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.

OKC teacher was trampled at school, is now plagued with anxiety

"Another teacher injured was at John Marshall Middle School," News 9 reports.
Miranda Bradley, an 8th grade English teacher, said she was supposed to go back to work Wednesday, but the thought of returning to that environment is giving her severe anxiety. 
Bradley said bruises all over her body are the result of a fight in the cafeteria at John Marshall Middle School back on August 22. “It was madness,” she recalled. “Pandemonium. And I finally made my way out. And not seconds after I got out of the cafeteria, here come the kids behind me. And I got trampled. I fell and then they trampled me.” 
When she finally went to the doctor, she was also diagnosed with a concussion and sprained wrist. But even worse, she said, is the crippling anxiety. 
“I’m covered in hives. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest. My blood pressure is through the roof,” said Bradley.

Accuser says superintendent paid teachers for sex

Longtime Peckham school district Superintendent Gary Young "is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with young children as well as current and former students and staff members, including one staffer who said she received poor evaluations when she rejected his sexual advances," The Oklahoman reports. The state Department of Education has received a complaint that Young had an inappropriate relationship with one teacher who, based on her degree and years of experience, should be paid a minimum salary of $47,531 but instead is paid $87,849, plus an additional $9,097 as a support employee.

Friday, September 6, 2019

To help with childhood trauma, expand school choice

"Expanding school choice is not an alternative to providing greater access to effective trauma services," Greg Forster writes. "It is the best way to provide greater access to effective trauma services. Even better, it would greatly reduce the number of children who need such services in the first place."

Critic of virtual schools has degree from online university


An Oklahoma lawmaker who has been critical of virtual charter schools holds a doctorate from a for-profit online university that was subsequently closed amid claims it was a diploma mill. 

(For what it's worth, the late North Korean dictator Kim il-Sung holds an honorary degree from the same university.)

ChoiceMatters is helping bullied kids find a different school

The organization's director, Robert Ruiz, knows firsthand about the problems of bullying and school violence.

News flash: Competition works


[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Here’s a statement few people will dispute: Competition works. Yet when it comes to education, some policymakers and most public school employees act as though the way to improve the quality of service to families and their children is to limit their taxpayer-funded choices to just one local option.

Proof to the contrary can be seen in the rash of schools now offering 100-percent online education.

For several years now, a handful of online charter schools have offered students an online education. The biggest and most well-known of those providers has been Epic Charter Schools.

Parents have been choosing online learning even though the per-pupil spending at online charter schools is significantly less than the per-pupil spending at a traditional brick-and-mortar public school.

The number of people pursuing K-12 learning online in Oklahoma is astounding. Epic alone reports roughly 24,000 students statewide this year. Those families have chosen online learning for many different reasons, but some of the most commonly cited are the greater range of course offerings, the special needs of children, and bullying problems at local schools.

Chances are you know a family with children who have benefited from online schooling. Because state funding follows students, the exodus to online charter schools has had financial consequences for traditional districts. Now those schools have been forced to step up their game.

At Sapulpa, the local school is offering a virtual academy that provides students “full or partial online delivery of instruction with an element of student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of learning.”

Sound familiar?

Noble Public Schools’ virtual academy provides a 100-percent online education but still lets online students participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, band, and chorus.

Norman Public Schools now offers students “the flexibility to complete all of their coursework outside the traditional school building” through online learning.

Union Public Schools has launched Union Virtual for students in grades 6-12. Sand Springs offers online learning. Broken Arrow offers a full-time online program. So does Lawton. So does Ponca City. And so do others. The list goes on and on.

This is a huge change occurring across Oklahoma to the benefit of students and their families. And the rapid pace of this change is being driven by competition from just a handful of online charter schools.

Policymakers should not simply celebrate this success, but build on it by expanding school-choice opportunities. If the modest level of competition produced by a small group of online providers can create this kind of change, imagine what would happen if Oklahoma had a truly robust education market competing for all students. Then the boom in online learning would be only a hint of better things to come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

School choice saved, changed Oklahoma boy's life

"My oldest son—a well-behaved, honor-roll student—attempted to take his own life," writes an Oklahoma mom.
Internal struggles had changed school from a place of learning to a place of fear and despair for him. Feeling trapped, he almost succeeded in taking his own life and shattering ours. 
Following this near tragedy a few important things happened: My son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a diagnosis that helped him understand why he was feeling so lost. And I moved him and my two other children out of public school and into a virtual public school where they could learn in an environment better suited to their needs.

Amid riots, pepper spray, handcuffs, 11-year-olds 'too scared to go back' to OKCPS middle school

"The Oklahoma City School District says they are making big changes to combat the violence at John Marshall Middle School, but some parents told News 9 they still don't feel safe sending their kids there," News 9 reports.
Those parents said they are permanently pulling their kids out of the school. The district said 34 students have left the school since the beginning of the year. The district spokesperson also said that some of those students may have been waiting for transfer approval.

Eleven-year-old Ezekiel and his buddy Joshua were not at school on Tuesday. They're supposed to be 5th graders at John Marshall Middle School. According to their parents, they are too scared to go back. "The second day of school there was a fight that broke out while he was on his way to his classroom and he ended up getting hit," said Veronica Murphy, Ezekiel’s mother. "They’ve never been in a school like this before," added Etta Dunlap. "Nor seen the riots, the pepper spray from police tactics, the tasering of kids. They put the kids in handcuffs."

Oologah students create device to help students during school shooting

The News on 6 has the story.