Monday, October 5, 2015

Oklahoma GOP interim chairman promotes school choice

"Our candidates for the White House are sharing their vision for America," Oklahoma GOP interim chairman Estela Hernandez writes in a blog post today.
One thing that all our candidates agree on is the need for improving education in this country. The best way to improve our student’s success is to allow parents the freedom to choose the educational path that is best for them. 
Our Republican Principles says, "It is the right of every parent to act in their children’s best interest including health decisions and choosing the form of their education, whether at a public school, private school, or homeschool." 
Currently, there is a move by Democrats to institute a sales tax dedicated to education. Before we simply throw more money at the problems of education we need to reform the system. Students who are trapped in underperforming schools must be given the opportunity to succeed. 
We need more solutions and less rhetoric, we must come together as parents, as Republicans, as Oklahomans and work together for a stronger, more efficient education system that offers real solutions and real options. 
OCPA recently released a great video about Republican solutions for education, I encourage you to watch it. 

Four ideas for expanding school choice in Oklahoma

[Guest post by Patrick Gibbons]

Oklahoma already has two private-school choice programs which are making a big difference in the lives of children. Unfortunately, the programs only serve a tiny fraction of Oklahoma students. Here’s how policymakers could help more children.

Expand Tax Credit Scholarships

We know that tax credit scholarships are popular among the voting public. Policymakers should look to improve and expand Oklahoma’s existing program. They should remove the cap on corporate and individual donations so both groups can donate as much as they wish and also increase the total cap above the current $3.5 million, which is a just a tenth of one percent of Oklahoma’s state appropriations for education. Moreover, adding an “escalator” to the cap can allow the program to grow automatically if scholarship organizations raise 90 percent of the funds for the current cap. In addition, offering tiered scholarships based on income level can ensure equity by providing lower-income families with more financial support.

Provide Individual Tax Credits for Education Expenses

Parents paying for private education or home education have to pay twice: once in taxes to support public schools and again for tuition, fees, textbooks, and school supplies. To address some of this unfairness, some states now offer tax credits for these education expenses. Illinois has the largest tax credit program with nearly 300,000 families earning credits up to $500 for educational expenses.

Individual tax credits for education expenses are subject to one major criticism: you only get tax credits up to the amount you owe in taxes. Since wealthier families tend to owe the most in taxes, they will get the largest tax credits. Which brings us to the next policy proposal.

Provide Refundable Tax Credits for Private School Expenses

One solution to the problem mentioned above is a refundable tax credit for educational expenses, such as exists in South Carolina. That program allows parents of special-needs children to receive up to $10,000 in tax credits for educational expenses. If the credits exceed your tax bill then you receive a tax refund for the difference. This ensures that the rich aren’t the biggest beneficiary of the program. (However, not all families can afford to wait several months for the refund.)

Create Education Savings Accounts

When Arizona’s special-needs voucher program was declared unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court speculated that a program which allowed parents to choose more than just private schools could be constitutional. Thus, the nation’s first ESA program was born.

With an ESA, the state funds an educational account parents can access to pay tuition, school fees, textbooks, school supplies, curriculum, and therapies. In Florida, for example, parents can even contract out services with charter, virtual, and district public schools. Under ESA programs, reimbursements are reduced from months to weeks, or can be immediate through the use of a debit card.

[Former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons (M.A. in political science, University of Oklahoma) is the public affairs manager at Step Up for Students, an organization providing scholarships for low-income and special-needs schoolchildren in Florida. A former schoolteacher, Gibbons also serves as a research fellow for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.]

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The high-regulation approach to school choice

In a series of blog posts, Professor Jay Greene will discuss why he thinks this approach is mistaken.

Latinos want to talk about education more than immigration

Seven out of 10 Latinos support some of type of school choice, Julio Fuentes writes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Educational choice is a pro-family policy

"At the root of our education debates is a debate about the family," Greg Forster writes in the October issue of Perspective.
The government school monopoly is one of the most important factors undermining the family unit; universal school choice would be a big step toward strengthening it. 
I encourage you to read the entire article here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Norman adds trauma counselors to high school staffs

The Oklahoman has the story.

OKC teacher says she fears for her safety

"A middle school counselor in the Oklahoma City district says she fears for her safety and that of teachers after a student who tried to hit her with a pole was suspended for only two days," Tim Willert reports in The Oklahoman.
Meanwhile, a veteran teacher who recently resigned says student conduct at Upper Greystone Elementary School is "worse than ever" because the district is reluctant to issue suspensions. 
"When students know they can do anything they want and not be suspended they're going to do it," the ex-teacher said. "We can't fault them for that because kids need parameters and guidance and consequences. I think it's very difficult for them to receive that given the current circumstances at Upper Greystone." 
The counselor, Regina Sims, said the incident occurred Wednesday when she was left alone with the boy, who she characterized as violent, in the office of Roosevelt Middle School Principal David Clark. She said Clark had just left to attend to another matter when Sims said the boy swung the metal pole at her. 
"To be honest, I was left in an unsafe situation," she said. "I don't want to go back to Roosevelt because what happened to me is very unsettling." 
In the other case, the former teacher, who requested anonymity because of fear of retribution, said several Upper Greystone teachers have resigned since school started Aug. 3. 
"The class sizes are very large and the behavior is the worst I've ever seen," the ex-teacher said. "There are some people who have worked there a lot longer than (I did) who feel very hopeless and helpless." 
The district said two teachers have resigned from Upper Greystone since the first day of school. The former teacher, who has since changed professions, accused Superintendent Rob Neu of "bullying principals into lowering suspension rates." 
"The kids know there are no ramifications for their behavior," the ex-teacher said. 
Oklahoma City Public Schools spokesman Mark Myers said the allegation made by the ex-teacher "is false."
You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Oklahoma teacher allegedly calls being left-handed 'evil' and 'sinister'

Does this teacher deserve to benefit from an across-the-board pay raise?

Trump: Public school monopoly should 'set off antitrust alarm bells'

Photo credit: Albert H. Teich /

In his book The America We Deserve (Renaissance Books, 2000), Donald Trump made some excellent points about parental choice in education (HT: Shane Vander Hart):
Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall. Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us. With more than 85 percent of their soft-money donations going to Democrats, teachers’ unions know they can count on the politician they back to take a strong stand against school choice. 
Our public schools are capable of providing a more competitive product than they do today. Look at some of the high school tests from earlier in this century and you’ll wonder if they weren’t college-level tests. And we’ve got to bring on the competition—open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. 
Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way. ... 
Defenders of the status quo insist that parental choice means the end of public schools. Let’s look at the facts. Right now, nine of 10 children attend public schools. If you look at public education as a business—and with nearly $300 billion spent each year on K-through-12 education, it’s a very big business indeed—it would set off every antitrust alarm bell at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. When teachers’ unions say even the most minuscule program allowing school choice is a mortal threat, they’re saying: If we aren’t allowed to keep 90 percent of the market, we can’t survive. When Bell Telephone had 90 percent of the market, a federal judge broke it up. 
Who’s better off? The kids who use vouchers to go to the school of their choice, or the ones who choose to stay in public school? All of them. That’s the way it works in a competitive system.

Correcting misinformation on school choice

Martin F. Lueken does some mythbusting.