Monday, March 19, 2018

Hope for bullied kids

A new law in Florida provides school choice for victims of bullying and harassment. Oklahoma should follow suit, Jonathan Small writes in The Journal Record.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Glenpool High School student arrested, another injured during dispute over walkout

"A Glenpool High School student was taken into custody after he reportedly assaulted another student in a dispute over the national student walkout," the Tulsa World reports.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Oklahoma teacher decries inequity, racism

And at, no less. In related news, the World Socialist Web Site reports that "teachers in Oklahoma are angry."

David Holt, school choice, and diversity

State Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) discusses charter school legislation
meeting of the Oklahoma School Choice Coalition on September 3, 2015.

State Sen. David Holt has been elected mayor of Oklahoma City and will be sworn in on April 10. "I want to be part of creating a strategic vision for the future of public education in our city," he says. "And then I’m going to be working every day to incorporate the diversity of our city into decision-making."

Though he's an enthusiastic public-school booster, Holt has also been good on many school choice issues. He mainly supports some forms of public-school choice (charter schools and parent trigger, for example), though he also voted last year to expand Oklahoma's private-school voucher program and tax-credit scholarship program.

On the other hand, he was not at all helpful when it came to trying to provide education savings accounts (ESAs) to low-income students in some of our state's worst schools. During last year's legislative session, Mary Mélon, president of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, sent an email to several public school supporters, including Sen. Holt, warning that an ESA bill which was being heard the next morning would have "dire consequences for OKCPS." (How's that for confidence in one's own product? Any sane person would flee if given the opportunity!)

Less than an hour later, Holt replied with the assurance that he planned to introduce two amendments in committee which would, shall we say, markedly dampen the bill's prospects.

Disappointingly, the bill's author had to pull the ESA bill when it became clear that, for a variety of reasons, he wasn't going to have the necessary votes for passage.

"In shelving a modest school choice bill because some Republicans capitulated to education establishment lobbyists, the Republican majority undermined their campaign vows to advance conservative policy and ignored the needs of some of Oklahoma's neediest children," The Oklahoman rightly noted. "Sadly, too many legislative Republicans preferred the 'absence of tension' with status-quo forces to aiding poor families and creating a better future for all Oklahomans."

One hopes that, as mayor, Holt's views will evolve and he'll come to see the importance of casting a strategic vision for the future of education—not just government-operated schools—in Oklahoma City. After all, he knows better than most that many young families will never even consider living in the Oklahoma City school district, at least not while the charter school waiting lists are so long. But give them, say, a $5,000-per-child voucher or ESA and suddenly the calculus changes considerably. As real estate professor Bart Danielsen and former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys pointed out in The Oklahoman and in remarks at a meeting of the Oklahoma School Choice Coalition, educational choice policies can alter family-relocation patterns, revitalize cities, increase property values, and more.

Speaking of Kirk Humphreys, you're doubtless familiar with the cultural left's recent defenestration of Humphreys from the University of Oklahoma board of regents. Happily, however, despite the intolerance and discrimination shown by some citizens, Humphreys was able to retain his position on the board of the John Rex Charter Elementary School—even though Sen. Holt doesn't think the former mayor is fit to serve. Holt said:
I do not agree with Kirk Humphreys’ views on this matter and after making his views public, I don’t believe he can credibly serve in a public education leadership role.
Hmmm. The former mayor of Oklahoma City, "an evangelical Christian who simply articulated the view that has been traditionally embraced for 2,000 years by Christians of virtually all branches," cannot credibly serve on the board of a charter school? Really?

This understandably provoked some questions. Local pastor (and Humphreys' son-in-law) Jonathan Middlebrooks engaged Sen. Holt on Twitter:
  • Your quote is being used by the group opposing Kirk Humphreys' position on the John Rex board. You say "do not agree with Kirk Humphreys’ views on this matter." Does this mean the views he clarified in his apology and press release?
  • Do you agree that according to the group petitioning for his removal that “his fundamental beliefs disqualify him from public leadership”? Those beliefs being Christian beliefs?
  • Do you believe that citizens with deeply held religious beliefs like Muslims, Orthodox Jews, or Christians cannot serve public offices or should be blocked from doing so due to those beliefs?
  • Are Christians and other religious groups right to expect a Mayoral candidate to protect their freedoms alongside all other citizens? To say someone “cannot credibly serve in a public education role” due to his religious beliefs seems dangerous.
  • As a citizen in OKC, a local pastor, and community leader I believe these are important questions that we deserve to have answered. I appreciate any response here or would love to meet in person.
Sen. Holt replied:
  • My comment speaks for itself and I don’t see it having any relation to your follow-up questions. I am a Christian. All people are welcome in my OKC. You are welcome to send me an email if you’d like to visit further.
  • Also, I am not involved in this issue in any way. I responded to a question and stated my personal opinion, and I suppose people are free to quote me, but if you are passionate about this issue I would encourage you to lobby those involved in it. I am not.
Sen. Holt says he's "not involved in this issue in any way," but that's incorrect. He's a public official who said publicly that he doesn't believe Humphreys can credibly serve—and his words are being used by those who wanted to oust Humphreys. So, he's involved.

Sen. Holt says that “all people are welcome in my OKC.” That’s disingenuous to the point of being insulting. Humphreys is not saying—indeed, no reasonable person is saying—that those who practice homosexuality are not welcome in the city.

Moreover, Sen. Holt's comment does not “speak for itself.” On the contrary, his vaguely worded comment—regarding Humphreys’ views “on this matter”—veritably cries out for the sorts of astute, respectful follow-up questions which were asked and which deserve an answer.

John Rex is a successful charter school, and with any luck OKCPS will convert to a charter district early in Holt's tenure as mayor. But as the new mayor seeks "to incorporate the diversity of our city into decision-making," citizens need to know if that diversity includes Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Christians, and others who hold traditional religious views on sexual morality. Because if the mayor or other leaders evince an intolerance that deems certain citizens unfit to serve, that's a problem far more serious than any disagreement over education policy.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Prostitution ring targets Edmond high school girls

"Oklahoma City police need your help tracking down two people in connection with a prostitution ring that recruited young girls from Edmond high schools," Phil Cross reports for KOKH.
Germaine Coulter is facing new criminal charges of human trafficking, pandering, and conspiracy. Coulter has a criminal history dating back more than 20 years that includes violent crimes, drugs, and prostitution-related crimes. ... In the latest criminal case, investigators say Coulter had at least two Edmond high school students working for him as prostitutes. The court record indicates he was actively recruiting teenagers from Edmond for his prostitution business using the promise of money and potentially drugs.

After-school activities canceled at U.S. Grant High School after gun found in backpack

KOCO has the story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Many stay-at-home parents like the four-day school week

Bridge Creek teacher Jalaine Watham is a fan of the four-day school week, CBS News' Omar Villafranca reports.
"It has allowed that weekend time with my family, but I also really truly feel like it has made me a better teacher by being purposeful and looking at time management," Watham said.

Two-hundred and ten of the state's schools operate on a four-day schedule. Many stay-at-home parents we spoke to in this community endorsed the shortened week. "It's that extra day. You're like, I feel like I have a whole entire day with my kid," said one parent.

But state superintendent of instruction, Joy Hofmeister, worries about the long-term impact on students.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

No neutrality in education

Aaron Baker is an 8th-grade history teacher in the Mid-Del school district who promotes “radical social justice in Oklahoma public schools.” We disagree about most things, but in a recent blog post he was right on target with these observations:
Middle school is a highly impressionable stage of adolescence. It really isn’t a question of “if” middle school students are being indoctrinated, but “what” they are being indoctrinated into [emphasis in original]. A big part of middle school education is to start them on the road to thinking critically. But most 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are not there yet. Middle school students, more often than they themselves realize, still take most “truths” at face value. They are receiving moral and ethical cues from everyone around them; family members, teachers, youth pastors, and peers. Teachers can and should play a valuable role in shaping a student’s worldview. … 
No curriculum is truly objective, but math at least leans toward objectivity. Social studies, on the other hand, leans heavy toward subjectivity. Even in the presentation of “hard facts,” social studies teachers have to make subjective decisions about tone, choice of words, and body language. In addition, the overwhelming amount of information requires that social studies teachers constantly omit certain facts. This is invariably a subjective decision.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Survey finds bullying is widespread

"The vast majority of 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds report having experienced bullying in some manner, whether as a witness, a perpetrator, a victim, or someone who has tried to help," according to a nationally representative survey conducted in September 2017.
Three out of four kids (77%) say they have witnessed bullying, including 27% who say they’ve done so “many times.” Sixty-four percent of children report having tried to help a kid who was being bullied, including 17% who say they’ve done so “many times.” Nearly two out of three (62%) kids say they’ve “ever” been bullied, including 14% who say it’s happened “many times.” And one in five kids (21%) say they’ve ever bullied other kids, although only 2% say they’ve done so “many times.”

Should schools be required to tell parents about bullying?

Heartbreaking article over at KRMG.

Tulsa teacher: ‘If my daughters were going to school in a place with pimps running around it, I would want to know’

An interesting story in the Tulsa World this weekend ("Tulsa Public Schools loses 35 percent of its teachers in two years, but many aren't leaving for higher pay") includes a quote from "an East Central High School teacher who said he threw in the towel two years before he had originally planned because of a lack of support with student discipline issues."
“Schools get paid based on butts in seats, so administrators are loath to suspend students because that funding is lacking for that time period,” said Mike McGuire, who served 20 years as East Central’s U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor after retiring from his first career in the Army.

McGuire said recent news coverage of teacher, student and parent discontent at Edison Preparatory School sounded just like his last three or four years on the job at East Central. He estimated nearly 100 percent of the faculty exited the district or found placements elsewhere in TPS during that period because nothing improved after district officials surveyed and held private meetings with teachers.

“War was declared on the faculty,” McGuire said. “It didn’t matter how much they’d misbehave, cut class and curse teachers out, the students seemed to be the good guys and the faculty were the bad guys. And other students and their parents are concerned about the lack of discipline.”

McGuire said his tipping point was being formally reprimanded for how he responded to students concerned about two of their classmates being allowed to return to school after 10 days in jail on human trafficking complaints.

“I told my students, especially the girls, ‘If you’re concerned, you need to tell your parents so they can express their concern to their school board representative,’ ” McGuire said. “If my daughters were going to school in a place with pimps running around it, I would want to know.”

Tulsa teachers try to keep focus, encourage students, after recent school threats

The Tulsa World has the story.