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.

Back-door consolidation

The Alva Review-Courier reported yesterday ('OEA renews push for forced rural school consolidation'): "A state teacher's union is renewing its push for 'back-door consolidation' of rural schools, a state legislative leader warned today."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kids deserve the choice to 'get away from it'

Two stories on the front page of the state's largest newspaper today help to explain why so many parents have lost confidence in Oklahoma's public schools.

In one story ('Providing direction for youths at risk'), The Oklahoman reports that
Miles recently graduated high school and McPherson and Ray go to different schools. All three said gangs, drugs and violence are problems at school.

Out of school "you know the areas to stay away from," McPherson said. "But at school, everything is so compact, you can't get away from it."

"This kid brought a Hefty bag to school of drugs, and he was just handing them out," Ray said. "You want to tell, but you look around and see all the gang members and you don't."

Another front-page story informs us that a former Harrah Junior High School librarian is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old student.

The resulting investigation led Detective Dawn Davis to conclude [the librarian], a married mother of two, is a "promiscuous woman (who) seems to befriend the young men of her church and school," according to her affidavit. [She] groomed a handful of students by getting them out of class early and buying them things, Davis wrote. She regularly communicated with them in text messages and on, Davis wrote. Investigators looked into reports [she] had sex with at least five other students and one former student, but none of them confirmed any inappropriate contact with her, the detective's affidavit states.

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.

Friday, July 18, 2008

School choice on C-SPAN

Tomorrow morning from 7:30 to 8:30 CST, C-SPAN's Washington Journal will feature a segment called "African Americans and School Choice." Be sure to watch or, better yet, call in and make your voice heard.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'Enough is never enough'

The state's largest school-employee labor union is planning an initiative petition to amend the state constitution, The Oklahoman reports today. The union wants to require (you'll never guess!) more spending for public schools.

Rural lawmaker Jeff Hickman points out that the union's plan will result in the forced consolidation of rural schools. Budget leader Tad Jones adds: "The OEA's proposed constitutional amendment would result in at least one of the following outcomes: a massive tax increase at a time when gas prices are skyrocketing, consolidation of schools, or devastating cuts to vital government services such as roads and law enforcement."

OCPA has pointed out that Oklahoma taxpayers are already paying Casady prices for our public schools. Union officials know this but they don't want you to know it, which is why they refuse to debate OCPA on the matter. Not that it matters how much money we give them. As the state's largest newspaper has pointed out, "for the OEA, enough is never enough."

I don't expect the union's effort will be any more successful than their recent frivolous lawsuit (tax hikes are an absolute nonstarter, and you can ask Gov. Largent how popular rural school consolidation is), but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Virtual schooling in Oklahoma

In a letter to the editor published today in The Oklahoman, Jeff Elliott, president of Advanced Academics Inc., points out the benefits on online education. He writes:
"Small problem: Tiny schools face big challenges" (Our Views, July 7) states that rising costs may force up to 50 small school districts to consolidate in the coming year. Smaller school districts also face ongoing challenges in attracting and retaining quality instructors, as well as offering a wide selection of courses. One solution to these issues is online learning. As noted in "More state students are finding answers to their educational needs online" (news feature, June 30), growing numbers of Oklahoma public high school students already receive a flexible, quality education through virtual schools.

Virtual schools offer benefits to students, teachers and administrators. Students enrolled in virtual schools receive personalized attention from state-certified teachers and can concentrate their time on those areas in which they need the most help. Students enjoy robust course offerings, including electives and college preparatory classes that their local school may not offer. For teachers, virtual schools let them work one-on-one with students and customize the delivery of course material to each student's individual learning style, while the cost advantages of online education let administrators provide this option to their district at no additional cost.

Virtual schools aren't the answer for every district's problems. However, online learning is one way that smaller districts can offer a wide selection of academically rigorous courses within their budgetary constraints.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

McCain in the lions' den

"After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off the old ways and to demand new reforms," John McCain told the NAACP this morning.

McCain's education plan is available here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McCain could win Hispanic votes ...

... by emphasizing school choice, Clint Bolick writes today in The Wall Street Journal.

Monday, July 14, 2008

No more gimmicks

"The time has come to take the education of our children away from politicians and their gimmicks and give educational choice to parents," Phillip W. Smith writes in the Muskogee Phoenix. "Universal school choice is the one and only needed goal."

School deregulation bill fizzles in '08

OCPA intern Fletcher Daniels sends along this analysis of a good piece of legislation which, unfortunately, didn't make it to the governor's desk this year:
A Senate bill considered by Oklahoma legislators in the last legislative session would have taken steps towards creating alternatives in education through the establishment of charter districts. After House approval, the bill was narrowly defeated upon its return to the Senate.

SB 2100, authored by Senator John Ford (R-Bartlesville), intended to ease the financial burden placed on local school districts by legislative mandates that require compliance but allocate no funds to the districts to assist in this compliance. The bill would have created a pilot program designating 10 school districts across the state as charter districts. A charter district is one within which public charter schools may be set up through contract with the local school board. These schools would operate in compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations required under the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, but would otherwise be exempt from "all statutes and rules relating to schools, boards of education, and school districts."

The pilot program also would have allowed any public school in the district to opt out of many of these unfunded mandates. Senator Ford proposed the bill in light of complaints by school board members and superintendents across the state concerning such mandates, and because he believes that locally elected school boards are better than state legislators when it comes to making good decisions concerning the education of the children in their districts.

School choice for me ...

... because I can afford it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

One way to help autistic children

Writing today in the Muskogee Phoenix, economist Joshua Hall recommends school choice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Who you callin' free?

Apparently some education reporters still don't understand what a free market is.

Not to worry. One suspects many of them will learn soon enough.

Quote of the day

"If the schools are not teaching children, then something has to happen. We cannot continue to pour money into schools that won’t teach. As opposed to subsidizing failure, we ought to free the parent to make a different choice. It could be a public school. It could be a charter school. It could be a tutorial. It could be anything other than the status quo."

--George W. Bush, on the campaign trail in 2000

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

OK then, compete

As you'll see in this extraordinarily creepy video clip, unionized government educators take a dim view of "those who privatize and claim that public schools just can't compete."

Well, why not disprove that claim? Let's give parents the ability to choose any school they want. Then the public schools can prove to everyone that they can compete.

Who's abandoning whom?

State Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, a liberal Democrat from Tulsa, believes Oklahoma parents should have more school choices. The former social worker and longtime Tulsa Public Schools board member isn't "abandoning public education," as some of her critics charge. Rather, she wonders if public education has abandoned the children. In this clip from a recent press conference announcing the release of a new public opinion survey, Sen. Eason McIntyre calls on the bureaucrats and the school-employee labor unions to acknowledge the "failure of the system" and argues for the "right of parents to be able to choose."

School choice is popular

The two lead letters to the editor this morning in The Oklahoman call for more school choices in Oklahoma. The first letter is from Bob Holland, senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute:
Competition would ensure good choices

"Multiple choices: Marketplace challenges public schools" (Our Views, July 6) noted that in many parts of Oklahoma, families effectively have no school choice. Then you discussed various ways the market is generating education choices—public charter schools, cyber schools and homeschooling. Perhaps that's not as contradictory as it first appears: There are choices, but they're spotty.

Suppose Oklahoma did fund the child instead of the system and all parents could choose public or private schools for their children. Don't you think public and private schools would be challenged to demonstrate that they do superior jobs of educating kids? Competition would ensure good choices for all.

Robert Holland, Chicago

The next letter is from Karla Dial, managing editor of School Reform News:

School choice popular

Thank you for the excellent "Multiple choices: Marketplace challenges public schools" (Our Views, July 6). According to a recent poll by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, if all educational options were placed on the table, 83 percent of Oklahomans would choose something other than their local public school for their children. That's consistent with surveys of parents in other states as well—96 percent of Idahoans said the same.

Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Senate supported a bill to create a tax-credit scholarship program to give parents greater access to some of those non-public school options. The bill was defeated in a House committee in late April. Perhaps if this is resurrected in the next session, this poll will give legislators enough reason to vote differently. Obviously, school choice is popular with the people who put them in office.

Karla Dial, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Taking the 'public' out of public schools

"In general," writes Jay P. Greene, "I am struck by how little public accountability there can be in public schools."

Monday, July 7, 2008

No neutrality

"In reality, any debate over education is an ideological debate--a worldview clash," Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler writes today. "There is no neutrality in education. The education is designed to produce some kind of result, some kind of citizen. There is no way that this can be separated from character, morality, and worldview."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

'Multiple choices'

The state's largest newspaper editorializes today on the recent Friedman Foundation survey of Oklahomans.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Privatizers gone wild!

I’ve often pointed out that just because the government provides services doesn’t mean the government has to produce all of them. For example, Medicaid patients can go to private hospitals. Food-stamp recipients shop at privately owned grocery stores. The government doesn’t build its own tanks and bombers.

The same is true in the government’s provision of K-12 education. Look no further than the Oklahoma City school board meeting of July 1.

In addition to approving $90,000 worth of Blue Bell “ice cream/novelties” (thank God the government isn’t in the ice-cream business!), consider some of the other items the school board outsourced to private firms. Here’s a partial list of services: custodial; architectural and engineering; plumbing repair; electrical repair; security; transportation management; graffiti removal; radio repair; asbestos and lead abatement; backhoe and dozer; graphics and publication; hardware and software maintenance; and waste management.

The school board also approved the purchase—again, from private firms—of temporary labor services, legal work from $150/hour attorneys, and “education management” services (to negotiate with the school-employee labor unions). The district contracted out for LPN (licensed professional nurse) services, library media services, and test-creation services.

All these services and more—and these from just one school board meeting—paid for by the taxpayers but performed by private firms.

Unfortunately, the most important service of all—teaching—is still performed almost exclusively by unionized government employees. It’s time to start privatizing some reading and math lessons.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Helping special-needs children

Special-needs children in Oklahoma are not having their needs met sufficiently, the Tulsa World reports today. Special-needs scholarships can help.

Your union dues at work

"Today, the National Education Association opens its annual convention in Washington, D.C.," former public school teacher Lindsey Burke writes. "For teachers across the country, the gathering is sure to offer a lesson in how the NEA is out of step with the views of many of the members it claims to represent. ... At the convention this week, the NEA leadership will vote on dozens of resolutions declaring the agreed-upon view of the union. There will be standard resolutions condemning school vouchers, homeschooling, and competency testing for teachers — no surprise for anyone familiar with the union's positions in education policy."

News9 looks at school choice

According to a new survey released last week by the Friedman Foundation, OCPA, and eight other organizations, Oklahomans want more school choices. News 9's Alex Cameron and I discuss the matter here.

New hope for New Orleans

School choice marches on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

'Stupid in America'

If you haven't seen John Stossel's classic piece, you need to.

School choice saves money ...

... and now our friends at the Cato Institute have given us a tool to help determine precisely how much money. Today Cato is unveiling its Fiscal Impact Calculator, a spreadsheet which allows the user to estimate the fiscal impact of school choice in any state.

The candidates on school vouchers

McCain favors, Obama opposes.