short, age-appropriate diagnostic tools to monitor individual students’ growth during the school year. Unlike federally mandated tests, these tools impact a child’s day-to-day education.

Unfortunately, in over a decade we have not implemented the quantitative (measurable) portion of TLE with any fidelity.  To-date, we only use the qualitative (subjective) portion.  Since the TLE dinosaur has never tied the federal tests to teacher performance, we now have a giant, time-wasting, paperwork dinosaur that exhausts teachers and principals as it gobbles up learning time from students.  Like the Sleestak and Pakuni from Land of the Lost, however, educators have learned to survive these dinosaurs by employing technology and better practices from this century.  Unfortunately, this creates two testing systems in school – one that is helpful and one that is mandated.  

If we really want to tie teacher performance to tests, we should tie them to the classroom diagnostic tools that impact instruction, and these tests should be aligned to college-and-career readiness standards.  Restoring local and state control of teacher evaluations based on meaningful data would reduce time-wasting, create more robust evaluations, and make it possible to implement incentive pay based on measurable outcomes.  TLE needs to follow the federal testing dinosaur with little arms into extinction. If not extinction, we should send them to an island off Costa Rica where they can frolic with other dinosaurs like Stegosaurs, Common Core, PASS, and NCLB.  

If Land of the Lost perpetuated such fake news, then I am no longer convinced that the Pakuni or Sleestak lizard people are extinct, either.  Maybe Ancient Aliens is on to something, but that is a subject for a different time.  Meanwhile, please do not forget to pray for the safety of our schools this Second Sunday of the month.  Trust me, it works.  Not a pterodactyl in sight. 

Tom Deighan is currently the superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. Email him at deighantom@gmail.com  Read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com

Cole Statement on Retirement of NIH Director Francis Collins

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Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) issued the following statement after it was announced that Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will retire at the end of 2021 after a 12-year tenure under three consecutive presidential administrations. Cole is the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that provides funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the NIH. 

“It is with very mixed emotions that I learned of the retirement at the end of this year of Dr. Francis Collins, long-time director of the National Institutes of Health,” said Cole. “Naturally, I am pleased that someone who has worked so long and hard for the American people and for all of humanity is going to have an opportunity to take some time and smell the roses along the way. However, as a strong supporter and advocate of the NIH, I know how much he will be missed at the Institute, by the biomedical community, in the halls of Congress and amongst his scientific peers around the world.

“Dr. Collins has served with exceptional distinction. The only person appointed by three different presidents to directorship of the NIH, I have often called him the ‘best politician in Washington, D.C.’ Who else could be appointed by President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden? The fact that Dr. Francis Collins holds this unique distinction is a testament to the high regard in which he is held across the political spectrum.

“A brilliant scientist in his own right, no one matches the ability of Dr. Collins to marshal and focus the scientific community. His concentrated attention to the well-being and health of people all over the world are literally unmatched. During his tenure, Dr. Collins advocated for greater federal investment in the NIH’s budget, and he worked to advance many biomedical research initiatives focused on such ailments as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, his crowning achievement was probably the critical role he played in coordinating private and public efforts to produce the coronavirus vaccines that were the product of Operation Warp Speed. That effort alone has already saved millions of lives in America and around the world. 

“I do not believe we have heard the last of Dr. Francis Collins. I have no doubt that future administrations of both parties will call upon him for his wise counsel, brilliant insights and exceptional public credibility. While I wish my good friend well in his retirement, I would suggest he not go far because I suspect his country will call upon his services again.”

Dave Says

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Hope is a good thing

Dear Dave,

What is the main difference between people who follow your plan, stick with it and succeed, and those who fall off along the way?

Damon

Dear Damon,

I’ve walked with thousands of families through financial problems. Some of them were speedbumps that just needed to be smoothed out, while others seemed like mountains. The biggest factor I’ve noticed separating those who stick with it and gain control of their finances, from those who give up and go back to their old ways, can be boiled down to one simple word—hope.

Hope is stolen when we misunderstand failure and believe lies. One of the biggest lies that robs people of hope is the one that says failure is permanent. The moment we start seeing failures of the past as predictors of our futures, it extinguishes that ember of hope. Failure happens to all of us at times. It’s natural, and it is normal. The way to reach your goals, though, is to keep failure in its cage. And failure is caged when we begin to understand it isn’t permanent. 

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” If we believe failure is here to stay, we lose enthusiasm. And that leads to an inability to re-focus on success. People often make dumb, short-term decisions when they’re in financial difficulty. If you talk yourself into believing you’ll never be able to save enough money to pay cash for a car, you’ll lose hope and borrow the money. Debt not only robs you of the ability to build wealth, but it’s also usually the result of losing hope. 

Have you done something stupid or wrong in the past that you are still reliving daily? Is that memory haunting you, and stealing your hope? Remember, the past only has power over you if you let it have that power. Don’t get me wrong. The past canhurt, and it can be disappointing. But you can either give in to it and let it control you, or you can learn from it and make a conscious decision to keep moving forward.

The choice is yours!

— Dave

* Dave Ramseyis a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Ramsey Show, heard by more than 18 million listeners each week. Hehas appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.

The Federal Testing Dinosaur with Little Arms

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“I am never gonna defeat Zurg!” exclaims a frustrated Rex, the lovable cartoon Tyrannosaur as he plays a video game. “Look at my little arms!” In contrast to the terrifying dinosaur in Jurassic ParkToy Story pointed out the absurdity of tiny arms attached to such a deadly monster!  I suspect they went extinct out of sheer frustration.

Another deadly beast with little arms emerged about the same time as Jurassic Park and Toy Story: the federal testing monster.  And just as those franchises that have spanned over two decades, today’s millennial parents cannot imagine an educational system without federalized testing.  Many of our current parents attended school during No Child Left Behind, and many of them carried Toy Story or Jurassic Park lunchboxes.  As much as they like the movie Tyrannosaurs, I suspect parents no longer like the testing monster.  

Perhaps federalized testing started like the loveable Rex from the cartoon, but a T-Rex is a T-Rex, and it eventually needed to feed.  Twenty years into this adventure, little arms and hands may ultimately defeat the beast, however.  A Tyrannosaurus Rex cannot run a keyboard, but neither can our third-graders. Trust me, eight and nine-year-olds are just as frustrated as Rex trying to defeat the evil Emperor Zurg during marathon testing sessions. I cannot imagine how this is developmentally appropriate or valid, but third-graders often cry and/or vomit from the stress of taking their first high-stakes test under these conditions.  “Look at my little fingers!”    

As you can imagine, third-grade is when Toy Story’s loveable Rex turns into the terrifying monster from Jurassic Park. Those absurd little arms become less cute as children are chased relentlessly for the next decade.  Teachers and administrators fear its wrath.  Parents tremble at its roar.  It has even invaded cities with completely arbitrary A-F scores that disingenuously compare communities and impact everything from property values to economic development. Those little arms aren’t so funny now.

To make it worse, parents and students emerge from the jungle as juniors and seniors only to discover that none of these tests had any bearing on their college or career readiness.  The vomiting and crying begin again as they face ACT, SAT, ASVAB, and other vocational tests that employers, recruiters, and colleges actually value. We spend so much time running from the federal testing dinosaur that we never really prepare students with essential skills and assessments that impact adulthood.  

Perhaps we have given the big-headed, little-armed beast too much credit – like Tiny the dinosaur from Meet the Robinsons. “I have a big head and little arms,” Tiny says in frustration when he cannot reach a boy standing in a corner. “I am just not sure how well this plan was thought through,” he confesses.  

Next week, the Oklahoma State Testing Program results will be released statewide.  Schools will be bludgeoned for test scores that invalidly compare pre-pandemic 2019 students with 2021 students who were forced to stay home an entire spring and then endure an entire year of school disrupted by quarantines or worse, no school at all.  This is entirely fair, of course, because the pandemic has not had any significant impact on anything or anyone else.

By design, this system ensures public schools fall short, but dinosaurs are always destined to fail. I wonder what would happen if we focused on those essential skills for college and career readiness instead of big monsters with tiny arms that cannot grasp our future?  Just imagine a school system wholly invested in preparing adult-ready graduates with essential skills instead of running from dinosaurs.  Twenty years of this has proven that we can no longer do both, so maybe it’s time to ask what we really want for our children and grand-children.  Perhaps, parent and educator frustration will eventually kill this dinosaur, too, but please keep those cool lunch boxes.

Tom Deighan is currently the superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. He may be reached at deighantom@gmail.com  You may read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com

Dave Says

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Think of an emergency fund as insurance

Dear Dave,

I have decided it’s time to get control of my money. Your plan sounds workable, but I talked to some friends about it, and they think I would be better off using a credit card for emergencies. Can you explain why you advise saving a separate emergency fund?

Leslee

Dear Leslee,

When bad, unexpected things happen, like a job layoff or a blown car engine, you shouldn’t depend on credit cards. If you use debt to cover emergencies, you’re digging a financial hole for yourself. My plan will walk you out of debt forever, and a strong foundation of any financial house includes an emergency fund.

Putting together a fully funded emergency fund is Baby Step 3 of my plan for getting out of debt and gaining control of your money. Before you reach thispoint, however, steps one and two should be completed first. Baby Step 1 is saving $1,000 for a starter emergency fund. Baby Step 2 is where you pay off all debt, except for your home, using the debt snowball method.

A fully-funded emergency fund should cover three to six months of expenses. You start the emergency fund with $1,000, but a full emergency fund can range from $5,000 to $25,000 or more. A family that can make it on $3,000 per month might have a $10,000 emergency fund as a minimum. 

What is an emergency? An emergency is something you had no way of knowing was coming—an event that has a major, negative financial impact if you can’t cover it. Emergencies include things like paying the deductible on medical, homeowners or car insurance after an accident, a job loss, a blown automobile transmission or your home’s heating and air unit suddenly biting the dust.

Something on sale you “need” is not an emergency. Fixing the boat, unless you live on it, is not an emergency. Want to buy a car, a leather couch or go to Cancun? Not emergencies. Prom dresses and college tuition are not emergencies, either. 

Never rationalize the use of your emergency fund for something you should save for. On the other hand, don’t make payments on medical bills after an accident while your emergency fund sits there fully loaded. If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating an emergency fund, make sure you are crystal clear on what is and isn’t an emergency.

Also, keep your emergency fund in something that is liquid. Liquid is a money term that basically means easy to access with no penalties. I use growth-stock mutual funds for long-term investing, but I would never put my emergency fund there. I suggest a money market account with no penalties and full check writing privileges for your emergency fund. 

Your emergency fund account is not for building wealth. It’s an insurance policy against rainy days!

* Dave Ramseyis a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Ramsey Show, heard by more than 18 million listeners each week. Hehas appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.