Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Acton fellow discusses school choice

Acton Institute research fellow Dr. Kevin Schmiesing discusses school choice and the history of public education in this country.

Monday, December 28, 2009

'The case for Special Education vouchers'

Stuart Buck and Jay P. Greene say parents should decide when their disabled child needs a private placement.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Strange bedfellows address 'massive crisis in education'

"We are united in addressing a massive crisis that threatens to undermine the economic future of our nation."

Expand access to charter schools

Our friend Dan Lips at The Heritage Foundation points out that some 365,000 students were on charter-school waiting lists this year. I don't know how many of those students are in Oklahoma, but Janet Grigg, president of the Oklahoma Charter School Association, tells me "there is always a waiting list for most of the charter schools in the state of Oklahoma. I can't remember a time there wasn't." It's time for Oklahoma's policymakers to do something about it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oil-rich state embraces universal school choice

No, not Oklahoma. Qatar.

Against government preschool

Carrie Lukas, vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women's Forum and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, makes a case against government funding for preschool.

School choice can help black students

Yesterday in The Oklahoman, Walter Williams asked: "What's to be done about this tragic state of black education?"

Our friend Dan Lips has some answers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

School choice saves money (cont'd)

"The public education system could realize massive cost savings," state Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) writes, "if state government would encourage people to participate in private and homeschool education through the provision of a property tax refund, which often is proposed at $4,000 per year."

A 'permanent national recession'

"Our public schools are a drag on the economy," Carrie Lukas writes. "We are poorer and have lower standard of living because we have allowed this problem to persist."

Quote of the day

New York's Democrat Governor David Paterson wasn't referring to Oklahoma's SQ 744, but he might as well have been. "Because what these school districts and unions and otherwise have said: 'We aren't special interests, we're extra special. We're supposed to get all the money and everybody else can just divide up the crumbs.' ... It's clear to me they don't care about anybody but themselves."

HT: Mike Antonucci

Friday, December 18, 2009

Preparing for leaner times

Are there any Oklahoma school leaders interested in learning how to "tighten their belts while serving students better"? Check out this event being held in D.C. on Monday, January 11, 2010 (and which will stream live here). Here's more info:
How can they weather this storm and prepare themselves for even leaner times? Where might they find cost savings? Are there alternatives to simply cutting back educational programs or laying off teachers? The pressures are not likely to alleviate anytime soon but will only intensify in the years ahead as stagnant real estate values depress local and state revenues, as new federal initiatives and historic deficits squeeze federal spending, as one-time stimulus funding recedes, and as an aging and retiring teaching force creates greater pension obligations for states and districts. Not only is cost cutting essential in this era of constrained resources, but eliminating inefficient spending is also a critical step in freeing up the resources to drive reform and fuel school improvement.

Unfortunately, there are few visible or successful precedents for significant belt tightening, restructuring, and reorganizing in K-12 schooling. Yet, news accounts tend to celebrate new initiatives and bemoan any reductions in spending, and there is little research examining how best practices from other sectors might be applied to schools. AEI resident scholar and director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess and Thomas B. Fordham Institute vice president Eric Osberg have commissioned ten papers to explore how schools can save money and enhance student achievement by overcoming the particular forces and factors that make effective cost cutting difficult. At this cosponsored event, the authors of the studies will present their findings and discuss them with expert practitioners.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You got a problem with that?

Let's see, half the kids in the district don't graduate. We're in the middle of a recession. So Tulsa Public School bureaucrats are about to get ... pay raises.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bill Price 'emerging leader' in school choice movement

In the current issue of The School Choice Advocate, published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (one of the nation's leading school-choice organizations), the cover story is entitled "The Emerging Leaders of the School Choice Movement." One of the leaders spotlighted is Oklahoman (and OCPA trustee) Bill Price.

A former U.S. Attorney, Price is perhaps best known for his prosecution of the County Commissioner corruption scandal, one of the largest political corruption cases in U.S. history. For that work Price earned a Special Achievement Award from the United States Department of Justice. Now an attorney in private practice, he is devoting considerable time and energy to serving as chairman of the school-choice coalition in Oklahoma. "School choice is one of the most important issues of our time," Price writes.
I see a confluence of events in Oklahoma today that could create a unique opportunity for major reform—a public awareness that our schools are failing our children, and for the first time since statehood, a legislature more likely to stand up for parents and students than for the institutional forces that have thwarted reform in the past.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) is a well-established conservative public policy research organization. One of OCPA’s principal issues for many years has been the need for school choice. Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy at OCPA, and Patrick McGuigan, a [former] research fellow, have written a number of articles advocating school choice, which have appeared in OCPA’s publications as well as state newspapers, setting the intellectual groundwork for school choice among state opinion leaders. Dutcher also chairs the center-right coalition that meets at OCPA’s offices every month and brings together conservative groups.

With the tremendous assistance of the Friedman Foundation, the OCPA, along with the center-right coalition and state legislative leaders on education issues, have formed the Oklahoma school choice coalition. As an OCPA board member and member of the center-right coalition, it’s been exciting to see these elements come together. Our plan is to expand this coalition to further educate and activate legislators and the public to create the momentum for choice.

Virtual schooling offers flexibility

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Educrat gatekeepers against memorization

In her blog at the Psychology Today website, author and engineering professor Barbara Oakley writes that "ideologically-motivated intellectual gatekeepers" in America are shutting the public schoolhouse door on time-tested educational methods that actually work.
Narrow intellectual gatekeeping is omnipresent in academia. Want to know why the government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on math and science programs that never seem to improve the test scores of American students?[3] Part of the reason for this is that today’s K-12 educators—unlike educators in other high-scoring countries of the world—refuse to acknowledge evidence that memorization plays an important role in mastering mathematics. Any proposed program that supports memorization is deemed to be against “creativity” by today’s intellectual gatekeepers in K-12 education, including those behind the Math and Science Partnerships. As one NSF program director told me: “We hear about success stories with practice and repetition-based programs like Kumon Mathematics. But I’ll be frank with you—you’ll never get anything like that funded. We don’t believe in it.” Instead the intellectual leadership in education encourages enormously expensive pimping programs that put America even further behind the international learning curve.

Via Petitedov.

(Note: Linked article features a prominent image that includes a vulgar synonym for nonsense.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your tax dollars at work

The good news: Oklahoma schools are teaching phonics.

The bad news: It's in college.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Challenging gifted kids is elitism?

The Daily Mail, published in London, reports in its December 11, 2009, edition, that many British schools aren't providing material to challenge and develop the gifts of their brightest students for fear of practicing "elitism."

As many as three-quarters of state schools are failing to push their brightest pupils because teachers are reluctant to promote 'elitism', an Ofsted study says today.

Many teachers are not convinced of the importance of providing more challenging tasks for their gifted and talented pupils.

Bright youngsters told inspectors they were forced to ask for harder work. Others were resentful at being dragooned into 'mentoring' weaker pupils.

In nearly three-quarters of 26 schools studied, pupils designated as being academically gifted or talented in sport or the arts were 'not a priority', Ofsted found.

Teachers feared that a focus on the brightest pupils would 'undermine the school's efforts to improve the attainment and progress of all other groups of pupils'.


This is notwithstanding official policy:

Schools are meant to identify the top 5 to 10 per cent of pupils as 'gifted and talented' and ensure they are given appropriate tasks to help them achieve their potential.


One suspects that this problem is not confined to the United Kingdom.

Gifted students are a society's future engineers, scientists, doctors, and leaders. Weighing them down, Harrison Bergeron-style, with boring make-work, refusing to provide them with stimulating challenges, in the name of "equality," is not only unkind to the students but is a strategic error that prevents a community from reaching its own full potential.

(Via Rob Port at Say Anything blog and on Twitter.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

More time in school? No thanks

In this month's issue of School Reform News, Lindsey Burke reports on President Obama's push for a longer school year, and quotes me in her story.
"As to what homeschoolers think of it as a policy prescription, I wouldn't presume to speak for a couple million people. We're a far too heterogeneous lot for that," said Brandon Dutcher, vice president of policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. "But there's a sense in which this idea is no different from fuzzy math, dumbed-down history, condom distribution, or whatever public-school follies are prevailing at the moment: Homeschoolers have simply chosen not to participate.

"Obama may want to separate children from their parents for longer and longer stretches of time, but we're teaching our children at home precisely because we want to be with them," Dutcher added. "Obama's plan would take us farther down the wrong road."

Critics do see a bright spot in the proposal, however.

"I am hopeful that just as Obama's overreaching in other areas has launched town halls and tea parties and has revived freedom-lovers everywhere, his overreaching here could end up driving more children away from government institutions and into the arms of their parents," Dutcher said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The market is the answer (again)

Cato scholar Neal McCluskey writes:
USA Today has been running a lengthy series on the condition of food sold through federal school lunch programs, and today's installment is particularly interesting. It turns out that fast-food chains like Jack in the Box and Burger King -- predatory capitalists who want nothing more than to make filthy lucre off of unsuspecting hungry people -- have much higher meat quality standards than does the selfless government sworn to protect the public.

'School board democracy'

Reading today's news stories about local school-board candidates in Oklahoma (the filing period ended yesterday), I am reminded how much I agree with Professor Jay P. Greene on this matter: "Rather than rely on the phony democracy of low turnout and insider controlled school boards, reformers should rely on markets." Dr. Greene has concluded that people's widespread commitment to school board democracy
is part of our national secular religion of public school. It's actually more like a cult. We falsely believe that the public school is the foundation of our democracy when in fact our democracy preceded it by more than a century. We wrongly believe that the public school is the main engine of civic progress when we know that public schools were segregated by law for most of their existence. We wrongly believe that public schools are best at teaching political tolerance and other civic values, when the evidence shows that private schools actually serve these public goals better.

Another look at teacher pay

Earlier this year The Oklahoma Academy held its annual Town Hall conference, and I was pleased to contribute two articles to its 168-page background resource document, "Getting Ready for Work: Education Systems & Future Workforce." In reading through the publication today, I noticed an article ("The Value of Teacher Salaries") which referenced a website I hadn't seen before, TeacherPortal.com. The site, which is "dedicated to supporting current teachers and creating the next generation of educators," features "a proprietary way to tell how far a teacher's salary will go in each state. We look at cost-of-living, average salaries, starting salaries, and more." Oklahoma ranks a respectable 18th among the 50 states, a finding not inconsistent with what I have blogged before.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Charter schools against the odds'

"They're growing," The Wall Street Journal points out today, "despite union hostility."

9-year-old homeschooler ...

... plays with toy horses, dresses up Barbie dolls, and CLEPs out of Western Civ.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Does anyone think this will adversely affect student performance?

On May 4, 1991, the New York Times reported that, in addition to the district-office staffs of the 32 school districts in the New York City public school system, "supervising them are 3,930 central Board of Education employees. By contrast, just 33 people oversee the entire network of Catholic schools in New York City." (Student count: 110,000 Catholic school students; nearly one million public-school students.)

That article came to mind when I read Andrea Eger's report in the Tulsa World that "Tulsa Public Schools is looking to cut as many as 100 jobs in central administration to save $5 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year."

School choice as civil right

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is in the news, Jennifer Rubin writes in The Weekly Standard, "taking a major role in the high-profile New Black Panther party (NBPP) voter intimidation case." But this is just one way the USCCR "is challenging liberal civil rights orthodoxies."
The USCCR is something of an oddity. Created in 1957 as part of the Civil Rights Act, it conducts investigations, holds hearings, and publishes reports -- about four a year -- on the key civil rights issues it decides the nation is facing. (Half of its eight commissioners are appointed by the president, half by Congress, with not more than four allowed from the same party.) ... Today a majority of commissioners favor a "conservative" view of civil rights -- opposition to racial preferences and adherence to a colorblind vision of the Constitution -- which they believe mirrors the original vision of our civil rights legislation. The USCCR's agenda includes voter fraud, the adverse impact of economic regulation on minority opportunity, school choice, and a number of other topics in conflict with liberals' civil rights agenda.

Oklahoma politicians trampling a fundamental human right

Thursday is Human Rights Day, a day celebrated around the world every year on December 10. According to Wikipedia, "the date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights." Now what's interesting for the purposes of this blog is Article 26, Section 3 of the UDHR:
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Last year at a White House summit on faith-based urban schools, Dr. Charles Glenn, a professor at Boston University's School of Education, pointed out that "the right of parents to choose the schools that children attend is an internationally accepted norm."

Every country in the world except North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba allows parents to choose schools. Every Western democracy except the United States provides public funding to support those choices. As you all know, I think, under a decision of the Supreme Court in 1925, that right of parents to choose schools is recognized in American law as well. But there's a fundamental equity issue in the American situation in that parents who lack the resources to support nongovernment education for their children, are not able to exercise the right that they possess under those international norms.

The various international covenants for human rights spell out clearly that this is a fundamental human right, and the United Nations and UNESCO have both agreed that it is fundamental in vindicating the right to education that the education provided not only be adequate, but that it be acceptable to parents.

And yet, here in the United States, that right is trampled. Now some will disagree, asserting that parents in Oklahoma and the rest of the country are perfectly free to choose whatever education they want for their children. But are they? Edmond North High School, for example, is a "public" school, so surely anyone can go there, just as they could go to a public library. If you're an underprivileged student in northeast Oklahoma City, try enrolling at Edmond North and let me know how that works out for you.

But parents are free to choose a nongovernment school, right? Well, there's that "fundamental equity issue" -- after being taxed to subsidize a particular kind of education, often parents are no longer free to choose what they want for their children.

This is discrimination, and it needs to stop.

Monday, December 7, 2009

For 'charter colleges'

"As more donors and legislators rebel against campus intellectual repression," Prof. Marvin Olasky predicted in a recent column, "higher education's support base will shrink even as costs rise beyond the ability of financially beleaguered parents to keep up."
My own choice in this situation has been to leave the socialist sector of higher education and attempt to make a competitive private college work. That's hard going in today's economy, and for those who still hope to work within government-funded institutions a new alternative has emerged. Rob Koons, the University of Texas professor removed last fall as head of a UT Western Civilization program, is proposing that Texas legislators back the creation of charter colleges, as they now support the creation of charter schools.

Charter colleges could offer specific majors or they could be "core curriculum charters" that would offer "at least eighteen semester hours in ethics and the classics of Western civilization and of American thought." ... Charter colleges would receive per-student funding as charter K-12 schools now do. They could rent space in university buildings. Their liberty would be limited: They would have to be nonpartisan and nonsectarian in terms of control by religious institutions. They would have to offer a viable business plan, a governance structure satisfying the principles of professional responsibility and academic freedom, and a set of procedures and standards for hiring and retaining instructors."

Read Olasky's entire column here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

'The country is in gradual decline'

Checker Finn sees several "worrisome signs of national decay," among them "America's flat education results and sagging international performance."
Nearly all our major test-score trend lines have been horizontal for decades -- the small upward and downward blips tend to balance out -- and comparisons with other lands show us mediocre to woeful. We could once respond that the U.S. makes up in education "quantity" (e.g., graduation and matriculation rates) what we may lack in quality but that's not true any longer. Half a dozen countries now best us on those measures, too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Apparently no one's against it

KXII-TV, the CBS affiliate which covers southern Oklahoma, has an embarrassingly one-sided report on SQ 744.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Education emerging as new mission for black churches'

Kathy Clay-Little, the publisher of African-American Reflections, grew up in rural southern Oklahoma. In a new column, she says education is emerging as a new mission for black churches.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SQ 744 proponent acknowledges 'dire' reality

A gentleman who recently testified in favor of SQ 744 writes in a new column that "Oklahoma is in dire straits." We're looking at a billion-dollar hole at the state capitol, and "there is no magic rebound coming in revenues."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quote of the day

"Chicago Public Schools have a gang problem. The gang, however, is not the BDs (Black Disciples), the gang is not the GDs (Gangster Disciples), the gang is not the Vice Lords and the gang is not the Four Corner Hustlers. The gang is the Chicago Teachers Union."

State Sen. James T. Meeks (D-Chicago), an African-American minister and chairman of the Illinois Senate's Education Committee, Oct. 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saints among us

[This is the text of an ad sponsored by the Marlin Oil Corporation appearing in the current edition of The City Sentinel.]
Monday of this week, an Oklahoma City principal who manages a high school where 82 percent of the students are Hispanic won the Milken Family Foundation’s Educator of the Year award for 2010. Pat McGuigan's report in this week's edition of The City Sentinel captures the wonderful spirit of the event.

Chris Brewster deserves all the praise he is getting. In less than a decade, he has taken a school with some of the lowest achievement scores around and turned it into the second-highest achiever among Oklahoma City public high schools with open admissions. Already, his graduates are working their way through state junior colleges and universities, aiming to join the professions and, in some cases, to become teachers themselves.

A couple of things make this wonderful achievement especially notable. First, the school is excelling even though it has an Hispanic population that is twice that of the percentage found in the school district as a whole. The staff is intensely dedicated to producing students who are proud of their heritage and also able to function in the English-speaking economic mainstream of our state and our country.

Second, Santa Fe South is a charter school, able to operate outside many of the mandates and bureaucratic strictures that limit teaching and creativity at so many regular public schools. Brewster has been a leader in the association of charter schools, which now has a little more than a dozen institutional members.

There are no charter high schools in Tulsa, due to the wasted time of 10 years of litigation the public school district there wasted while charter schools in Oklahoma City steadily improved. Only this year did the Tulsa district reluctantly agree that charter schools are here to stay -- after losing a silly lawsuit and wasting lots of money trying to crush these innovative sites. Yet, the highest achieving tax-funded elementary school in T-Town is a charter school. Think how much more can be achieved by adding upper grades to this dynamic school model.

The students at Santa Fe South are achieving notable things on the athletic fields, as well. The Saints, as they are known, won the boys Class 4A soccer championship last spring. This year they added the state title in cross country. Accepting the Milken award, which was a surprise to him, Brewster was a study in statesmanship and dignity, insisting on the excellence of all those surrounding him.

Every now and then in life, we catch of glimpse of the saints among us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jobs program

So the federal "stimulus" money has created or saved thousands of Oklahoma education jobs. Is this necessarily a good thing?

Frank Keating touts school choice

KOSU reports.

'When we are on the field we bring it'

Dallas Jackson of Rivals.com reports on a homeschool football team in Tulsa.


SQ 744 would result in college-tuition hike

In a recent speech, state Rep. Jeff Hickman (R-Dacoma) warned of the dangers of the proposed SQ 744. The Alva Review-Courier reports that
Hickman said department heads came to the legislature to express their dismay at the possibility of that change. “Higher education said if it passes, it would require a 33 percent increase in tuition,” Hickman said. “Several branch campuses might have to close.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Heritage Foundation says expanding preschool 'undermines civil society'

In a new memorandum released today, The Heritage Foundation looks at a dozen issues which, taken as a whole, "serve to undermine traditional families, devalue life and human dignity, and weaken civil society in American life." One of them involves expanding government-subsidized preschool programs.
A bill moving through the House of Representatives to reform America's higher education system includes the creation of a new $8 billion federal preschool program. The Early Learning Challenge Fund will provide funding for states to expand their government-subsidized preschool programs.

This is grossly unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars considering that more than 83 percent of all four-year-olds are currently enrolled in some form of early education or care program. In addition, research and audit reports have found that two states that had instituted universal preschool (Oklahoma and Georgia) showed little to no improvement in test scores.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Magazine to feature Okla. charter schools

Many Oklahomans are unaware of the successes of Oklahoma's charter schools. To help remedy this situation, the Oklahoma Charter School Association is teaming up with Tierra Media Group to publish "The Charter Schools of Oklahoma," a magazine set for distribution in January 2010. According to Bill Bleakley, Tierra's president and CEO, the magazine will
  • Inform legislators, civic leaders, and the public about Oklahoma’s charter schools;
  • Provide a history of the development of charter schools within the state and their contribution to education;
  • Explain the unique nature of each charter school, its mission, and enrollment criteria;
  • Help recruit students by informing parents about charter-school opportunities;
  • Inform potential donors about charter schools’ achievements and benefits; and
  • Provide the sponsoring districts with an overview of their charter schools.
The magazine will be mailed to 3,500 civic leaders, governmental officials, donors, patrons, and interested citizens. In addition, each school will receive 500 copies to distribute to potential donors and student families.

Sponsorships are available. To learn more, contact Bill Bleakley at bbleakley at tierramediagroup dot com.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Okla. economist defends school choice

In a column published in August in the Edmond Sun, University of Central Oklahoma economist Mickey Hepner made a case for school-choice scholarships. Now Dr. Hepner, who also serves on the executive committee of the board of directors for The Oklahoma Academy, is back with a new column defending school choice.

Is Oklahoma next?

Voters in New Jersey and in Virginia just sent a pro-school-choice candidate to the governor's mansion.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

'The phony funding crisis'

"For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year," Arthur Peng and James Guthrie write.

And the results?

Monday, November 2, 2009

'We're lying to our children'

Oklahoma has been lowering the bar, resulting in "artificially high test scores." See for yourself here.

Education transparency needed

"Oklahoma’s public schools spend more than $4 billion in federal, state and local tax dollars every year, but the accounting of this spending does not appear to be as transparent as it should be," Brian Downs writes today in the state's largest newspaper. "Next November, voters will decide on State Question 744 which, according to a recent interim study on the issue in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, would take $850 million away from every state agency and give it directly to schools. How can voters decide to take away money from other vital agencies without knowing for sure how current dollars are being spent?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

'Black parents need radical new options'


"Why do the education elites want to keep at-risk black males in schools that dump them in the streets or jail?" writes Dr. Anthony B. Bradley, an assistant professor at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

Given the many social pathologies plaguing black males in low-income and fatherless households, the best place for at-risk black males is not the dominant failed public school paradigm. Since public schools are forbidden to teach virtue and often reduce children to receptacles of information, expanding private and faith-based options to black parents is the only compelling solution. ...

Americans cannot afford, financially or morally, to trap black males in criminal cultivators masquerading as schools. Even though charter schools, vouchers, and tax-credit programs reflect some progress, black parents need radical new options that empower them with absolute freedom to choose the best schools. While every at-risk black male does not have access to good faith-based opportunities, the only hope for liberating young black males to actualize their potential to be productive participants in a global economy and virtuous citizens of a healthy nation is to free black parents from the tyranny of government bureaucrats. Black America needs a "Freedom of Choice" movement.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Budget bind?

The CBS affiliate in Tulsa reports that the Wynona public schools are facing a "budget bind." But Census and NCES data tell us Wynona is spending $10,092 per student.

'Their blood is on our hands'


James T. Meeks, a Democrat state senator from Chicago and the pastor of Salem Baptist Church, has had it with all these murders of public-school students. He writes in the Chicago Tribune:

We like to point to irresponsible kids and uncaring parents. But what about a society that won't lift a finger to do anything about the crumbling, disastrous school system that all of these kids, victims and violators, come from? ...

For the first time in my personal and political career, I am exploring the idea of vouchers and charter schools to help facilitate choice and enhance academic performance. Why should we continue to make investments in a system that is bankrupt and weighed down with bureaucracy? ...

They say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. We can no longer afford to have the blood of every child on our hands.

But the free-babysitting aspect is still dandy

Reason Foundation researcher Lisa Snell finds it troubling that 
the two states in the nation [Oklahoma and Georgia] with huge financial commitments to universal preschool for over a decade now have the lowest expectations for K-12 students in terms of grade-level proficiency and they continue to score below average on the nation's benchmark for student achievement.

20-20 vision

"Are there ways to do more to give parents more choices in choosing the school that best fits their children's needs?" UCO economist Mickey Hepner asks, recommending the creation of Task Force 2020, an education reform task force for Oklahoma.
We know that whenever parents have more school choice there are higher levels of parental satisfaction. In the last 20 years Oklahoma has experimented with limited school choice and seen the emergence of several charter schools in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. Should we do more to promote charter schools throughout our state? Should Oklahoma join in with 10 other states in providing education scholarships for parents who send their children to accredited private schools?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

You go, girl

This past summer 17-year-old homeschooler Zac Sunderland became the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe alone. Now his kid sister Abby, who just turned 16, plans to do it. "Without homeschooling, I wouldn't be doing this," Abby tells WORLD magazine's Mark Bergin. "It's good to show people that homeschoolers aren't the total nerds and book people that they might get the impression we are."

Nobel Prize winner was homeschooled

No, not that Nobel Prize winner (though he was privately educated). I'm talking about Willard S. Boyle, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Mom says school fights are common

"A local mother is calling for changes after her daughter came home from school with a broken nose from a fight," KOCO reports. "Kelli Richardson said fights are common at McLoud High School and school leaders aren't doing enough to stop them."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Taxpayers being gored

The Sequoyah County Times reports on the "financial crisis" in the Gore public school district, a district which is spending $8,041 per pupil, according to Census and NCES data. (I can think of any number of private schools which would love to have a "crisis" like that.) Yet despite these resources, of the Gore students who made it to Oklahoma colleges in recent years, more than 4 in 10 -- and in some years a full two-thirds -- have needed remedial coursework.

Once again, Chester Finn's excellent article "Why school systems cannot lose weight" is a helpful guide.

Underfunded-schools watch

The Tulsa World reports that "Jenks head football coach Allan Trimble would have likely received more than six figures in pay from the district this year, had part of his coaching stipend not been taken away as part of a suspension, records show."
As an instructional program director, Trimble will still receive his base salary of $83,219 per year, a $2,400 car allowance, a $300 phone allowance and $300 in district paid retirement benefits, according to the district's records. Trimble's head varsity football stipend is $16,243, but Trimble's suspension agreement states that he would only be suspended without pay for one semester, and the coaching stipend for the 2009-10 school year was cut in half to $8,121.50.

In total, if he receives or has already received the remainder of his coaching stipend and allowances, Trimble will be paid around $94,340.50. Prior to his suspension, Trimble was scheduled to receive $102,462 from the district.

'SQ 744 is not the solution'

Brad Henry's hometown paper says "Oklahomans can brace themselves for higher taxes and fewer services if a state question being pushed by the education lobby is approved in next year's general election."

Building the farm team

I have talked before about Oklahoma's burgeoning conservative infrastructure, of which a key component is a group called American Majority. As the Tulsa World reports, American Majority is actively recruiting and training candidates for school board.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More than 1 in 3 ...

students need remedial courses once they enter Oklahoma colleges.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Cartel opens in theaters



The Cartel, a documentary that asks what Americans are getting for their massive financial investment in public education, opens in theaters tonight across New Jersey, a state that provides the film with a dramatic illustration of the chasm between funding and performance. The Cartel has already won a number of awards at regional film festivals, including two audience choice awards.

The film's website sets out the crisis, defined by disastrous educational statistics:

The conventional wisdom says that our schools could be dramatically improved with better funding. If we would only “invest in education,” the argument goes, our children would have a better future—particularly in urban areas, where leaky roofs, under-qualified teachers, and outdated textbooks are all too common.

And so the last few decades have brought an explosion of education spending, enthusiastically approved by local school boards and state legislatures and generally supported by taxpayers. That’s the moral cover under which our public school system wastes and steals billions of dollars every year.

New Jersey offers a dramatic instance of this corruption and improvidence.... Spending can exceed $400,000 per classroom, and yet only 39 percent of the state’s eighth-graders are proficient or advanced readers, and only 40 percent of its eighth-graders are proficient or advanced in math.... And the problem is not one of inadequate funding: Some of the worst schools receive—and squander—the most money.

This costly, unconscionable failure forms the subject of The Cartel.


You can sign up for news of future screenings and express interest in having the film shown near you on TheCartelMovie.com.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sec. Duncan mentions Tulsa school violence

"Chicago is not unique," U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan said yesterday. "Four students have been shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma already this year. Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, New Orleans, and many rural communities have also lost school children to violence in recent weeks."

Where's the thirst for serious knowledge?

What can the trivialization of Newsweek tell us about our education system?

"Universal education seems in the end not to have produced the thirst for knowledge that many once forecast," author and columnist William Murchison writes ('News of the Weak').
The merger of entertainment and "news" in the pages of the new Newsweek isn't especially edifying, but an air of financial inevitability surrounds it. [Editor Jon] Meacham reasons thus: We can be highbrow and serious and civic-minded as all get-out and go broke. Alternatively, we can talk about Suzanne Somers and thrive. He's probably got it about right. Which raises the question of what schools are doing to raise tastes and arouse a thirst race for serious -- I said serious -- knowledge. A whole lot less, seemingly, than they did when Newsweek and Time were in their heydays.

'Online education has moved from the margins to the center'

"It's a waste of time and money for students to sit at the back of a big lecture hall as a time-serving tenured mediocrity drones on," longtime professor Marvin Olasky writes in his latest column ('Class Without Rooms: Online Higher Education').

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barresi: Status quo isn't working

"Retired Edmond dentist Janet Barresi on Tuesday announced that she is running for state superintendent of public instruction," Barbara Hoberock reports in the Tulsa World.
Barresi, 57, founded two charter schools, including the state's first. She served as a speech pathologist in Harrah and Norman public schools before running a family dental practice for 24 years.

Barresi said the educational bureaucracy has tried to maintain the status quo, which has failed children.

She said she supports all types of school choice because it promotes competition.

"Nationwide, school consolidation has never been shown to produce improved academic results," Barresi said. "I think what I am going to be focused on is reducing the administrative costs, and that is going to begin with the State Department of Education and building in cost efficiencies."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

'Out of touch and courting irrelevance'

That would be the teachers unions, and even the mainstream media are starting to see it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Roman Polanski for safe schools czar

Heck, who can blame Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, for being unclear on the appropriateness of childhood sexual abuse? Gray areas, you know. Nevertheless, the Family Research Council has called for his resignation.

A great philanthropist

Donald George Fisher put KIPP on the map.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Takings Coalition none too thrilled with SQ 744

According to a press release from the Oklahoma House of Representatives,
If State Question 744 is approved by the voters next fall, planned roads and bridges wouldn't be built, thousands of prisoners would have to be released, mentally ill Oklahomans would be left without care leaving them destined for the streets or prison, thousands would be dropped from the Medicaid rolls and several health services would be eliminated, fewer state troopers would protect Oklahoma streets, more children and senior citizens would be cut out of state care and college tuition would increase across the state, House members were told by agency directors at an interim study today.

In other words, what I predicted seven months ago is starting to unfold: the various tax users are starting to eye one another like the proverbial starving men in the lifeboat.

OCPA research fellow Steve Anderson and I also testified at the interim study on Thursday (coverage in the Edmond Sun and the Journal Record) that Oklahoma's per pupil cost is already approaching $11,000.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The real cost of education

The Appropriations and Budget Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives is studying the potential effects of the proposed SQ 744. This morning, I testified that Oklahoma's public education system is already spending nearly $11,000 per pupil.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gaming the system

The state's largest newspaper, in a house editorial yesterday, brought attention to a troubling (but not new) situation that exists in some schools. The Oklahoman noted that Cyril school Principal Jason James
said the pressure of testing requirements may cause some educators to cheat or otherwise misrepresent student test scores. He also said educators might find ways to discount some students' scores or put low-performing students in less challenging classes. The end result would make the school look better.

We'll give him credit for honesty. Some teachers and school leaders surely game the system to produce test scores that aren't an accurate representation of student achievement. Students who should be tested aren't or they're classified in such a way that makes scores deceptively high. In recent years, Oklahoma has had instances of teachers changing students' test answers and other states have or are conducting cheating investigations.

School counselor laments tax cuts

Testifying yesterday on behalf of the HOPE initiative, Ms. Lynn Stockley, a counselor at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, lamented that "for too many years we have lowered taxes." Well, if the HOPE (Hijacking Other People's Earnings) initiative passes, that trend could be reversed.

Homeschoolers hail their alma mater

Recently a Tulsa housing authority tried to deny a family its constitutional right to homeschool. The family lawyered up and the housing authority backed down.

Whenever I read a story like that -- or a Los Angeles Times profile of an Oklahoma homeschool mom who is a bestselling author and one of the 100 most influential bloggers in the world -- I can't help but be thankful for ... Oklahoma Democrats.

To explain. One morning in 2001 I was sitting at the kitchen table having Raisin Bran with my eight-year-old son, Lincoln. Reading the sports page, he noticed the headline "Stoops visits alma mater." I asked him if he knew what an alma mater was. He didn't, so I explained it's where a person went to school. I reminded the towheaded third-grader that just a week earlier in Latin class he had learned that mater means mother. And since alma means nourishing, then alma mater means nourishing mother.

"You know what's funny?" the little homeschooler remarked. "In my case, it literally is true."

Indeed it is. And there are thousands of other young Oklahomans whose alma mater is their alma mater.

According to Article 13, Section 4 of the Oklahoma Constitution, "the Legislature shall provide for the compulsory attendance at some public or other school, unless other means of education are provided, of all the children in the State who are sound in mind and body, between the ages of eight and sixteen years, for at least three months in each year" (emphasis added). According to a legal analysis published by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), "Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to home school." And for that we can thank -- you guessed it -- Oklahoma Democrats.

More than a century ago, during the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, delegate J. S. Buchanan, a Democrat from Norman, suggested that the "other means of education" language be added. Delegate J. A. Baker from Wewoka, another Democrat, agreed: "I think Mr. Buchanan has suggested a solution. A man's own experience sometimes will teach him. I have two little fellows that are not attending a public school because it is too far for them to walk and their mother makes them study four hours a day."

"People ought to be allowed to use their own discretion as to how to educate their children," he argued.

The motion to add the "other means of education" language was seconded by none other than convention president Alfalfa Bill Murray, another Democrat. (Would that today's Oklahoma Democrats were as friendly to homeschooling as their forebears.)

The words alma mater are sometimes applied to the Roman goddess Ceres, the goddess of bounty and agriculture. And though homeschooling moms do nourish their youngsters with food (when Lincoln was six he told his mom, "You're such a good cook you could get a job at Denny's!"), they also nourish them with instruction.

The psalmist compares children to olive plants. And as Bible commentator Matthew Henry observed, nourishing parents love to see their little ones "straight and green, sucking in the sap of their good education."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

'$8 billion in pre-K waste'

Heritage Foundation researcher Lindsey Burke points out that
states have had little success with large taxpayer investments in government preschool programs. Oklahoma and Georgia, which have both had preschool for over a decade, have essentially seen zero benefit to their 3- and 4-year-old children. In Oklahoma, students have actually seen a decline in reading achievement since the introduction of universal preschool.

Legislators study HOPE initiative

"State lawmakers are planning to study how the passage of a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with education spending might affect the rest of the state budget," the Associated Press reported today. I attended part of the interim study this morning (OFRG live-tweeted the proceedings), and couldn't help but be struck by a few amusing "with friends like these ..." moments.

Phillip Busey, president and CEO of The Busey Group, testified in favor of the HOPE initiative. He reminded legislators that state revenues are down -- he said shortfalls could reach a billion dollars -- and said "I don't see those coming back before 2011 or 2012." Hmmm. And he is testifying in favor of putting more strain on the state budget?

OEA staffer Joel Robison, who did a nice job presenting his information in a not altogether friendly environment, told legislators that OEA was pursuing the initiative route because the legal route had proved unfruitful. It struck me as odd that a testifier would tell legislators, Hey, remember me, I'm the guy who sued you.

In all, my take on the HOPE initiative hasn't changed:

First the teacher unions backed a radical, irresponsible spender.

Now they're backing a radical, irresponsible spending scheme.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Horace Mann prophecy watch

Andrew Coulson wants to know if we're going to have to wait another century and a half.

Monday, September 14, 2009

More on the Special Ed bounty system

"Perverse incentives cause schools to misuse special ed for remedial education," Professor Jay P. Greene writes today on National Review Online. And as OCPA has pointed out, the same thing is going on in Oklahoma.

'Lots of noise, little to hear'

Early childhood education.

'The charter school invasion'

The socialists don't seem to like it one bit.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What shall we transmit?


"The main fact about education," Chesterton observed, "is that there is no such thing. ... Education is a word like 'transmission' or 'inheritance'; it is not an object, but a method."

So the next time you ponder "early childhood education," for example, think instead of "early childhood transmission." And ask yourself: What exactly is it we wish to transmit?

In their new book NurtureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman cite studies which show that "four-year-olds will lie once every two hours, while a six-year-old will lie about once every hour.
Few kids are an exception. In these same studies, 96% of all kids offer up lies. ... In longitudinal studies, a six-year-old who lies frequently could just as simply grow out of it. But if lying has become a successful strategy for handling difficult social situations, she'll stick with it. About one-third of kids do—and if they're still lying at seven, then it seems likely to continue. They're hooked.
Hmmm. This could be a problem. What shall we do, transmission-wise, to address this situation? There are many different options; let's look at two vastly different ones.

Some parents may want to put their preschooler in a public-school classroom equipped with mental-health therapists. That's one option.

Other parents may opt for a private school or a home school wherein the child is taught:
Johnny, I want you to listen to me carefully. God loves you and I love you, but you told a lie. And the reason you told a lie is that you're a sinner. God made you and he loves you, but because of sin your heart has lots of ugly stuff in it. That's why you sometimes lie or cheat or take other kids' toys. Sin is very serious and it deserves punishment, punishment even worse than a spanking. But the good news is that Jesus died on the cross to take away all of your sins. If you apologize to him and trust him to forgive you, he will wipe away your sins. And he won't be mad at you. In fact, he loves you more than even your mom and dad love you! And he will change your heart to help you tell the truth.
Early childhood "education"? There's no such thing. Content is everything. The question is, what content are we going to transmit? Different parents—agnostic, Christian, Jewish, and so on—will answer that question differently. Public policy should ensure a level playing field so that parents have the freedom and the ability to make the choice that is best for them.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman recently said in Oklahoma City, a child's early years are "a delicate time of life, when cognition and self-control [are] established." If school-choice policies are in place, "religious groups can pick for themselves" how to meet those needs in development of a child's cognition and self-control. Dr. Heckman rightly said such programs can and should accommodate the interests of "Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Southern Baptists, you name it."

Arianna Huffington ...

... supports school choice.

Baucham: Opposition to socialized medicine 'rings hollow'

Dr. Voddie Baucham (pictured here with his wife, Bridget) is pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. In a recent blog post ("The Yellow Prison Bus and the Future of American Healthcare"), he wrote:
One of the mantras we hear repeatedly these days is, "we don't want socialism." While that sounds good (and conservative, and constitutional, and patriotic, etc.), it rings hollow when you consider the overwhelming majority of the people leading the charge have their children in what amounts to socialized education. What's the difference? If you're really against government-run, socialized programs, yank your kid off the yellow prison bus and just say no.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The future of education?

It's online, Matt Ladner writes.
Education is on the verge of a shakeup every bit as profound as that facing the newspaper and music industries, according to Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen, who has written in Education Next that online learning is a disruptive technology that will change education permanently.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Washout

"There's only one problem with Oklahoma's ambition to get younger and younger preschoolers into government-run education programs," the Tulsa Beacon reports. "It's not working."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Whoops, that's not supposed to happen

New surveys in Arizona show that private-school students are more tolerant and politically accepting than public-school students.

Signs of 'declining confidence'

A couple of months ago in The Oklahoman I had a column headlined "Oklahomans losing confidence in schools." Today in The Wall Street Journal, Harvard professor Paul E. Peterson tells us what the public thinks of public schools.
It's little wonder the public is becoming uneasy. High-school graduation rates are lower today than they were in 1970. The math and reading scores of 17-year-olds have been stagnant for four decades.

You cannot fool all the people all the time, President Lincoln said. And when it comes to student learning, the public seems beyond deceit.

Georgia's tax-credit program working

State Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn) writes:
The Georgia Tuition Tax Credit program has prompted scholarship organizations to raise money and award scholarships to children who want to transfer from public to private schools. These are not school vouchers. Children are instead earning scholarships from individuals who designate their checks to the good works of these student scholarship organizations (SSOs) instead of the government.

There are 20 such organizations helping parents by providing more school choice. The tax credit is not a program designed in any way to benefit private schools. Its mission is to help parents and students. Each SSO establishes its own focus. For example, some award scholarships to children who want to attend Hebrew schools; others award scholarships only to children from middle- to lower-income families; others award scholarships for children who only want to attend Christian schools; others target children in more rural communities who want to attend private schools.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

OEA gets $100,000 media grant

"Each NEA member contributes $4 annually to the national union's Media Campaign Fund, of which a portion is returned to state affiliates in the form of grants for statewide advertising," Mike Antonucci reports today. "In addition to the paid advertising, such campaigns also tend to result in a decent amount of free media." This school year, NEA provided OEA a media grant in the amount of $100,000.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Online learning continues to expand

The Oklahoman reports today on the growth of virtual schooling in Oklahoma.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama will tell schoolchildren to 'run for the door'

Scott Ott, editor in chief of ScrappleFace.com, has obtained a leaked draft of President Obama's upcoming speech to the nation's schoolchildren. Ott reports:
A draft copy of President Barack Obama's planned September 8 address to America's public school children tells students that "If you want to grow up to be like me, you should beg your parents to put you in private school, right now."

Although Obama attended public school in Indonesia early in life, he soon switched to a private Catholic school, and from fifth grade through graduation went to a private college-prep school in Hawaii. His own daughters now attend a private school in Washington D.C. ...

On Tuesday, the president will bypass parents, taking his message directly to kids in the classroom "in hopes that you'll pester Mom until she gets a second job to pay private-school tuition so you can escape the swirling vortex of ignorance and despair that is our government-run school system."

Read the whole thing here.

For preschool choices

Friday, a weekly newspaper in Oklahoma City, recently ran a house editorial entitled "What price saving children?" I submitted a letter to the editor, which appears in this week's issue:
Dear Editor:

Thank you for your July 31 editorial, "What price saving children?" Though I don't fully share your confidence in the salvific powers of "early childhood education," I think it's important to note something Dr. James Heckman mentioned at the recent early-childhood summit in Oklahoma City: School choice is important.

"Competition plays a role" in good education policy, said Dr. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist. In early childhood education, there ought to be "multiple, diverse modes of delivery." He said such programs can and should accommodate the interests of "Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Southern Baptists, you name it."

Fortunately, some Oklahoma school districts already collaborate with daycare centers to serve a share of Oklahoma's preschool children. Policymakers should now provide Oklahoma parents a tax credit for educational expenses incurred in private preschool programs or home schools.

Sincerely,

Brandon Dutcher
Vice President for Policy
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Politics in government-run schools? What next?

With the Dear Leader set to address the nation's schoolchildren, Adam Schaeffer is shocked -- shocked! -- to find politics in state-run schools.

How inefficient has state-run schooling become?

So inefficient, Andrew Coulson points out, "that one recent study finds higher public school spending is associated with LOWER subsequent economic growth."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President

Cato's Neal McCluskey hopes the president's Orwellian move will serve as "a desperately needed wakeup call to all Americans about the great damage government education can inflict on otherwise free people."

State regulation of private schools

A new document from the U.S. Department of Education provides a brief description of state legal requirements that apply to K–12 private schools.

Underfunded-schools watch

A cool $1.7 million to renovate the Norman High School football building.

'Grateful for the choices that already exist'

Good editorial in the state's largest newspaper this morning reminding us that school choice is "alive and well" in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

'A recipe for academic success'

Homeschoolers continue to shine on standardized tests, including the ACT.

School-free drug zones

"For the more than 49 million students who are attending elementary and secondary public schools this fall," writes constitutional attorney John Whitehead, "their time in school will be marked by overreaching zero tolerance policies, heightened security and surveillance and a greater emphasis on conformity and behavior-controlling drugs -- all either aimed at or resulting in the destruction of privacy and freedom."
In his award-winning documentary The War on Kids (2009) [watch the trailer here], director Cevin Soling examines the dangers posed to young people today by a public school system that looks upon them as "superpredators" to be controlled and treated like criminals. Two obvious results of this dangerous mindset are the rise in zero tolerance policies and the physical transformation of the schools into quasi-prisons. ...

As Soling's insightful film documents, from the moment they walk into school, students today find themselves under constant surveillance: they are photographed, fingerprinted, scanned, x-rayed, sniffed, and snooped on. Between metal detectors at the entrances, drug-sniffing dogs in the hallways and surveillance cameras in the classrooms and elsewhere, America's schools have come to resemble prison-like complexes. Much of this is an attempt to appease parental fears in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. Yet as one student remarks in the film, "They [the surveillance cameras] don't really prevent anything. They just take pictures of it." Indeed, the documentary points out there is no empirical data to show that metal detectors, locker searches, or security cameras have any impact in reducing school violence.

Neither have they managed to reduce drug usage among young people. Yet, ironically, while our nation's schools have become the primary battleground for the so-called war on drugs, they have also become a testing ground for the pharmaceutical industry. "Why is it that the U.S. has six times as many kids on Ritalin as any other country?" asks Dr. Bertram Karon of Michigan State University. "Because this is the most profitable country to sell your drugs." In fact, some 4 million children in the United States are on drugs, accounting for 90% of all Ritalin prescriptions in the world.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Higher education?

Not only do taxpayers get to pay for K-12 education in this state. They get to pay for it twice.

Okla. schoolchildren receive government-funded vouchers

Alas, for fruits and vegetables, not reading and math lessons.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another voice for choice

State Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre and state Rep. Jabar Shumate, Tulsa Democrats pictured here, are two of the most prominent Oklahomans who (a) support Barack Obama and (b) support school choice. Also in this category is Dr. Mickey Hepner, an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma. Check out Hepner's newest column, "The case for educational choice scholarships."

Feds: Online learning beats classroom

Hate it when that happens.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Abandon HOPE

First the teacher unions backed a radical, irresponsible spender.

Now they're backing a radical, irresponsible spending scheme.

'They really don't give you enough work to do in high school'

"Many Oklahoma students say they're unprepared for college," KXII reports.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't you D.A.R.E.

In a book review in today's Wall Street Journal, Kay Hymowitz writes:
Education policy makers will find more cause for embarrassment in "NurtureShock." Drop-out programs don't work. Neither do anti-drug programs. The most popular of them, D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance ­Education), developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles ­Police Department, has become a more familiar sight in ­American schools than algebra class. By 2000, 80% of American school districts were using D.A.R.E. materials in some form. Now, after extensive study, comes the news: The program has no long-term, and only mild short-term, effects.

I'm just sayin'

Hmmm ... The lieutenant governor of Tennessee says if elected governor he will appoint a homeschool advocate to the state board of education.

Recession? We've decided not to participate

A February 26 Associated Press story was headlined, "Garrett wants stimulus money for reforms." But is there any chance "reforms" could be edspeak for "avoiding layoffs"?

As OCPA never tires of repeating, when it comes to the ratio of government employees to private-sector employees, Oklahoma ranks a disturbing 5th-highest in the country. And where exactly is most of this excess overhead? In Oklahoma's education establishment.

Since the recession began more than a year and a half ago, our government employment problem has only gotten worse. As Oklahoma's private sector was shedding more than 36,000 jobs, Oklahoma's state and local governments added 8,600 jobs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cash for clunkers? Let's try dollars for scholars

"Countless parents and students see their K-12 government schooling experiences as real 'clunkers,'" former Edmond resident Isabel Lyman writes. "A Dollars for Scholars rebate offer, available to students wishing to scrap their public schools for a more streamlined, less wasteful private or home school would jump start the entire education industry, struggling to stay relevant and viable in today's economy."

Union boss touts early education

An Oklahoma union boss says Oklahomans recognize the importance of early childhood education. And in the comments section below her column, I agree.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Parent-funded schools succeeding

"Children in rural Ghana walk miles, sometimes across swollen rivers, to get to a community-run school in Ghana started by Alice Iddi-Gubbels of Oklahoma City," Susan Simpson reports today in The Oklahoman. "Families pay tuition of about $11 per child and provide food for school lunches. They help the children get to school each day."

"It's a struggle for them just to get there and they come early," one school board member is quoted as saying. "They just can't wait."

This likely won't come as a surprise to readers of OCPA's Perspective. In this month's issue, James Tooley tells the story of children, parents, teachers, and entrepreneurs in the poorest corners of the globe who, in response to failed public education, are getting the job done themselves.

School district transparency needed

According to a new study (PDF is here) by Oklahomans for Responsible Government, a vast majority of Oklahoma's school districts are not delivering even a basic level of transparency.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Towards truth in advertising

"A change in Oklahoma state standards for student proficiency has led to dramatic decreases in Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test results for third- through eighth-graders at Tulsa-area schools," the Tulsa World's Andrea Eger reports.

Oddly, after 10 years I can scarcely muster the energy to say I told you so.

Underfunded-schools watch

The Mustang School District has a new $3 million health and wellness center.

Friday, August 21, 2009

For school district transparency

My friend Brian Downs has a good column in today's Oklahoman about the lack of transparency in many Oklahoma school districts. My favorite nugget: "According to the state Department of Education, 473 of the 532 school districts employ a technology director, but 59 of those districts do not have a Web site!"

Which stands to reason, since the Chinese are paying for all this anyway

"Jenks Public Schools has been awarded a $1.5 million federal grant to fund a Chinese language immersion program, the first in Oklahoma," the Tulsa World reports. "The Foreign Language Assistance Program grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Education."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

'Time is running out for city schools'

"Will the new board chair Angela Monson be able to lead the board in resisting pressure from the [Oklahoma City school] district's vested interests to maintain the status quo?" Oklahoma Gazette publisher Bill Bleakley asks in the current issue.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Can the free market provide public education?

Yes.

Providing preschool options

"There is little evidence to support the belief that large-scale government preschool programs are effective, by themselves, in improving long-term student outcomes," Adam B. Schaeffer writes in a new study ('The Poverty of Preschool Promises: Saving Children and Money with the Early Education Tax Credit'). "Reform of the existing K–12 system should therefore remain the primary focus of those interested in sustainable improvement in student outcomes."
Given that many states have already instituted pre-K programs, or are committed to doing so, this paper proposes model early education legislation aimed at maximizing their chances for long-term success. The Early Education Tax Credit aims to sustain any potential preschool benefits and establish a solid academic foundation for later success. The program would improve the quality and efficiency of preschool options by harnessing market forces and would pay for itself by using savings generated from the migration of students from public to private schools in grades K–4.

Garrett: 'Rigor is lacking in some schools'

Oklahoma's latest ACT scores tell us "that rigor is lacking in some schools and too many students are not making the most of the four years they are given in high school," state Superintendent Sandy Garrett says.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vouchers thwart the special-ed bounty system

A few years ago Greg Forster wrote about Oklahoma's shameful "bounty system." Well, in a new study published by the Manhattan Institute ('How Special Ed Vouchers Keep Kids From Being Mislabeled as Disabled'), Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters show that offering vouchers to disabled students reduces the likelihood that public schools will label the students as disabled.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Georgia parents overwhelmingly satisfied with special-needs scholarships

According to a new report from the Center for an Educated Georgia, "Education Choice Works: Survey Results of Families Receiving the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship," parents with students using the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship are overwhelmingly satisfied with their child’s new private school.

'The worst scandal in America'

John Fund of The Wall Street Journal says it's "the education monopoly that keeps poor, inner-city kids trapped in failing public schools."

What was the NEA boss doing in Tulsa?

Education reporter Mike Antonucci wants to know.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told members of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association that the union "will support any compensation system that a local bargains," in response to the Tulsa Teacher Effectiveness Initiative. The plan will include performance pay and eliminate salary increases for advanced degrees and additional certifications.

"Compensation systems, plain and simple, are a local issue," Van Roekel said. "It's bargained between management and the union. It should never be imposed, and it's what you believe is a fair system -- you've got to know what you're paying for, how to measure it, and then you distribute the resources."

If it's so obviously a local bargaining issue, what was Van Roekel doing in Tulsa? There are other places.

Abortion business in public schools?

Pro-lifers are taking a close look at specific provisions of ObamaCare.

Enid editor suggests school choice

In a recent column, Cindy Allen, managing editor of the Enid News & Eagle, wrote: "What about our public schools, which spend billions and billions of dollars, yet our nation continues to flounder at the bottom in educational achievement? Our government has been in total control over public education, and it's a mess." She suggested we consider school choice.

I followed up with this letter to the editor.

Virtual School opens in Owasso

"Owasso Public Schools is traveling to cyberspace to reach a portion of its population," the Tulsa World's Rhett Morgan reports.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Union boss acknowledges problems

The Tulsa World's Andrea Eger reports that NEA president Dennis Van Roekel yesterday "encouraged Tulsa teachers to courageously face the stark realities of the American public education system, including overall high school dropout rates of 25 percent, with rates almost double that for black and/or economically disadvantaged students."