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

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

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."

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.