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."