Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oklahoma voters want tax dollars to follow the child

Nearly two in three Oklahoma voters support using tax dollars to choose the public or private school which best meets their child’s needs.

That’s one of the findings in a new survey commissioned by OCPA just as the new school year gets under way. The statewide survey of 1,016 likely Oklahoma voters was conducted by the firm Cor Strategies and has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.07 percent. The survey question wording is below. To see a summary of the results, click here. To see the methodology, click here.

“If you could select any type of school in order to obtain the best education for your child, what type of school would you select?”

While 47 percent say they would choose a traditional public school, the majority of Oklahomans would choose something else. Specifically, 30 percent would choose a private school, 12 percent would choose homeschooling, and 11 percent would choose a charter school. Whether in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or the rest of the state, fewer than half of respondents say they would choose a traditional public school in order to obtain the best education for their child.

“According to data from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System, public education spending in Oklahoma is approximately $9,700 per student per year. Would you say that taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment?”

Only 22 percent of respondents think taxpayers are getting a good return on their annual investment in public education (expenditure summary file here), whereas 66 percent do not. This gloomy take on ROI cuts across party lines, being shared by Republicans (69 percent), Democrats (60 percent), and Independents (68 percent).

“A proposal has been made to move local school board and school bond elections to the general election date in November. Some people support the idea, believing it would increase voter turnout for these school elections and make it harder for education interest groups to influence the outcome. Other people oppose the idea, believing that the school elections would get lost on a crowded ballot and it would make them more partisan. Do you support or oppose moving school board and school bond elections to the general election date in November?”

Oklahomans support this idea by a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent. Democrats oppose the idea (45 percent to 42 percent), but Republicans (58 percent to 31 percent) and Independents (63 percent to 24 percent) are in support.

“Educational choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of educational choice?”

Fully 65 percent of respondents support using tax dollars to send their child to a school of choice, whereas 28 percent oppose. (Interestingly, 44 percent strongly support the idea while 15 percent strongly oppose.) Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support educational choice—with the Republican tally coming in at 76 percent to 17 percent.

“A proposal has been made to give parents the chance to customize their child’s education through Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs. With an ESA, the state puts the funds it would have spent on a child’s behalf into a bank account the parent controls. The parent can then use these funds to purchase the education that best meets their child’s needs from a wide variety of sources, including private schools, virtual schools, and institutions of higher education. Any funds not used in a school year could be carried over for future education, including college. Would you say that you support or oppose Oklahoma having a program like this one?”

Oklahomans support ESAs by a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent. Though Democrats (49 percent to 42 percent) oppose ESAs, Republicans (52 percent to 30 percent) and Independents (56 percent to 25 percent) overwhelmingly support ESAs.

A poll, of course, is only a snapshot of public opinion at the time the survey is taken. This newest snapshot does, however, add to a growing body of evidence. In addition to this Cor Strategies survey, here are the recent survey data which have shown strong support for ESAs and other forms of private-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
Here is the survey research showing that Oklahomans oppose school vouchers (the survey didn't ask about ESAs):
  • Public Opinion Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2015

[Cross-posted at OCPA]

DeVos: Schools of choice ‘are accountable to the parents’

"I think the first line of accountability is frankly with the parents," U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently told the Associated Press.
When parents are choosing school they are proactively making that choice. And schools are accountable to the parents. And vice versa, the students doing well and working to achieve in the schools. I think it’s important for parents to have information about how their students are doing, how they’re achieving, how they’re progressing. And that kind of transparency and accountability I think is really the best approach to holding schools accountable broadly. It starts with holding themselves accountable to communication of relevant and important information to students and parents about how they are doing. And we know from, that when parents choose and they are unhappy with whatever the school setting is they will choose something different. And that’s the beauty of having choices.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Parents test school liability in bullying and child suicide

The Muskogee Phoenix carries an Associated Press story with this lede: "The parents of an 8-year-old Ohio boy who hanged himself from his bunk bed with a necktie want school officials held responsible, testing the issue of school liability in suicides blamed on bullying."

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

We need real school choices

There’s no one “right” educational choice for everyone, Greg Forster writes for OCPA ("Christians and Public Schools: Babylon, Exodus, or Pentecost?").
Parents should evaluate local schools, public and private, and select the one that aligns best with their views and goals. Of course, parents don’t have an equal choice as long as the government uses its tax power to offer free schools while alternatives need to charge tuition. We need school choice policies to make real choices available. 

Oklahoma school district pays $18,500 to hear private-school educator

McAlester Public Schools recently paid $18,500 to hear motivational speaker Ron Clark, the founder of a highly acclaimed private school in Atlanta. Granted, the district should be commended for realizing that no one education sector—be it public, private, or home—has all the answers. But does that amount seem excessive?

Glenpool teen gets 25 years for molesting girls at elementary school

The Tulsa World has the story.

Kingston teacher fired, now under police investigation

KXII has the story.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Setting the record straight on ed choice

You've heard many of the arguments against school choice:
  • “Private school vouchers offer false choices.”
  • “Vouchers were not designed to help low-income children.”
  • “A pure voucher system would only encourage economic, racial, ethnic, and religious stratification in our society.”
  • “Private school vouchers lack accountability.”
  • “Vouchers take money away from neighborhood public schools.”
Our friends at EdChoice do some helpful myth-busting here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Why can’t Elgin afford school supplies?


As the new school year approaches, Will Hutchison reports for KSWO, teachers in the Elgin Public Schools "are having to spend hundreds of dollars of their own money just to make their classrooms operational."

Here's hoping KSWO or some other media outlet will do a follow-up story asking the question: Why can't Elgin afford school supplies? Consider:
  • According to data compiled from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System and provided on the website of the Oklahoma State Department of Education, total education spending in Elgin (even when adjusted for inflation) is nearly double what it was a decade ago. (Elgin's total education spending was $11,471,638 in 2006. It was $21,817,564 in 2016.)
  • Yes, student enrollment increased between 2006 and 2016. But even on a per-student basis (again, adjusted for inflation), Elgin's spending was substantially higher in 2016 ($9,677 per student) than it was in 2006 ($8,310 per student).
  • In the spending category called "Supplies," which includes "Classroom and/or Office Supplies," spending rose from $1,852,404 in 2006 to $2,534,502 in 2016.

Given these facts, why are some teachers having to spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on classroom supplies? I don't know the answer, but here's hoping some curious journalist will explore the matter with school board members and administrators. 

Have school officials rolled up their sleeves and gone over the budget line by line? For example, have they privatized all non-teaching personnel? (The Bartlesville school board recently voted to outsource the schools’ janitorial services, a move the district CFO says will save $300,000 annually.) Have they taken a close look at the athletic budget? Have they considered renegotiating the contracts of underperforming teachers? (The average student in Elgin is performing better in math than 42 percent of students in other developed economies; surely Elgin parents demand better than that.)

If classroom supplies truly are a priority, then school officials—with nearly $22 million at their disposal—need to find a way to buy classroom supplies. Yes, it may require some difficult decisions, but setting priorities is the sort of thing the Elgin superintendent is paid $114,652 annually to do.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Segregation flourishes under the government-school monopoly

M.L. King, Jr. Elementary School in Oklahoma City is 89 percent black.

"If you want to make sure schools are segregated, the quickest and easiest way to do it is to force families into schools based on their ZIP codes," Greg Forster writes. "School choice is actually the only education policy with a serious hope of reducing segregation in schools."

Protecting Oklahoma students from bullies

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and the American Academy of Pediatrics have some suggestions for parents.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Public schools take all students?

"Opponents of school choice programs often defend the traditional public school system by saying it must take 'all students,'" the state's largest newspaper points out today.
 This isn't actually true, and there are many notable exceptions or caveats to that statement. A reminder was provided when it was recently reported that even within the Oklahoma City school district, students from one location are not guaranteed admission to another school in the same district. Principals alone make that determination, and there's no requirement to justify an approval or rejection. Furthermore, the district doesn't keep records on students who are denied a transfer or the demographics of those granted transfers. It's to their credit that local school leaders are now pushing for a standardized process that includes record keeping. One suspects that if records had been kept, you would find many schools even within Oklahoma City's district that don't always abide by a “come one, come all” approach to students.