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.