Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Most Oklahoma children are eligible for a private-school scholarship. Right now.


Survey data tell us that one in three Oklahomans would like to send their children to a private or parochial school. They may not realize that, perhaps surprisingly, most Oklahoma students are eligible for a scholarship. Right now.

Oklahoma has two programs to choose from:

[1]  Most students in Oklahoma are eligible to apply for a private-school scholarship funded by private donations (for which donors receive a state tax credit). Click here to learn more about the program. And to explore schools, click here, here, or here, for example.

[2]  Many students in Oklahoma—special-education students, foster kids, children adopted out of state custody, and more—are eligible for a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. Click here to learn more about the program.

Spoils system: ‘Government employees pick their politicians’

"One of the key challenges for education reformers is the huge size of the government school monopoly as a 'reverse patronage' employer," Greg Forster explains ("The government school monopoly as reverse patronage program").
The power of entrenched education special interests is not only, or even primarily, in the money collected through such means as union dues. The single greatest political obstacle to education reform is the large number of people who get their jobs from the status quo, and will therefore show up during elections to vote and volunteer for politicians who will protect the status quo. ...

Every smart legislator finds out who the big employers in their district are and pays close attention to their concerns. This isn’t primarily about seeking to please the employers in hopes of getting their campaign donations (although it is that, too); it’s primarily about seeking to please the employees in hopes of getting their votes. And in virtually every legislative district in the United States, one of the biggest local employers is the government school monopoly.

This system gives us what we might call "reverse patronage." In the 19th century, under the patronage system, hiring and firing in most government jobs was directly controlled by political officeholders. Politicians in each party would hire their party’s people to staff the government from top to bottom. (On one famous occasion, Abraham Lincoln kept his Civil War generals waiting while he attended to more important business: deciding which party faction to give control of a Post Office appointment.) Each change of party would bring massive turnover. This was also called the “spoils system” because government jobs were like the spoils of war for whoever won the election. 
In short, Forster explains, "In the government school monopoly, we have a reverse form of patronage. Instead of politicians picking their government employees, government employees pick their politicians."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Anti-bullying bill sidelined as bullying problem grows

Ray Carter has the story.

Oklahomans’ support for school choice is becoming difficult to deny



Yet another scientific survey of Oklahoma voters has found strong support for parental choice in education. This survey is the latest among many over the past five years which have measured Oklahomans’ views on various forms of private-school choice (vouchers, tax credits, education savings accounts, et al.).

Here is the survey research that has shown support for school choice:
  • Braun Research survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2014
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma GOP primary voters), July 2014
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates survey (registered Oklahoma voters), December 2015
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2016
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), July 2016
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), August 2017
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), May 2018
  • WPA Intelligence survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2019
  • WPA Intelligence survey (registered Oklahoma voters), April 2019
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), August 2019

And here is the survey research showing that Oklahomans oppose school vouchers (the survey didn't ask about tax credits or education savings accounts):
  • Public Opinion Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2015

Like the film critic Pauline Kael, who couldn't understand how Nixon beat McGovern (given that everyone she knew had voted for McGovern), many in the public education community’s epistemic bubble simply cannot come to terms with the reality that most Oklahomans favor educational choice. But a fair reading of the evidence shows pretty clearly that Oklahoma parents want options and they want the money to follow the child. 

So why doesn’t the money follow the child? Political scientists can explain why (government employees are able to pick their politicians and keep kids trapped in an iron triangle), but that’s small consolation for the children who need options right now.

Only 57 percent of Tulsa students feel safe at school

"Half of Tulsa Public Schools students felt like they 'belonged' last year, while 57% reported feeling safe at school," the Tulsa World reports.
Monday’s presentation also revealed that 33.2% of third-grade students last year were proficient in reading, compared to 34% in 2017-18. ... Further, 26.1% of TPS students were proficient in both reading and math last year, which was behind the district’s goal of 27%. The number of 11th graders meeting SAT benchmarks in math and English language arts has declined from 33% in 2018 to 27% in 2019.

School cancelled for Yukon Public Schools due to threats

FOX 25 has the story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Parents suing Broken Arrow Public Schools and former teacher over molestation charges

"Parents of four Broken Arrow students are suing a former elementary school teacher and the school district," KJRH reports. "The lawsuit alleges that the school district was negligent and did not provide a safe learning environment for the students."

Saturday, September 7, 2019

‘I'm absolutely against it’: Stitt disapproves of school districts hiring lobbyists

"Four school districts—Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Bixby, and Jenks—spent nearly $200,000 combined in taxpayer funding on contract lobbyists during the 2018-2019 school year," Ray Carter reports. "Those lobbyists were hired even as the four districts were also paying thousands more to a range of organizations that employ numerous other lobbyists on behalf of the school districts."
Gov. Kevin Stitt
That school tax dollars are being expended on contract lobbyists has raised a host of concerns, and critics of the practice include Gov. Kevin Stitt, who issued an executive order this year that banned similar practices at state agencies. “If a state agency or a school district is using taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist, I’m absolutely against it,” Stitt said in an interview. “If I found out that the school districts are using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists, 100 percent I’m going to call them out on it. I’m going to share with Oklahomans what’s happening. It’s just counterproductive. What are they lobbying for? We have the best interests of our children at heart, and to hire a lobbyist to monitor legislation or use tax dollars to muddy the water at the Capitol, I just don’t see it as being productive.”
For their part, some school officials defend the practice. But it does raise concerns about indirect funneling of taxpayer dollars to political campaigns, as well as concerns about open-records laws. Sadly, the practice is not uncommon nationwide.

It's a classic case of what a former adviser to the Oklahoma Speaker of the House called taking your money and lobbying for more of your money.