Friday, December 6, 2019

Monday-Friday catechesis

Many Christian parents "have their kids in the public schools or other educational establishments," Albert Mohler warns today, "where they are being entirely incubated in a non-Christian, if not absolutely, anti-Christian moral universe, and then they are surprised when their own kids begin to answer questions in ways that indicate they are the very products of that indoctrination. And it is happening often with such subtlety and at such a deep level, that those kids are extremely resistant to biblical truth by the time they hear it."

Money for nothing?

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

For decades, Oklahoma politicians vowed they could defy the laws of financial reality by giving state retirees ever-larger benefit checks without paying for those benefits, without any impact on other taxpayers, and without any impact on the rest of state government.

Rather than provide “money for nothing” to retirees, however, those politicians instead saddled Oklahomans with enormous unfunded liabilities that left current teachers and state workers with an unsecure retirement and forced the diversion of millions of dollars from schools, roads, and other needs.

There were 19 “cost of living” adjustments (COLAs) provided to state employees from 1975 to 2008, and most were approved without any funding. So how did lawmakers “pay” for those COLAs? By raiding pension assets again and again and again. It didn’t take long before Oklahoma had some of the worst-funded state pension systems in the nation. The teachers’ retirement system was in especially bad shape with a funded ratio that hovered around just 50 percent.

Thanks to several reform laws passed in the last decade, the situation has improved dramatically. One of the most significant reforms was to require full funding for benefit increases (imagine that!). But legislation filed in 2019, which could advance in 2020, would evade that requirement and provide increased retirement benefits without funding. Instead, it would raid state pensions of more than $850 million, according to estimates.

One doesn’t have to be a certified public accountant (although I am) to know where we’re headed with such legislation: back where we started.

The impact of past pension raids continues to be felt throughout the state. For one thing, lawmakers have had to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to the existing system to shore it up. That’s money that would have otherwise gone to other needs like schools, roads, and public safety. Remember in 2018 when legislators claimed they had to raise taxes to cover expenses? Those tax increases are one logical outcome of state pension raids.

Rather than repeat a regrettable part of our history, lawmakers need to embrace real reform. That means not only admitting that pension benefits should be funded, even if that means legislators must provide less spending to other state agencies, but also overhauling the system.

Today’s workforce is highly mobile, and the 20-something who hires on as an educator or support personnel today probably won’t remain there for the next three decades. Plus, the current outdated defined-benefit plans provide employees no asset that can be passed on to help other family members or their future generations. It’s time to provide all non-hazard-duty government workers with a 401(k)-style retirement plan whose assets follow them when they leave a government job.

Oklahoma needs a modern retirement system fitted to the needs of modern workers, not a “greatest hits” rerun of the failed financial policies of the past.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A dreaded part of teachers' jobs: Restraining and secluding students

Public Radio Tulsa has the story.

Former Oklahoma teacher sentenced to 40 years in prison for sex with students

"A former Pocola High School teacher was sentenced to 40 years in prison for having sex with multiple students," KFSM reports.

Oklahoma teacher accused of assaulting student

"A suspended John Marshall Middle School teacher is accused of assaulting a student," The Oklahoman reports.

Gender identity: Does it belong in our public schools?

In this new podcast, recent college graduate Tiffany Roberts discusses teaching children about gender identity and sexual orientation with Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.

Parents say 5-year-old sexually assaulted at Ponca City school

"Where were the adults?" asks the victim's mom. "Why weren't they protecting my child from this kind of thing happening?"

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Oklahoma charter school success hiding in plain sight

"Oklahomans, in recent weeks, have been buffeted by report after report, including results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ACT college readiness exam, and the state’s own A-F assessment of the public education system, demonstrating the abysmal state of student achievement in Oklahoma’s public schools," OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos writes. "But hiding in plain sight in the A-F report was one vital, and possibly saving, fact—the extraordinary performance of many of the state's charter schools."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Asian students remain far ahead of Americans

"U.S. teenagers made no significant gains on an exam taken by students around the world, and continue to trail students in Asian countries," The Wall Street Journal reports today.

Students assaulting teachers: Tulsa union boss says teachers 'really are like domestic abuse victims'

"It’s a secret many teachers aren’t comfortable talking about," KTUL reports.
“It’s the best-kept worst secret because you just found out about it. It is a huge ordeal. It is bigger than anyone knows,” said Shawna Mott-Wright with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. 
It's a secret that many teachers are hesitant to talk about—what happens when children get violent? “We just don’t talk about it,” said Mott-Wright. “It’s upsetting because we really are like domestic abuse victims.”
“There were a few times when I wasn’t sure if I was safe. [But] you have to be ready to go into that atmosphere,” said State Representative John Waldron. Waldron wasn’t hurt when he was teaching, but he said it’s not hard to find a teacher who has been. “I know someone who was attacked by an elementary school student while she was pregnant a few weeks before she gave birth to her child,” said Waldron. ...
“We’re talking about intentionally assaulting you, with the intent to hurt,” said Mott-Wright. Mott-Wright said that even though the number of physical attacks has gone down the last few years, it isn’t an accurate picture because districts self-report, and many teachers don’t want to come forward. “In our office, it’s gone up. Not a multiplication problem but an exponential problem. We have been living with this, with our teachers, over three weeks,” said Mott-Wright.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The way kids are learning about Thanksgiving is changing

"Oklahoma schools teach native history in Thanksgiving," The Oklahoman reports. And Brian McNicoll has a helpful article here. In short, Douglas Wilson writes, "the tumultuous history of Thanksgiving has left the door open for many postmodern wielders of corrosive acids to step in with their view that Thanksgiving really ought to be renamed something like Genocide Awareness Day."
But as is the fashion of debunkers, our modern naysayers often cannot be troubled with understanding what actually happened throughout our actual history, and so they resort to the simple expedient of putting a different film into the retrospective projector. … Anybody who talks about the settling of North America as though it were a cohesive group called “white people” doing the settling and a group of indigenous flower children being displaced by the disembarking whites is someone who probably ought to stay out of the conversation. ...

The inhabitants of North America when Columbus landed were divided into many tribes, multiple tribes, and these tribes had different languages, customs, histories, and characteristics. Quite a number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another. And to make the whole situation even more festive, the newcomers were also divided into different tribes, and they had different languages, customs, histories and characteristics. A number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another.

White tribes would war with each other, like the French and English did. Red tribes would war with each other, like the Comanche and Apache. Red tribes would go to war with white tribes, like the Wampanoag in King Philip’s War, with the Mohawk fighting on the side of the English. And white tribes would grievously mistreat oppress red tribes, as happened to the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee), culminating in the Trail of Tears. And I use white and red above, not as my categories, but rather as a way of illustrating that when you zoom out that far, such that those are the two identifying characteristics that you see, then by that point you understand almost nothing.
In short, Wilson writes, "because envy is a wasting disease, a wasting disease that seeks to deck itself out in the language of virtue, it blurs all historical distinction, and talks a great deal about social justice. We, on the other hand, like to talk about a little thing we call justice justice."

Your child's school will improve 'eventually'

"Despite a dramatic increase in school funding and the adoption of what state officials say are higher academic standards, Oklahoma students’ academic performance on state tests mostly remained stagnant in 2019 or lower than in 2017," Ray Carter reports.
That has some officials asking how long Oklahomans will have to wait to see promised results. “When do you expect the curve to shift back upward and how long do you anticipate that taking?” asked State Board of Education member Jennifer Monies during that group’s monthly meeting. 
“Eventually,” replied State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.
Sadly, as James Lankford observed poignantly in 2015, that's small consolation for parents: "My child doesn't have a few more years. This is my child's only shot."

Holiday reminder from the teachers' union

Don't forget to be an insufferable boor!