Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tulsa board chided for keeping charter schools suit alive

In a Friday editorial, the Oklahoman took the Tulsa school board to task for continuing its lawsuit against the state's charter school law. The TPS board claims the law is unconstitutional because it limits charter schools to certain parts of the state based on population and district size.

Charter schools exist because many parents and educators aren't happy with what they see at traditional schools. Some are in direct competition with traditional public schools; others have programs that serve students who have struggled in a traditional education setting. That's not to say all charter schools are perfect and a great fit for every student. But we believe the marketplace will sort the good from the bad, and parents ultimately will vote with their children's feet.

Charter schools were designed to be incubators for new ideas that could be replicated. Instead, we tend to hear excuses on why some of their innovations won't work in regular schools. Even Oklahoma City, which has been a more welcoming environment for charter schools than Tulsa, has had tense and sometimes hostile relationships with charter schools.

We said when the lawsuit was filed that it was a waste of money. It still is. Schools -- and school boards -- would do better to embrace the competition as an opportunity for students to receive a better education and a challenge to do better. That's not too much to ask.

The editorial refers to a December 15 attempt by TPS board members Brian Hunt and Lana Turner-Addison to drop the lawsuit. The motion failed by a 4-2 vote.

(Crossposted at BatesLine.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Horace Mann, homeschool dad

"We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools, not throwing our hands up and walking away from them," said President-elect Barack Obama, shortly before throwing up his hands and walking away from the D.C. public schools last month. This presumably wasn't too difficult for Obama, in that he already had experience in throwing up his hands and walking away from the Chicago public schools.

Of course Mr. Obama, a father of two, is merely the latest in a long line of public figures who champion public schools ... for other people's children. But until reading a new book by education professor Milton Gaither, I had no idea this grand tradition stretches all the way back to Horace Mann himself.

That's right, Horace Mann, generally regarded as the father of America's current public school system, was a homeschooler. "Ironically," Gaither writes, "some of the very people pushing so strongly for common schools that would raise the masses up ... were tutoring their own children at home out of a fear that these very masses would corrupt their own kids. One such individual was Horace Mann himself, whose wife Mary taught their three children at home even as he stumped the country preaching the common school. Mann's biographer Jonathan Messerli captures the irony well:
From a hundred platforms, Mann had lectured that the need for better schools was predicated upon the assumption that parents could no longer be entrusted to perform their traditional roles in moral training and that a more systematic approach with the public school was necessary. Now as a father, he fell back on the educational responsibilities of the family, hoping to make the fireside achieve for his own son what he wanted the schools to accomplish for others.

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Attention! We stink at what we do!'

Education reporter Mike Antonucci nails it:
The people who collected $338 million this year for the specific purpose of getting higher salaries for teachers yesterday sent out a press release admitting they're no good at it, and haven't been for years.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

State budget shortfalls? School choice can help

The good news: Oklahoma state government will have less money to spend in the next budget year.

The better news: State lawmakers can help alleviate the budget shortfall by enacting school choice. "Lawmakers should take note of a state report from Florida," Cato's Adam Schaeffer writes, "that concludes Florida is saving millions of dollars with school choice. ... The Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability found that taxpayers saved about $39 million, close to 50 cents for ever dollar donated through Florida's education tax credit program last year. The report concludes much more could be saved if politicians expand the program and give families more choice."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

School choice works ...

... for the Obamas.

Quote of the day

"I don't know much about Arne Duncan, President-elect Obama's choice to be Secretary of Education," David Boaz writes this morning. "But I do note this: In seven years running the Chicago public schools, this longtime friend of Obama was apparently not able to produce a single public school that Obama considered good enough for his own children."

Friday, December 12, 2008

'School for $6 a month'

In a new commentary on, Chester Finn reports that "lots of needy kids are getting a decent education at an astoundingly low cost in spite of their governments' failure to provide anything of the sort."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What a surprise

The Chicago Public Schools weren't good enough for Barack Obama's children, and apparently they're not good enough for Rahm Emanuel's children, either.

The next frontier in school choice?

The venerable American Enterprise Institute hosts a discussion on tax credits Monday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What the Big Three automakers could learn from public schools

Don't ask for a mere one-time bailout, Andrew Coulson says. Ask for permanent government ownership and control.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Private schools are regulated

"There is a widespread misperception that private schools avoid government oversight or are 'unregulated,'" the Friedman Foundation reports. But in fact, Oklahoma's private schools "are subject to a wide variety of laws and regulations that run the gamut from reasonable rules to ensure health and safety to unreasonable rules that interfere with school curricula, preventing schools from pursuing the educational approaches that work best for their students."

Black market alive and well

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

The black market for school choice is still alive and well in Oklahoma.

In the December issue of Perspective, published by OCPA, Dr. Donald Tyler, pastor of Greater Grace in Tulsa, pointed out that in Tulsa, "Some kids are able, by using false addresses, to get into the better public schools -- Union or Jenks or Broken Arrow -- but there are kids who cannot go that direction. It's just awful to see the number stuck in an environment with not the best the teachers, not the best facilities, and not the best environment for them to learn and grow in."

Of course, it's not just Tulsa. Last year (and likely again this year), Edmond schools required enrollees to bring a utility bill on enrollment day to prove their residency within the district. This wouldn't be necessary if people weren't trying to cheat the system. But can you blame them? They just want what's best for their kids.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Nothing is forever

In a house editorial October 31, the weekly Oklahoma City newspaper Friday noted that
It is ironic how the industry and public in America shudder at the thought of government health care for everybody. We do not want socialized medicine. ... The further irony, that is never mentioned, is that, forever, we have had "socialized education." ... We don't even think about that. It's just a given.

In a letter to the editor published November 28, I wrote:

Thank you for your October 31 editorial reminding us that "forever, we have had 'socialized education.'" However, I want to take issue with that word "forever." In truth, America has a grand tradition, stretching back to colonial times, of educational freedom. As a matter of fact, it's a tradition that predates and is longer than our current tradition of delivering education through a government-owned-and-run monopoly.

Many people today are trying to roll back socialized education and regain a measure of that freedom, mainly through school-choice policies which empower parents to choose the safest and best schools for their children.

Big Labor is doing to education ...

... just what it did to the Big Three automakers.

The Truth about Teachers Unions from Union Facts on Vimeo.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Not your father's Senate

Sometimes life serves up delicious little morsels that need to be savored.

I realize that school choice still hasn't arrived in Oklahoma, but I ask you to ponder this (once unthinkable) factoid: Both the chairman and the vice chairman of the state Senate Education Committee are members of the group Oklahomans for School Choice.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's next for school choice?

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently hosted a panel discussion that explored the future of school choice.

Since 1990, we have seen an 80 percent increase in the number of school choice programs in the United States. Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, believes that future expansion is inevitable. However, in order for expansion to occur, we must first realize the following:

· Vouchers are not an intervention; they’re an opportunity

· Parents choose schools holistically, so higher test scores are not the sole indicator of success

· School choice is about social justice and providing lower-income people with more opportunities

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Did Obama choose America's worst school?

Greg Forster is perplexed that Mr. and Mrs. Obama would pick Sidwell Friends, a "shockingly substandard school" (no unionized workforce, no collective bargaining, weak teacher benefits, and so on), "even though they had the opportunity to go with the nation's most lavishly funded and heavily unionized schools."
As patriotic Americans, how can we stand by while our president's family gets such substandard services?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Beyond mere slogans

The Tulsa World reports that state Sen. Jay Paul Gumm (D-Durant) has filed legislation which would allow Oklahomans to purchase license plates bearing the motto "In God We Trust."

Sounds like a good plan to me. But as I've said before, suppose a teacher took that license plate off her car, brought it into the classroom, and hung it on the bulletin board. And suppose she said, "Students, you need to know that it is in God we trust. Really. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview, and in my classroom God’s Word is the interpretive principle of every subject."

That, of course, would not be permitted. Even if an individual teacher happens to trust in God, the schools themselves are agnostic as matter of law and public policy. In the ACLU we trust.

So here's my modest proposal this Advent season. The state Senate should pass Sen. Gumm's bill, but only after passing tax-credit legislation which would empower some children to attend private schools where "In God We Trust" is a day-to-day reality.

Slogans that will fit on a bumper sticker (or license plate) are all well and good. But let's actually empower Oklahoma youngsters to attend a school where they can learn to love the Lord their God with all their minds.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quote of the day

"The public-school system should be kept healthy by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools and Church schools, and the State should refrain from such regulation of these schools as to make their freedom illusory."

-- J. Gresham Machen

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Don't know much about history

In a letter to the editor published in the state's largest newspaper Sunday, a mother in Yukon lamented:
My 5-year-old attends pre-kindergarten at a public school. While telling him about the first Thanksgiving, I told him that the Pilgrims were having a special day to thank God. He quickly responded, "No, Mama, my teacher said they were thanking the Indians for their help.”

If policymakers would give parents the ability to choose whatever kind of school they want for their 5-year-olds, then parents would be empowered to avoid schools which teach bogus history.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama supporter urges school choice

Democrats "have to get serious about school choice," Stanford political scientist Terry Moe writes in The Wall Street Journal.

How to improve Sidwell Friends School

Education reporter Mike Antonucci wants to know "why the Obamas would choose Sidwell Friends, a school sorely lacking in many of the elements we are told are required for educational excellence."
It would be a shame if the Obama kids were to miss out on all these benefits, so we humbly submit these additions and subtractions to make Sidwell Friends the type of school the experts want all schools to become:

* Add a unionized workforce and a collective bargaining agreement. ...

* Add geographic enrollment boundaries. ...

* Subtract weak teacher benefits. ...

* Add diversity. ...

* Subtract religion. ...

* Add to the curriculum. ...

Read the whole thing here.

'The essential ingredient'

"School choice -- especially universal school choice -- is not some boring cop-out that dull folks reflexively whimper about because they've got nothing better to say," Cato's Neal McCluskey writes today. "No, it is the essential ingredient to getting an education system that actually works."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving thanks for Pilgrim homeschoolers

Perhaps you've heard the argument that Christian parents should send their children to a nonreligious school in order to be "salt and light" there.

The Pilgrims didn't see it that way. I'm reading a fascinating new book, Homeschool: An American History, by education professor Milton Gaither. Neither hagiographic nor hostile, this is a serious, scholarly history of home education -- the only one I'm aware of -- covering the period from 1600 to the present. Gaither writes:
Generations of Americans have learned in elementary school of the Mayflower, Squanto, Thanksgiving, and the other tropes that make up the romance of Plymouth Colony, but it has not often been noted that one of the driving motivations behind the endeavor was the education of children.

When the first Protestant separatists left Scrooby, England, in search of religious toleration in Amsterdam, Gaither explains, "the cosmopolitan air and Dutch culture were a bit of a shock to the Scrooby people, so much so that they feared for their children's futures." They resettled in the smaller, more rural town of Leyden, but still, as William Bradford wrote,

many of their children, by these occasions and the great licentiousness of youth in that country, and the manifold temptations of the place, were drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and departing from their parents. Some became soldiers, others took upon them far voyages by sea, and others some worse courses tending to dissoluteness and the danger of their souls, to the great grief of their parents and dishonour of God. So that they saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and be corrupted.

Thus, Gaither writes, "throughout their sojourn in Holland, the Scrooby families taught their children at home rather than send them to schools where they would learn Dutch grammar and manners." Eventually these Pilgrims set sail for the New World, and "for the first forty years of Plymouth Colony's existence there was no school at all. ... Most learning occurred in the home, as mothers and fathers passed down values, manners, literacy, and vocational skills to their offspring."

The Pilgrims were doubtless aware of the dangers of keeping company with fools. I can't help but wonder if they also thought of Elimelech, who left Judah with his wife and two sons and went to live among the heathens in Moab. His sons, of course, ended up disobeying God by marrying Moabite women who worshiped false gods. As Matthew Henry commented,

Little did Elimelech think, when he went to sojourn in Moab, that ever his sons would thus join in affinity with Moabites. But those that bring young people into bad acquaintance, and take them out of the way of public ordinances, though they may think them well-principled and armed against temptation, know not what they do, nor what will be the end thereof.

This is a good sign

The weekly newspaper of the Communist Party USA appears really hostile to school choice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

You knew it was coming

"President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have chosen a private school for their two daughters," the Associated Press reports.
Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, will be attending Sidwell Friends School, a private Quaker school ...

"A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now." ... Lelyveld said that while public schools were considered, the Obamas felt that a private school was in the best interest of their children.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Senate leader favors school choice

In an interview yesterday with the Associated Press, Senate President Pro Tem-designate Glenn Coffee said he favors scholarship tax credits for children in failing schools.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ah yes, 'arrangements would be made'

"Concerned by estimates that half of Oklahomans are overweight, a state legislator said Tuesday he will file legislation requiring students to be checked annually to identify possible weight problems," Michael McNutt reports today in The Oklahoman.
All students 16 years and younger would be required to have a screening to check their body mass indexes, said state Rep. Richard Morrissette. Students would be weighed and measured, and the BMI data would be used to determine whether they have excess fat or are underweight. ...

Students in public schools would be checked during the school year. Arrangements would be made for homeschooled students also to be screened, Morrissette said.

This legislation is egregious on several levels, of course, and I will be surprised if it's anything other than DOA at 23rd and Lincoln. Nevertheless, when legislators wander this far off the reservation (state Sen. Jim Wilson was last year's poster child), homeschoolers need to act decisively. Please let your state representative know what you think about this proposed legislation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another school-choice success story

Here is a Georgia mom who feels like she won the lottery:
William, you see, is developmentally delayed and has attention deficit disorder. His public school experience has been a disaster the past few years. It takes him much longer to learn concepts than other children his age. As a result, he was called "retarded" by his peers. He didn't make friends and dreaded going to school. ...

We were at the end of our rope, praying we could find some solution. I even considered taking two jobs if that's what it took to find him another school that could meet his needs.

But now, William's life is turning around. ... We were very fearful that William would become a statistic -- a dropout or be kicked out of school before earning a high school diploma. But thanks to the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, we believe he is now in a learning environment that meets his needs.

I never saw him with a smile on his face in school when he was in public school, but he smiles most every day at Hope Christian. We are truly blessed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

'They're still going to hurt you'

"During 2006-07 there were more than 12,000 incidents in state schools of bullying or harassment," Dawn Marks reports today in The Oklahoman.
[A] seventh-grader, who didn't want to give his name, said bullying happens frequently in his school in the Oklahoma City area. The student ... said he and other students don't report it.

"What's the point of doing that if it's not going to change?" he said. "They're still going to follow you, hurt you. ... I don't know what to do, so I just stay to myself."

Here's a bullying story with a happy ending -- thanks to school choice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Power to parents

"School choice would return power to parents and remove party politics from our classrooms," Phillip W. Smith writes in a letter published in the Muskogee Phoenix. "It would also spur innovation, competition and true accountability."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Okla. criminal justice professor: 'Schools are frightening'

"With more than 1,000 people in Oklahoma identified as gang members," the Associated Press reports, "and some of those members as young as 8 years old, teachers and school administrators have become important players in prevention efforts, an expert said Monday.
Michael Wilds, an attorney and associate professor at Northeastern State University's Broken Arrow campus, told those attending the State Superintendent's 10th Annual Safe and Healthy Schools Conference that awareness and alternatives are keys to keeping children from going into gangs.

"Schools are frightening, and I can't say any other word to describe it. It used to be seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders were approached when it came to gangs and/or drugs," Wilds said.

"Now we're seeing gangs approaching the second- and third-graders, even in some cases -- due to grandpa and dad being in the gangs -- kindergarten. They're acutely aware of the gangs, they’re very susceptible at that age, very impressionable."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Need a speaker?

Looking for a speaker for your local political or civic organization? The newly formed School Choice Speakers Bureau, of which I'm a part, is a joint effort of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Alliance for School Choice, the Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options (HCREO).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes, inherent contradictions can tend to be 'complex'

Wendy K. Kleinman reported yesterday in The Oklahoman ('Some Oklahoma students shirk school') that the Tulsa Public Schools have reported "no truancies to the state for any grades for at least the last two years, according to state data."
Sharolyn Sorrels, the district's director of educational indicators, said it's a "complex issue."

Tulsa abides by the state's definition of truancy, under which students with unexcused absences are only counted truant if their parent, guardian or school doesn't know where they are when they miss school, she said.

"Tulsa has a process in place where each absence is verified with a parent. We don't have any children that we don't know where they are," Sorrels said of the district's 42,000 students. Still, Sorrels also said district high schools last year had 731 dropouts -- adolescents who would have had to be truant before they became classified as dropouts."

Let parents choose

Our friends over at The Alliance for School Choice have launched a major campaign to recruit 10,000 school-choice supporters from across the country. If we really want to see school choice become a reality in Oklahoma, it is important that we build the necessary grassroots infrastructure. I strongly encourage you to support this national campaign by signing up today. You will receive a free bumper sticker, a free school choice handbook, school choice magazines, and more.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Remind me again why this mom doesn't deserve another option

Reporter: "When you send your kids off to school every day, do you worry about their safety?"

Mother of Capitol Hill High School student:
"Every day."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How to get parents involved

A frequent complaint of the government's education monopoly is that too many parents are uninvolved in their children's education. To me that complaint has always rung hollow. It's like the fellow who whacks you on the foot with a hammer then chastises you for walking with a limp. How can parents be expected to be involved when the government gives them virtually no control over the who, what, when, where, why, or how of their child's education?

Well, as my friend John LaPlante points out in a new article, school choice is one way to get parents more involved.

Do 'public' schools serve the 'public' interest?

No, as our friend Andrew Coulson points out, government schools serve the government's interest.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Competition boosts student achievement

In a new multinational study published by Education Next, Martin R. West and Ludger Woessmann demonstrate that competition from private schools improves achievement for both public and private school students -- not to mention increasing productivity.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Close-knit communities that shape people's values

I enjoyed Berry Tramel's column today ('Bob Stoops, Bo Pelini reunite') about two men who hail from Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.
"It's a close-knit community," Pelini said of Cardinal Mooney. "Shaped my values. So many things it did for me carried over for a long time." ... Hard-working, sacrificing people. Men who didn't make a ton of money but found ways to send their kids to Catholic schools.

Here's hoping politicians will help men find more ways to send their kids to Catholic schools.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't walk away like I did

In a new commentary ('Poor Families, Not Just the Elite, Deserve School Choice'), our friend Dan Lips, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, reminds us that "Sen. Barack Obama has joined a growing club of elected officials who oppose school vouchers for poor families while sending their own children to private school." Dan reminds us of
the sentiment [Obama] expressed to the American Federation of Teachers this summer: "But what I do oppose is spending public money for private school vouchers. We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools, not throwing our hands up and walking away from them."

But Obama did walk away from public schools when the time came to enroll his own daughters. After serving on the board of a charity that gave tens of millions to public education, Obama decided that Chicago public schools weren't good enough for his daughters. He enrolled them in the private University of Chicago lab school, where elementary school tuition costs more than $18,000 per year. ...

Obama should recognize the urgent need to give poor children -- not just his own children -- the opportunity to attend a private school. He should sympathize with the low-income families who care just as much about their children's future, but lack a senator's salary to send their children to private school.

Quote of the day

From Oklahoma City Friday, in a house editorial today:
It is ironic how the industry and public in America shudder at the thought of government health care for everybody. We do not want socialized medicine. ... The further irony, that is never mentioned, is that, forever, we have had "socialized education." ... We don't even think about that. It's just a given.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let's expand school choice in Oklahoma

"Vouchers are controversial for K–12 education, but they have been widely accepted in the child-care ­world," Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas M. Call write in an article ('The New Kindergarten') in the Autumn 2008 Wilson Quarterly. The authors pay special attention to "the Oklahoma solution":
Using mostly federal funds, the state simply pays child-care centers for a full day for each child, even if the child is only present for four hours. (This practice is documented in government reports, but the folks in Washington either don't know or don't care about it.)

So Oklahoma has school choice for four-year-olds; why not school choice for five-year-olds? We have school choice for 18-year-olds; why not school choice for 17-year-olds?

McCain and Obama on school choice

"Mr. McCain would pursue education reforms that institute equality of choice in the K-12 system," Joseph Rago writes in today's Wall Street Journal.
He would allow parents whose kids are locked into failing public schools to opt out, whether in favor of another public school, a charter school or through voucher or scholarship programs for private options. Parents, he believes, ought to have more control over their education dollars. ...

Mr. Obama prefers that students stay within the current system, though he acknowledges its many problems. ... During a recent speech to the American Federation of Teachers, Mr. Obama disparaged "tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Let's empower parents of special-needs children

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

A post on State Representative Jason Murphey’s blog last month echoes something we have heard with increasing intensity in the media recently: school choice for children with special needs. He explains that the public school system simply can't provide the specialized treatment required by special needs students, and suggests that parents of these students be allowed to take their tax dollars and use them to pursue proper treatment and education for their children.

Now, pair this view with the reality that our state is short on behavioral specialists and therapists (as reported by The Associated Press). At first, it may seem contradictory to suggest that we privatize education for special needs children on the basis that public education cannot provide adequate therapy when there are clearly not enough therapists in the private sector, either. However, it is important to remember the old adage "If you build it, they will come." If we empower parents to seek proper treatment and education for their special needs children, demand for therapists in the private sector will increase, drawing therapists to our state and ultimately improving care for all special needs children.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Palin calls for school choice for special-needs children

In a speech on Friday in Pittsburgh, Pa., Alaska Gov. and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin detailed the intention of her presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain, to give parents the choice to spend their special-needs children to public or private school. According to Palin, all it would take is an administrative action to clarify existing law, so that Federal funding for special-needs education would follow the student to whichever school he attends.

In a McCain-Palin administration, we will put the educational choices for special needs children in the right hands their parents'. Under reforms that I will lead as vice president, the parents and caretakers of children with physical or mental disabilities will be able to send that boy or girl to the school of their choice -- public or private.

Under our reforms, federal funding for every special needs child will follow that child. Some states have begun to apply this principle already, as in Florida's McKay Scholarship program. That program allows for choices and a quality of education that should be available to parents in every state, for every child with special needs. This process should be uncomplicated, quick, and effective -- because early education can make all the difference. No barriers of bureaucracy should stand in the way of serving children with special needs.

That's why John and I will direct the Department of Education to clarify the statute administratively. We'll make explicit that when state funds are portable, federal funds are fully portable. We're going to make sure parents have choices and children receive the education they deserve.

Don't assault your teacher, she may be drunk

"On any given day in the USA, about one in 20 teachers is absent from school," USA Today reports. "Between kindergarten and 12th grade, the typical kid spends the equivalent of two-thirds of a school year being taught by a substitute teacher."

The newspaper cites a new study by Raegan Miller, a former teacher union president, who found that teacher absenteeism costs about $4 billion annually for substitute-teacher salaries and administrative costs. The author also found that Mondays and Fridays are by far the most popular days to call in "sick."

On a related note, KOCO-TV reports that a substitute teacher at Edmond Memorial High School (where I recently snapped this photo) was arrested on -- you guessed it -- Friday. The poor gal was drunk in class.

UPDATE: Here's Dave with the "Top Ten Signs Your Teacher Is Drunk."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Government vouchers available in Oklahoma!

Alas, not for education. The vouchers are available to help buy a converter box that allows old TVs to pick up digital television signals.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dropout problem threatens America

"As the financial meltdown and economic slump hold the national spotlight, another potential crisis is on the horizon: a persistently high dropout rate that educators and mayors across the country say increases the threat to the country's strength and prosperity," Gary Fields reports today in The Wall Street Journal ('The High School Dropout's Economic Ripple Effect').

Policymakers should look to school choice as one option for addressing this problem.

Obama: 'I think it’s important to foster competition'

"Just think," Jay Greene writes. "Only twenty years ago school choice and competition was hardly a glimmer in Ronald Reagan's eye. Now the idea is so widely accepted as reasonable that the leaders of both parties differ only on the mechanism for producing choice and competition. We've come a long way, baby."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For educational freedom

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

People often refer to the founding of our nation to back up their opinions regarding the separation of church and state. So, why not look to colonial America for direction on education policy? You might be surprised to learn that the compulsory public education we are all familiar with today was not the norm.

Cato Institute scholar Neal McCluskey points out that in 1647, authorities tried to demand that the colonies maintain public schools, but other priorities like food and shelter took precedence. This lack of public education resulted in amazing educational variety. Communities of all ethnic and religious backgrounds facilitated private and home schooling, and eventually set up for-profit schools once the market allowed. This private education proved successful, for by the drafting of the Constitution, approximately 65 percent of free American males were literate, "a very high number by European standards."

Public schooling as we know it today was not fully implemented until about 1900. By 1918, every state had passed compulsory attendance laws. It was believed that compulsory public education would lead to unity and homogeneity among citizens. Although this belief is built on an ideological foundation of nationalism that is to be lauded, the educational system that has ensued denies the American ideal of freedom. "The greatest proponents of public schooling were all too often driven by the patently un-American conviction that for adults to safely have freedom, the state has to indoctrinate them as children," McCluskey writes.

Although public schooling aims to produce unity and homogeneity among citizens, it often does quite the opposite. A one-size-fits-all approach to education can never work for a people of such diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds as Americans. "The result is seemingly constant warfare over issues such as intelligent design, abstinence education, multiculturalism, school prayer, offensive library books, and so on," McCluskey writes. "When diverse people are forced to support a single system of public schools, they don't come together; they fight to make theirs the values that are taught."

So what's the answer? Freedom. "We must have educational freedom today," McCluskey concludes, "or we'll have neither unity nor freedom tomorrow."

School choice is opening doors

"A newly released report says as many as a third of elementary and middle school students in Oklahoma are involved in bullying," the Associated Press reports. Here is a story of a bullying victim in another state who was rescued by school choice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Study says school choice boosts student learning

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

A recent C.D. Howe Institute study suggests that school choice makes children smarter. The study surveyed standardized test scores in Ontario, Canada over a 14-year period, and found that test scores in areas with more competition among publicly funded educational institutions improved more than in areas with less competition. It is believed that competition encourages school administrators to improve their schools, which leads to higher test scores.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

OKC school bus driver arrested

"Police said they pulled over an Oklahoma City school bus driver who was driving recklessly and was clocked driving nearly 50 mph on a 25 mph street," KOCO reports. "Anthony Atchison was arrested after officers discovered he had a suspended license and an outstanding warrant for speeding."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jewish school-choice leader laments Americans' golden-calf worship

Israel Teitelbaum, co-founder of the group Parents for Free Choice in Education, sends a reminder that Jews the world over are fasting and praying for forgiveness during Yom Kippur (which began last night at sundown).
This day corresponds to the day Moses returned from 40 days of prayer on Mount Sinai 3,320 years ago, seeking atonement for the sin of the golden calf, at which time forgiveness was granted. Those who worship America's "golden calf" have indoctrinated generations of our youth to stray from age-old traditions of right and wrong, resulting in destroyed lives, broken families, devastated cities and a society in decline.

Prior to seeking atonement, we need to mend our ways and restore our "inalienable" right to individual and religious liberty.

This calls to mind a certain Southern Baptist who also made the golden calf analogy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jewish group calls for school choice

The National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE) is pushing for universal school choice.

Bullying a problem in Oklahoma schools

"A newly released report says as many as a third of elementary and middle school students in Oklahoma are involved in bullying," the Associated Press reports today.

Send your kids to our jails or we'll send you to jail

"Parents of truant students could face fines and even jail time under a contract approved Monday night by the Oklahoma City School Board," Wendy K. Kleinman reports today in The Oklahoman.

In other words, parents could go to jail if they don't send their children to unsafe places with metal detectors and security guards and which are sometimes put on lockdown.

If compulsory attendance and compulsory taxation be our lot, shouldn't we at least have the option of choosing schools that are safe and that teach children to read and do math?

UPDATE: Similar news from Tulsa.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blind boosterism is not helpful

In Sunday's Oklahoman, some Oklahoma City civic leaders offered up "10 things that make our city great." One of the 10 things listed was ... "schools." I assume they're talking about the ones that aren't locked down, but even so the graduation rate in Oklahoma City is less than 50 percent. There's nothing even remotely "great" about that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

'Charter schools find success where traditional schools fail'

So reports Janice Francis-Smith today on the front page of The Journal Record. "Members of the House Education Committee met Thursday to discuss how some charter schools in high-poverty, urban areas are graduating successful students while their neighboring public schools continue to garner low test scores and high dropout rates."

Either way, taxpayers are paying twice for K-12 education

Matt Montgomery, editor of the student newspaper at Oklahoma City Community College, reports that "nearly 80 percent of Oklahoma's community college students have to enroll in remedial or zero-level coursework." He quotes a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education who suggests that students may not be to blame for their unpreparedness, but rather -- um, how to put this? -- "their preceding educators might be to blame."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ho hum ... another day, another teacher raping a student

The Associated Press reports today that "second-degree rape and forcible sodomy charges have been filed against a former Ponca City middle school teacher. Ashley Renea Flores, 26, pleaded not guilty in Kay County District Court Wednesday to having a month-long, sexual relationship with a 14-year-old male student in her math class earlier this year."

You may recall that a recent analysis by the Associated Press found that "sexual conduct plagues U.S. schools" and suggests that sexual misconduct among male schoolteachers is at least as common as among male priests. A 2004 U.S. Department of Education study found that one in 10 public school students is sexually harassed or abused by a teacher or other school employee at some point between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Districts fail to notify parents of choices

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

A recent article in the Tulsa World exposed the fact that schools in 19 Oklahoma districts failed to notify parents that their children’s school was on the Needs Improvement list, meaning the schools failed to meet No Child Left Behind test benchmarks. It is required by law that schools not only notify parents of their status on the Needs Improvement list, but also that they allow transfers within the district (if applicable) and provide bus transportation for participating students.

It's sad that students continue to go to underperforming schools because someone dropped the administrative ball. But it's even worse that parents didn't get to choose where to send their kids in the first place. It's likely that many of them knew the schools weren't the best, but couldn't afford to move or send their children to a private school. Wouldn't it be great if we had some kind of voucher or tax credit system to help parents make the best choices for their kids?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unsafe-schools watch

Another Oklahoma City high school was put on lockdown today, as was a Tulsa high school, where police recovered three handguns. Meanwhile, a former Tulsa elementary-school teacher pleaded guilty to a felony peeping Tom charge after setting up a video camera in an air vent in a boys restroom, and a mother in Gore, Okla. says her first-grade daughter was sexually assaulted on the school playground. "You send them to school so they're going to learn and be taken care of," the girl's mother says in this video. "You don't send them to school just so they can get half an education and get their clothes ripped off."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Horace Mann prophecy watch

Horace Mann, generally regarded as the father of America's current public school system, once prophesied: "Let the Common School ... be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged."

It hasn't quite worked out that way, of course. Not only have the crimes not become obsolete, they are now occurring in the schools themselves, schools which in many ways have become like prisons. Worse yet, none of this comes as much of a surprise anymore; it's just something "the kids feel like they have to get used to," as one parent told The Oklahoman.

"Metal detectors across the Oklahoma City School District are being inspected in the wake of a student's arrest Monday at U.S. Grant High School in an incident involving a gun in the building," The Oklahoman's Wendy K. Kleinman and Augie Frost reported today.
Students at U.S. Grant said after school Wednesday that security measures are more stringent since Hodauri Latifu McCoy Jr., 14, was arrested on a felony complaint of carrying a firearm in a school. According to a police report, he pointed a loaded gun at another student and threatened others.

"We weren't really surprised," junior Edgar Estrada, 17, said as he left the campus Wednesday.

"It's just kind of something the kids feel like they have to get used to," said parent Rebecca Owens, who has a son in the ninth grade at the school.

Tulsa World editorialist supports vouchers!

Janet Pearson, a liberal columnist for the Tulsa World, says vouchers can help Oklahomans who need ... health care.
Under the voucher concept, patients who have serious problems and need specialty care could receive such treatment through vouchers underwritten by local philanthropic foundations. The long-range goal is for vouchers to be underwritten by various public and private sources, including state and federal sources. Some observers feel the voucher concept eventually could be the answer to the state's uninsured problem.

Simply take the fifth word in that quote, patients, and replace it with students. Then take the next-to-last word in that quote, uninsured, and replace it with educational.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Unsafe-schools watch

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

A freshman at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City was accused of bringing a gun to class yesterday, causing a school-wide lockdown.

Is this the kind of learning environment parents want for their kids? Is it fair to those trying to learn to have to question if they will live through the day?

Even though they've been to school

State Sen. Earl Garrison (D-Muskogee), a longtime educator who holds a doctorate in education (and who had the courage this year to vote for school choice), writes in the Muskogee Phoenix that "more than 20 percent of our state's population, or nearly 400,000 people, can't read."

Monday, September 22, 2008

'It wasn't fair to me'

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

An article in today's Journal Record examined causes of rising dropout rates in Oklahoma schools. As the state legislature conducts an interim study to assess the problem and determine solutions, we, too, must ask ourselves what needs to be done.

Andrew Grimes, a former Capitol Hill High School student, described a typical school day as one full of gangs, graffiti, and teen pregnancy. Grimes started his freshman year with 400 peers, but only graduated with 141.

Amir Jacob Darvishzadeh, another former Capitol Hill student, confirmed Grimes’ experience, and said the atmosphere was often a deterrent to learning. "Because of that, the students didn't care," Darvishzadeh said. "It wasn’t fair to me. It was a really sad experience."

One teacher, Sandy Bitner, said in her five years at the school, she knew of five students who were shot outside the building, one stabbed inside, some charged in drive-by shootings, and two charged with first-degree murder.

The interim study has found that some of the most evident causes of rising dropout rates are gangs, pregnancy, and language barriers. But, one cause many fail to see is our lack of school choice. If parents were allowed to choose where to send their students to school, they would likely send them to positive learning environments instead of defunct war zones.

It isn't fair, as Darvishzadeh said, to consign some students to unsafe and underperforming schools. It's time to give parents more choices.

State lawmaker suggests school choice for special-needs students

State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) says "one size fits all" doesn't work in education, and that children with autism should be able to choose from a variety of schools.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Now on Facebook

Oklahomans for School Choice now has a Facebook group. If you're signed up on Facebook, come join the group!

Monday, September 15, 2008

'A possibly dramatic ...

... political realignment.

Didn't we already pay for K-12 education?

"A new study has found that one-third of American college students have to take remedial classes before enrolling in college coursework," the Associated Press reports today. "The study by the group Strong American Schools estimates 43% of community college students and 29% of students at public 4-year universities require remediation. It found four in five Oklahoma community college students need remedial coursework."

For educational pluralism

Is it possible that politicians and bureaucrats may not know what's best for everyone else's children?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fairness and school choice

We already have school choice for upper- and middle-income families in Oklahoma, UCO economist (and Obama supporter) Mickey Hepner writes today. "Wouldn't it just be fair to have school choice for everyone?"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Union math

Education reporter Mike Antonucci writes today:
On Labor Day, the American Federation of Teachers released its ninth annual AFT Public Employees Compensation Survey. It predictably concludes that public employees are woefully underpaid, but I'll leave the usual arguments against such conclusions to others (fat lot of good it will do, anyway).

No, what interests me more is how AFT tries to square the circle regarding union representation. In one table, AFT compares public sector occupations in collective bargaining states with public sector occupations in non-bargaining states and finds that in virtually all cases, collective bargaining improves wages. One point for the union.

In a second table, AFT compares public sector occupations with the same occupations in the private sector and finds that in virtually all cases, working in the private sector improves wages. From this, AFT concludes that public sector employees are underpaid. Two points for the union.

Screeech! Once we're done applying the brakes, we apply a factoid of which AFT is well aware: Only 7.5 percent of private sector employees are unionized. How is it that non-union employees earn so much more for comparable jobs (by AFT's own definition) than union employees? And if unions believe they would be able to get private sector workers even more than they receive now, if given the chance, wouldn't that just increase the gap between public and private sector wages?

It's simple once you discard AFT's framing. In the private sector, wages are determined by market economics. In the public sector, wages are determined by political lobbying and tax rates. In the public sector, you'll earn more with AFT than without it. In the private sector, you'll earn more because AFT can't outperform Adam Smith.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Education tax credits

More public school teachers favor them than oppose them.

The growth of online learning

In the current issue of WORLD magazine, Marvin Olasky reports that "a new study from the Hoover Institution predicts that by 2019 half of courses in Grades 9 to 12 will be delivered online. Technology is now helping all homeschoolers by making it possible for kids to be tutored and mentored online at the pace that's right for them ..."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

John McCain on school choice

From Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech in St. Paul tonight:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I’m President, they will.

Democrats starting to break free

The nation's largest newspaper reports (Democrats, teachers unions now divided on many issues) that the Democratic Party "has visibly split with teachers unions, its longtime allies, on key issues."
At a series of standing-room-only forums in Denver last week in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention, several urban mayors and educators said union contracts limit their ability to fire bad teachers and move good ones to needy schools. "We have to understand that as Democrats we have been wrong on education, and it's time to get it right," said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. He said unions have pressured him to reject charter schools, vouchers and other ways to broaden urban students' access to better schools.

"Ten years ago, when I started talking about school choice, I was tarred and feathered," he told the crowd. "I literally was brought into a room by one of the union officers. ... He threatened me that I would never win in office if I kept talking about school choice and kept talking about charter schools."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Parent satisfaction higher in private schools

"A new report from the federal government shows that parents with children in K-12 private schools are much more satisfied with their schools than are parents with children in public schools," the Council for American Private Education reports.
Specifically, 81 percent of students in religiously affiliated schools and 82 percent of students in other private schools have parents who report being "very satisfied" with their schools, compared to 55 percent of students in assigned public schools and 63 percent of students in chosen public schools.

High levels of satisfaction among private school parents also extend to opinions about their children's teachers, academic standards of the school, order and discipline at the school, the amount of homework assigned, and interactions with school personnel.

Friday, August 29, 2008

'New generation of Democrats embraces school choice'

Read about it here.

At least let parents choose

One of our readers has been leaving anonymous comments on this blog in which he or she, channeling Sara Mead, argues that it's wrong to use Oklahoma's woeful NAEP scores to discredit the state's much-ballyhooed preschool daycare program. But because our commenter has been doing so anonymously, I have not posted his or her comments. (The whole point of public discussion is that is should be, well, public.) Adam Schaeffer has already addressed this NAEP argument here and here, but he despairs that "the preschool evangelists will not shrivel before arguments or facts, for they believe. Their faith in preschool is strong and pure."

Even if that's the case, I would hope that even the most fervent preschool evangelist would acknowledge that parents should be able to choose the public or private preschool of their choice.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Democrats 'have been wrong on education'

Reporting on "union tensions" at the Democratic National Convention, Education Week's Michele McNeil says "the education event that followed the NEA luncheon showed the growing tensions within the Democratic Party over school reform, and the role of teachers’ unions." McNeil reports that anti-union sentiment
was strong and persistent at the standing-room-only, three-hour forum called Ed Challenge for Change. In fact, some of the big-city mayors who participated predicted that had such a forum been held four years ago, a mere five souls would have showed. ... The anti-union sentiment spilled over into policy forums that followed. The fight against the teachers’ unions and other special interests is a "battle at the heart of the Democratic Party," said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. "As Democrats, we have been wrong on education. It's time to get right."

Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington, D.C. Public Schools system, also chided the Democrats, reminding them that their party is "supposed to be the party that looks out for poor and minority kids."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dems promote choice, slam teacher unions

Educational freedom may get here sooner than I thought.

There's a new crack in the Berlin Wall, and it's a doozy. Here's Mickey Kaus reporting from the Democratic National Convention:
Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically—and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause!

As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note.

Indeed, just as March 13, 2008 was a landmark in Oklahoma. Says Cato scholar Andrew Coulson, "a sea change in the politics of school choice has begun and it is hard to imagine how it might be stopped."

Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre and Rep. Jabar Shumate, two of my favorite state legislators (believe it!), are courageous trailblazers in their party. And perhaps help is on the way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to school ...

... but still not enough choices.

When amateurs outperform professionals ...

... "there is something wrong with that profession," writes Thomas Sowell.
If ordinary people, with no medical training, could perform surgery in their kitchens with steak knives, and get results that were better than those of surgeons in hospital operating rooms, the whole medical profession would be discredited.

Yet it is common for ordinary parents, with no training in education, to homeschool their children and consistently produce better academic results than those of children educated by teachers with Master's degrees and in schools spending upwards of $10,000 a year per student—which is to say, more than a million dollars to educate ten kids from K through 12.

Nevertheless, we continue to take seriously the pretensions of educators who fail to educate, but who put on airs of having "professional" expertise beyond the understanding of mere parents.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Let's try universal pre-K ... choice

Today in The Wall Street Journal ('Protect Our Kids from Preschool'), Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell ask: "Is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them?" Answer: "Not according to available evidence."
In the last half-century, U.S. preschool attendance has gone up to nearly 70% from 16%. But fourth-grade reading, science, and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—the nation's report card—have remained virtually stagnant since the early 1970s. ...

The results from Oklahoma and Georgia—both of which implemented universal preschool a decade or more ago—paint an equally dismal picture.

A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading.

Rather than looking to universal preschool, Dalmia and Snell write, politicians "should begin by fixing what is clearly broken: the K-12 system. The best way of doing that is by building on programs with a proven record of success. Many of these involve giving parents control over their own education dollars so that they have options other than dysfunctional public schools."

Educator-misconduct watch

The Associated Press reports that a "former Hilldale High School band director and the school have been ordered to pay $2.7 million to a student the teacher had sex with."

You may recall that a recent analysis by the Associated Press found that "sexual conduct plagues U.S. schools" and suggests that sexual misconduct among male schoolteachers is at least as common as among male priests. A 2004 U.S. Department of Education study found that one in 10 public school students is sexually harassed or abused by a teacher or other school employee at some point between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Homeschooling growth in Duncan

Homeschooling is a popular option in Stephens County, The Duncan Banner reports, saying "the growth in homeschoolers might be linked to several issues, such as safety concerns, moral instruction and dissatisfaction with the quality of education some students receive."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'More elements of choice'

"We think public schools ought to have more elements of choice," my boss said in my hometown on Monday.

'A winning issue for any politician'

"Pick a category," says Cato's Adam Schaeffer—"rich, poor, old, young, white, black, Hispanic, Democrat, Republican, or even public school employees."

What do they all have in common? According to the recent Education Next/Harvard PEPG public-opinion survey, they all support education tax credits.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do public schools accept all students?

School-choice opponents often make the claim (as the OEA did in April) that, unlike private schools, public schools must accept all students. But as education reporter Mike Antonucci points out, the Education Law Center in Pennsylvania has discovered that some school districts "improperly demand a child's Social Security card, a parent's photo identification or court custody order, or inquire into immigration status as a condition of enrollment." Indeed, ELC says that at least 162 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts have either policies or practices that violate the state's enrollment laws.

One wonders if this is happening in Oklahoma, too.

A new Christian school ...

... is opening in Choctaw on September 2. Enrollment is currently open.

'Parents need choices' ...

... the right-thinking Tulsa Beacon editorializes.
The OEA is the most liberal and most powerful lobby group in Oklahoma. It has one goal—more money. Time after time, the Oklahoma Legislature has given more money to schools and the results have gotten worse.

Oklahoma education needs reform. Parents need choices, including charter schools, home schooling, tax credits and vouchers.

Pouring more money in a failed system is not the answer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The audacity of HOPE

[This column by Brandon Dutcher appeared today in The Oklahoman.]

"There's a tradition in education," former New York City school chancellor Frank Macchiarola once observed, "that if you spend a dollar and it doesn't work, you should spend two dollars; and not only that, you should give those two dollars to the same person who couldn't do the job with only one."

As the nearby graphic illustrates, spending more money is no guarantee of success. Nevertheless, the state's most powerful labor union is spearheading a petition drive called HOPE (Helping Oklahoma Public Education) in an effort to get a constitutional amendment requiring Oklahoma to meet or exceed the regional average in per-pupil expenditures.

You may recall that a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Oklahoma's public school system an F. The report said "student performance in Oklahoma is very poor—the state ranks among the lowest in the nation." And this is a school system on which Oklahoma taxpayers are already spending a small fortune.

In 2005, I teamed up with accountant Steve Anderson, formerly a public school teacher with 17 teaching certifications, to determine how much Oklahomans are paying for their schools. Not content with the "official" government reports, we computed all the expenditures that would be included on a regular financial statement. We discovered that Oklahoma's per-pupil cost in 2003—the latest year for which data were available—was $11,250.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman pronounced our report "splendid" and said it represented "a real public service." Teacher union official Roy Bishop was less enthusiastic. He dubbed the study "highly suspect," so we eagerly challenged the union to a public debate on the matter.

Thirty months later, we're still waiting to hear from them. We happily reissue the challenge today.

Let's be frank: The endgame here is to repeal or water down State Question 640, Oklahoma's tax-limitation amendment. HOPE is really about Hijacking Other People's Earnings.

The average Oklahoman already spends more time working to pay his taxes than he spends working to pay for food, clothing and shelter combined. The union doesn't care.

"The idea is to trigger a fiscal crisis and force Oklahomans to get rid of their tax-limitation provision if they want to keep the prisons open, fix the roads and bridges, or have enough DHS workers to investigate child abuse," says Oklahoma City University law professor Andrew Spiropoulos, director of the Center for the Study of State Constitutional Law and Government.

"In Nevada," Spiropoulos says, "the teachers union successfully went to court and convinced the state Supreme Court to nullify the state's supermajority requirement for tax increases and order the state legislature to raise taxes—so you can take more money from the people without actually having to get their consent or that of their representatives."

Oklahoma taxpayers are getting public school results at elite private school prices, yet the union demands more money—even if it means raising your taxes. Audacity, anyone?

Friday, August 15, 2008

School choice in Tulsa!

Alas, it's only public-school choice.

Horace Mann prophecy watch

Horace Mann, generally regarded as the father of America’s current public school system, once prophesied: "Let the Common School ... be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged."

Or not. The Associated Press reports that a tiny Texas school district near the Oklahoma border "may be the first in the nation to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes begin later this month." And why not? If teachers and other school employees could be in danger (as this sign from Edmond Memorial High School would seem to indicate), why should they be sitting ducks?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Parents must have choices

"I have lost sleep this summer knowing my kids and others could possibly wind up at a school where their academic success and physical safety are at great risk," parent Lydia Glaize writes today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "A statewide voucher or scholarship program would be the great equalizer, providing the same education for those who live in fancy ZIP codes with fabulous public schools and the rest of us who work but do not have the resources to choose a first-class educational opportunity."

HT: Neal McCluskey

Monday, August 11, 2008

These are my principles. If you don't like 'em, I have others.

Roy Bishop, president of the state's most powerful labor union, is among those promoting a proposed constitutional amendment which would raise Oklahoma's per-pupil spending to the regional average.

But oddly enough, just last year Mr. Bishop argued that it was a bad idea to tie "state expenditures for public services to arbitrary formulas."

He said a proposed constitutional amendment "stands against representative democracy" in that it "shifts annual budget responsibilities away from our elected representatives and transfers it to a complicated formula."

Besides, he reminded us, "the state maintains many serious long-term obligations that require attention, including a crumbling transportation system unable to meet the demands of the 21st Century."

"How on earth would parents know which schools are best?"

This is a brilliant piece of satire, from the British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has a brilliant idea for educational reform: Let parents choose where their children go to school. His cabinet secretary, Sir Humphrey, tries to defend the status quo.

Sir Humphrey's arguments will sound familiar, although he's more openly contemptuous of parents than school-choice opponents usually dare:

"You can't expect ordinary people to know where to send their children!"

"Parents have no qualifications to make these choices. Teachers are the professionals. Parents are the worst people to bring up children!"

Sir Humphrey doesn't think much of medical choice, either. At least he's consistent:

"I think letting people choose doctors is a very bad idea. Very messy. Much tidier to allocate people to [general practitioners]. Much fairer. Then we can even out the numbers, and every one has an equal chance of getting the bad doctors."

When the PM suggests abolishing the Department of Education if it gets in the way of his school choice reform, Sir Humphrey is appalled -- how can anything flourish without a government department to tend it. Another adviser fires back:

"Government departments are tombstones. The Department of Industry marks the grave of industry. The Department of the Environment marks the grave of the environment. And the Department of Education marks where the corpse of British education is buried."

Sir Humphrey's final defense of the Department of Education's raison d'ĂȘtre:

"Who would plan for the future?"

"Are you saying that education in Britain today is what the department planned?"

"Well, of course not!!"

(Via Club for Growth.)

School choice milestone in Ohio

"More than 1,000 preschool and K-12 students with autism are now using an Ohio state-sponsored scholarship program that provides an educational option for parents who are dissatisfied with the services their child is receiving in a traditional public school," School Choice Ohio reports.

Let's hope that this educational option "can be a part of the total solution for Oklahoma."

This is America—we can't have consumers shopping for things

I have pointed out that some Oklahoma parents are so desperate to get a better education for their kids that they will lie about their place of residence in order to get into a better school. Well, parents better not try that in Broward County, Florida. It could get them arrested. The Miami Herald reports that "Broward School Board members on Tuesday voted 6-3 to give district schools the right to report to authorities parents caught lying about their home addresses to get their kids into schools outside the area where they live." After all, the school board chairman argued, "There shouldn't be school shopping."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Even socialists 'appreciate the choice'

The Associated Press reports that school choice is spreading ... in Sweden.
Schools run by private enterprise? Free iPods and laptop computers to attract students?

It may sound out of place in Sweden, that paragon of taxpayer-funded cradle-to-grave welfare. But a sweeping reform of the school system has survived the critics and 16 years later is spreading and attracting interest abroad.

"I think most people, parents and children, appreciate the choice," said Bertil Ostberg, from the Ministry of Education. "You can decide what school you want to attend and that appeals to people."

Since the change was introduced in 1992 by a center-right government that briefly replaced the long-governing Social Democrats, the numbers have shot up. In 1992, 1.7 percent of high schoolers and 1 percent of elementary schoolchildren were privately educated. Now the figures are 17 percent and 9 percent.

I'm confident that school choice will also continue to spread in "America, the land of freedom and choice, except when it comes to your schools."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Training seminar in Enid

The Enid News and Eagle reports that the grassroots organization Americans for Prosperity (Oklahoma chapter) is sponsoring a free training seminar on Friday. School choice is one of AFP's top issues for 2009.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Educator-misconduct watch

The Associated Press reports today that "a former band director at Haskell High School has pleaded guilty to forcible sodomy involving a former juvenile student."

You may recall that a recent analysis by the Associated Press found that "sexual conduct plagues U.S. schools" and suggests that sexual misconduct among male schoolteachers is at least as common as among male priests. A 2004 U.S. Department of Education study found that one in 10 public school students is sexually harassed or abused by a teacher or other school employee at some point between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Fostering more choices

The Stillwater NewsPress reports that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is collecting school supplies for foster children. This is laudable, but Arizona has a better idea: provide school vouchers for foster care students.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Re-elect McIntyre and Shumate

So says The Black Chronicle, and anyone serious about school choice should agree.

Parents need school choices ...

... says Phillip W. Smith in this letter to the editor published in the Tulsa World.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

School choice as social justice

In a speech delivered October 23, 2001 in Tulsa ('Why School Choice Is Compassionate'), Marvin Olasky said:
Brandon Dutcher wrote in The Daily Oklahoman, "It is immoral to keep kids trapped in schools where they aren't learning to read or compute. We need to offer them a way out." That's exactly right. As we fight a war internationally against something that ruins lives and destroys dreams, we need to do the same domestically. School choice is the compassionate choice for kids now in the grips of failing schools.

And in his current column in WORLD magazine, Olasky says school choice is a social-justice issue:

When children of impoverished parents have no choice but to go to a rotten public school, that's social injustice. ... "Social justice" has been so twisted by the left that it now offends many conservatives and older Christians, but the term can help many younger Christians focus on what is truly just or unjust in particular proposals. "Social justice" is worth a rescue attempt.

Langston liberates Deborah Brown School

This month Langston University took over as sponsor of the Deborah Brown Community School, a charter elementary school in downtown Tulsa, thus becoming the first to take advantage of a new law allowing colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools. DBCS's previous sponsor, Tulsa Public Schools, has a board majority that has been openly hostile to charter schools.

Langston U. President JoAnn Haysbert sees this as a learning opportunity not only for DBCS students, but for education majors at Langston, according to a story by Tulsa World education reporter April Marciszewski:

"We're going to revolutionize teaching and learning in this community," Haysbert said.

She wants interaction between Deborah Brown students and Langston's three campuses to be common, she said.

Langston education students will provide extra help and will gain more teaching experience in Deborah Brown classrooms.

The collaboration will ensure that Langston's education program teaches the latest techniques.

Harold Roberts, director of development for the charter school, said Langston students will benefit by learning Deborah Brown's education method, which he described as very disciplined, and take that method wherever they work.

What if he had more choices?

The Associated Press reports that a father in Cashion, Oklahoma believes the local school district is not providing a proper education for his 7-year-old autistic daughters.

Monday, July 21, 2008

School choice 'part of the total solution' for autistic kids

The state Senate's chief proponent of Nick's Law opposes school choice for autistic children (and I provide some fact-checking in the comments section at the bottom of the post). Meanwhile, none other than Nick's father -- blissfully unbeholden to the state's largest school-employee labor union -- says hey, school choice for autistic children "can be a part of the total solution for Oklahoma."

'Outrageous classroom moments'

The nation's largest school-employee labor union, apparently a little jumpy that the three-ring circus (including possible teacher misconduct) can now be broadcast worldwide, is asking teachers: "Have you been caught on YouTube?"
A student videotaped a teacher at Malibu High School who lost control of the class and raised his voice while students laughed at him. Another video showed an angry high school teacher forcing a student to stand for the National Anthem by yanking his chair out from under him. Outrageous classroom moments are being captured on cell phone cameras and broadcast on YouTube for the entire world to see. Has this happened to you or any of your colleagues? Share your story and be considered for an upcoming NEA Today article.