Saturday, January 31, 2009

Help for school-board candidates

In case you missed it, January was School Board Recognition Month. Fortunately, there's now an organization in Oklahoma assisting liberty-minded school-board candidates. American Majority is a political training organization which trains and equips candidates -- including candidates for local school board -- who are committed to freedom and limited government.

'Works both ways'

"Turnabout is fair play," the state's largest newspaper editorializes today:
In response to a lawmaker’s ill-advised proposal to crack down on homeschoolers, Russell E. Spiars of Zionsville, Ind., suggests that a pro-homeschool legislator author a bill to let homeschool parents crack down on public schools. A pending bill would require parents to alert local school districts of their homeschool plans and offer academic progress reports. Spiars, in a letter to The Oklahoman, says, "I have observed many kids from both homeschools and government schools, and it is apparent to me that the most effective means of improving educational achievement would be to give homeschooling officials oversight over government schools." Of course there aren't enough homeschool parents to go around, but it's apparent that public schools need more oversight than homeschooling parents.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Oklahoma 'ahead of the curve'

My friend Bob Holland, a senior fellow for education policy at the Heartland Institute, has an excellent letter to the editor in today's Oklahoman. "Homeschooling has become one of the most positive trends in American education over the past few decades," he writes.
Today, an estimated 2 million children are homeschooled; 20 years ago there were only a few thousand. Moreover, their academic and social achievements are numerous. For instance, home-schooled youngsters regularly win or place high in the National Spelling Bee, and many studies have documented their solid academic achievement.

Oklahoma was ahead of the curve in recognizing and protecting the freedom of parents to educate their children at home. It adopted a constitutional provision guaranteeing this right 102 years ago; it remains the only state to have done so. All states now allow homeschooling by statute, but Oklahoma's laws are among the top 10 in providing a favorable regulatory climate.

Therefore, your editorial was right on the mark in decrying an attempt to require homeschooling parents to sign up on a state registry and report regularly to state bureaucrats. Surely there are better ways to ferret out a few cases of parental neglect than making all families wards of the state.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

76 percent of OU students, and 73 percent of OSU students ...

... fail to graduate in four years.

HT: Matt Ladner

Grading the graders

Here's a little nugget from today's bulletin from our friends at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute:
Last week, when Barack Obama said that "those of us who manage the public's dollars will ... do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between and people and their government," he must have had Oklahoma in mind. A new proposal from the Oklahoma Business & Education Coalition would create an independent agency to manage the state's testing and accountability program. Those functions are currently handled by (elected) state education superintendent Sandy Garrett, and department that she leads. Understandably, she's not too thrilled about this idea, calling it "more bureaucracy." But Sandy should know better. Having the state education agency evaluate its own performance is like having students grade their own tests. With those kinds of perverse incentives, it's no wonder Oklahoma is bragging about good news while its students are lagging. In fact, this is such a good idea that other states should steal it for themselves -- "sooner" rather than later.

Heritage Foundation researcher: Protect homeschool freedom

Heritage Foundation researcher Lindsey Burke has published a new memorandum on what "may be the fastest-growing form of education in the United States" (Homeschooling Sees Dramatic Rise in Popularity).
In general, homeschooled students perform as well as -- and in some cases outperform -- their non-homeschooled peers. ...

Policymakers should protect parents' rights to homeschool their children and enact reforms that remove barriers to homeschooling.

Homeschooling families provide a valuable contribution to American education, often while incurring a significant financial burden in addition to their taxes paid toward public education. Policies should recognize the educational contribution of homeschooling and ensure that the freedom to homeschool is permanently protected and fostered.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

State Chamber CEO: 'Students deserve honest appraisal'

"The greatest disservice to graduates of Oklahoma's education system is to receive their first failing grade after graduation -- when they attempt to apply their skills in the job market," writes Dick Rush, president and CEO of The State Chamber. "They soon learn how competitive that environment is."

Mr. Rush points to a new study which "shows our children are being misled with inflated test scores into thinking they are prepared for college and the work force."

And we expect them to excel

The Oklahoman reports today that "Hispanic students account for the largest jump in enrollment in Oklahoma schools this year." But before anyone goes to making excuses for poor student performance, let us recall that demography is not destiny.

Obama's Catholic-school roots

Two interesting articles in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: Mary Pilon reports that private schools are feeling the pinch in this recession, while columnist William McGurn suggests that President Obama should acknowledge his Catholic-school roots and help give those schools a boost.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'

An open letter to state Sen. Mary Easley:

Recent news reports indicate that a bill you're introducing this year would require my wife and me to notify our local school district that we are homeschooling our four children, and would also require us to provide an academic progress report to school officials.

Now I realize your bill is not yet law, and indeed probably won't become law, but in the spirit of good citizenship I wanted to check in nonetheless. Free society or not, I think it's important that rulers are kept apprised of what their citizens are up to.

I happened to notice some empty parking lots at an Edmond public school this morning as I was driving in to work. Apparently the public schools are closed today due to inclement weather. So I was thinking you might want to consider a friendly amendment to your bill: If ever the public schools would like to notify me that they are not educating children on a given day, they could contact me at my office (602-1667). It's best not to call our home phone, as my wife is busy teaching during the day and doesn't like to answer the phone.

As for an academic progress report, well, I assume the schools wouldn't have much to report to me today, what with them not teaching and all, but I don't mind giving you a brief summary of what's going on at our house. Feel free to pass this on to the school district if you like.

My 1st-grade son is studying his usual subjects: reading, grammar, math, and history. Ironically, today he is learning about one of his fellow homeschoolers, George Washington.

My 5th-grade daughter is, among other things, doing her 7th-grade Saxon math, studying the U.S. Constitution, and working on her future-tense Latin verbs. She's a corker, that one. When she was a mere 3rd grader, she was (according to your own state tests, which of course are famous for their rigor) a proficient 8th-grade reader.

My 8th-grade daughter is doing chemistry, grammar, history, math, and the present system passive of third-conjugation Latin verbs.

My 10th-grade son is working on his calculus, anatomy, and translating passages from Livy's Early History of Rome. He's also studying Teddy Roosevelt (another homeschooler! I didn't plan this, I swear. It's just that so many of the great ones were homeschooled.).

Now, I realize that your legislation requires me to give academic progress reports to the school district, but I trust that (here's another friendly amendment) in the spirit of good citizenship the school district wouldn't mind giving progress reports to me, too. I mean, not to pull rank or anything, but, hey, I am the one paying their salaries, not the other way around. And besides, reviewing Edmond's academic progress reports would be exceedingly helpful to my wife and me in helping us determine just how far behind our children are. It would show us the standard to which we should aspire.

For example, when my oldest son was in 8th grade, all he was really able to learn that year was Algebra II, Henle Latin I, intermediate logic, physical science, grammar, and composition. Well, plus he read and discussed The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Code of Hammurabi; The Odyssey; The Histories; The Oresteia Trilogy; Plutarch’s Lives; The Theban Trilogy; The Last Days of Socrates; The Early History of Rome; The Aeneid; The Twelve Caesars; Till We Have Faces; The Unaborted Socrates; Genesis; Exodus; I and II Samuel; I and II Kings; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Chosen by God; and Socrates Meets Jesus, among others.

Now, I'm not naïve. I realize that 8th graders in Oklahoma's world-class public school system are learning all this and more. Who among us didn't have an 8th-grade history teacher/football coach wax eloquent on the influence of Stoic philosophy on Gaius Gracchus? Heck, as a retired teacher you know better than anyone that the 8th graders in your hometown of Tulsa (or Owasso, or Grand Lake Towne, whatever) are learning all this and more. I'm just sayin': If the local school district would simply provide homeschooling parents with an academic progress report, we'll be able to see how far behind we are and set our sights accordingly. School officials could just send mine to my home address (105 Lakeview Court, Edmond, OK 73003), that would be fine.

Lastly, Senator, I wanted to point out something that might be of interest to you as you grapple with the huge budget shortfall at the state capitol this year. I was doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation the other day and determined that my wife and I have saved our fellow taxpayers more than $200,000 (so far) by educating our own children at home rather than asking taxpayers to foot the bill. (That's actually a conservative estimate -- there's no question the real cost is substantially higher.) And since our kids are still young, this figure will continue to mount, meaning you and your colleagues will have more money available to appropriate for roads and bridges, prisons, Medicaid, and so on. No, no, there's no need to send me a thank-you note. Well, okay. The home address would be fine.

Well, thank you for your time, Senator. And please, you feel free to check in anytime. Nothing warms my heart like answering the phone or a knock on the door and being greeted with a hearty, "Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Right now I've got to get back to doing a little something done by so many great Americans, including father-of-three Horace Mann, the father of America's public school system: homeschooling my children.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oklahoma in line for $339 million in school vouchers

As I never tire of repeating, school choice is alive and well in Oklahoma, most notably in higher education. And now The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel reports that Oklahoma could be in line for another $339 million in Pell Grants.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two years behind? Hogwash

State Sen. Jim Wilson (D-Tahlequah) made a rather startling claim this week. As The Oklahoman's Sheila Stogsdill reported:
On the average, homeschooled students who go into public schools are two years behind students their age, Wilson said. "You hear examples of homeschool students excelling, but that is not the norm," Wilson said. 
Two years behind? One wonders where Sen. Wilson unearthed that extraordinary datum. Because the fact of the matter is, "homeschool students excelling" actually is the norm. As author and attorney Bruce Shortt has written:
No study anywhere has ever shown that homeschooled students in any state do worse academically than government-schooled students. In fact, virtually every study ever done on the academic performance of homeschoolers shows that they do substantially better academically than their bureaucratically managed government-school counterparts.
Curious, I called the senator's office on January 21 to ask for a citation on this "two years behind" claim. I got his voicemail, so I left a message asking him to call me. I'll let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, I received an e-mail from one homeschool expert who sketched out a scenario for "homeschool failure" that actually does occur:
Mrs. Jones becomes unhappy with the local school for some reason and has heard about "homeschooling." Subsequently, she pulls Johnny out to "homeschool" him. Johnny, by the way, is already one to two years behind academically (courtesy of the local school) and is very peer-dependent.

Now Mrs. Jones, who has only "heard" of homeschooling, proceeds to "school" Johnny for six hours a day at the kitchen table. Johnny hates six hours a day of lectures from his mom and hates being separated from his government-school peer group. Mrs. Jones, for her part, finds that "homeschooling" interferes with her "personal time." So, after two months Mrs. Jones declares that "homeschooling" doesn't work and returns Johnny to school. Johnny, of course, is still one to two years behind despite being "homeschooled" for two months. Johnny's teacher, then, can claim that homeschooling students who are enrolled in school come in "behind" academically. There are variations on this scenario, but all involve similar elements.

Another government-school scam for tarnishing homeschooling is to tell kids that are dropping out, or that the school wants to have drop out (because they are hugely disruptive or violent), that if they declare that they are leaving to be "homeschooled" they won't be harassed for being truant. This helps the bureaucrat by "reducing" his dropout rate, while at the same time creating a group of faux homeschoolers that they can use to smear homeschooling. I first heard about this from an uncle who is a teacher and subsequently have read about it going on in various parts of the country and the UK.

Undoubtedly, there are homeschooled children who were born on the left-hand side of the bell curve. What is amazing is that with homeschool averages tending to be so high, the standard deviations cannot be large. So, those kids are performing at higher levels than you would normally expect from children whose IQ is below average.

Finally, are there true homeschool failures (defined as children who would be better off if they weren't homeschooled)? There must be, but they are so rare that I haven't encountered any. Normally, when you hear from someone that they know of a family in which the children shouldn't be homeschooled, further discussion usually reveals that the person doesn't approve of homeschooling, has no idea of what reasonable standards are, dislikes the fact that the children are receiving a Christian education, and so on.
This isn't the first time Sen. Wilson has done his "Professor" Harold Hill routine, but it is the first time I've heard him allege that homeschooled children are generally two academic years behind public school students. I shall sit by the phone awaiting that footnote, but for now I couldn't respond to his assertion any better than the state's largest newspaper did: "That's hogwash and a ridiculous scare tactic based on the comments of a few teachers."

Friday, January 23, 2009

For equal opportunity

Democratic state Senator Judy Eason McIntyre (pictured here with Democratic state Rep. Jabar Shumate) has authored Senate Bill 882, the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Educational Scholarship Act. The bill would provide scholarships for students in low-performing schools and students with special needs.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ed chairman says homeschool freedom important

"Our home school community is a vital asset to this state," state Senator John Ford (R-Bartlesville), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said yesterday. "The way home schooling parents currently educate their children is a process that has worked fine, and I feel it is important for them to have the freedom in determining what will best serve their children's needs."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why homeschooling laws are unnecessary

Proposed legislation at the state capitol seeks to address the problem of "homeschooled" children who aren't necessarily receiving a good education (see 'Two bills raise red flags among Oklahoma homeschoolers').

These bills are unnecessary. Thomas J. Schmidt, an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, explained why in a February 17, 2007 memo:
In accordance with Oklahoma law, a parent has the option of sending their child to a public or private school or providing other means of education. However, providing no means of education is not an option. When a parent seeks to provide other means of education, they must comply with several applicable statutes. Additionally, Oklahoma has a history of case law that governs how a parent is to provide other means of education to their child.

Sheppard v. State, 306 P.2d 346 (Okla. Crim. App. 1957) held that the question of whether the instruction "was adequate and comparable to the instruction given in public school" was essential to the determination of whether other means of education was in fact being provided. Instruction that is "wholly inadequate" to that provided in the public school would establish a prima facie case of a violation of 70 O.S.A. § 10-105. Sheppard v. State, supra.

When a parent fails to send their child who is compulsory attendance age to a public or private school and does not provide other means of education then they are subject to criminal prosecution.

Under O.S.A. § 10-105 it is primarily the duty of the attendance officer of the local board of education to enforce the compulsory attendance provisions of Oklahoma law.

Once the attendance officer obtains information and evidence that a parent is not providing other means of education, it is his duty under O.S.A. § 10-105 to initiate criminal prosecution against the parent.

In order to establish a prima facie case of a violation of Oklahoma compulsory attendance laws all that is required is that (1) defendant is a parent, guardian, custodian or has control of a child or children who (2) are over 5 and under 18 years of age; (3) neglect or refusal of defendants to cause child or children to attend some public, private or other school unless other means of education are furnished for (4) the full term the schools of the district are in session. See Sheppard v. State, supra.

Once a prima facie case has been shown to overcome the defendant's presumption of innocence the burden shifts to the defendant to provide evidence that they have provided other means of education that is equivalent to that of the local public school and provided in good faith. See Wright v. State and Sheppard v. State, supra. While a parent has the choice under Oklahoma's constitution and laws to send their child to a public or private school or provide other means of education, they have a responsibility to ensure that their child is receiving an education. Failure to carry out this responsibility could subject the parent to court action and substantial fines for each day they have failed to provide for their child's education.

Based on our review of Oklahoma, we find that the current statutory and case law governing a parent's duty in exercising their constitutionally protected right to provide for other means of education for their children is sufficient to ensure that the child receives an education that is equivalent to that of the public schools. Any parent who does not provide a proper instructional program given in good faith and equivalent to the instruction given in the public schools will face criminal prosecution and be subjected to judicial scrutiny.

UPDATE: More information here.

Edmond parents getting false impression

According to education scholar Dr. David V. Anderson (Ph.D. in physics, University of California at Davis), Edmond schools aren't quite as stellar as their reputation would indicate.

Maybe he should take a look at Jenks and Union, too ...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Another study exposes educrats' untruth in advertising

As education scholar Kevin Carey once pointed out in the Edmond Sun, the folks in charge of Oklahoma's government-run schools aren't leveling with parents when it comes to school performance.

Mr. Carey is the author of the OCPA study Hot Air: How Oklahoma Inflates Its Educational Progress Under No Child Left Behind.

Comes now a new independent study (video from press conference here) which raises some of the very same points. "A report indicating that Oklahoma student test results may be skewed could lead to reform efforts this year," according to a House press release:
The report, "Organizing Effective Educational Accountability: The Case of Oklahoma," was released today by the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition, a partnership of business and education leaders who are committed to continually improving the quality of Oklahoma's K-12 public education.

The report noted that the vast majority of public school students are ranked "proficient" in subjects on Oklahoma's state-mandated tests, but very few achieve the same rating on comparable national tests such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

For example, in 2007 state tests indicated 94 percent of Oklahoma fourth graders were proficient in reading, but just 27 percent achieved that status on the NAEP. Similar huge gaps existed in every subject area in every grade where both state and national tests are conducted.

The OBEC report indicated the problem may be the result of consolidating most testing authority in one state agency -- the Oklahoma Department of Education. The report noted the agency is in charge of test contracts, data reporting, and school rewards and sanctions.

Perhaps most importantly, the agency sets the "cut" scores for state tests, determining what constitutes a passing grade each year. The OBEC report notes that Oklahoma "has some of the lowest proficiency cut scores in the nation."

In addition, the superintendent of public instruction (who heads the agency) is a member of most state boards that would otherwise provide independent oversight of testing standards. ...

"Regardless of who holds the office of superintendent of public instruction, whether Democrat or Republican, that individual will be under political pressure to set ‘cut’ scores at a level that reflects well on his or her tenure in office," said state Rep. Lee Denney, a Cushing Republican who chairs the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Education."

State Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond), a former public school teacher, added: "If we really want Oklahoma students to succeed in school and in life, we must have complete transparency and an objective analysis of data that shows us how our students are doing compared to other states. We simply do not have that now."

No, we do not. As I pointed out a year and a half ago, you know Oklahoma's cut scores are too low when -- get this -- you can get more questions wrong than you get right and still be considered proficient.

'Quality Counts lacks quality'

In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine once mused that "perhaps there's more to [Newman] than meets the eye."

"No," Jerry assured her, "there's less."

In a recent post, legal scholar Stuart Buck suggests there's less to these annual "Quality Counts" reports than meets the eye.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Recession hurting private schools

The Associated Press reports that the current recession is putting the squeeze on parents of private-school students ('Private schools pinched as aid requests rise').
The Education Department said private enrollment dropped by 120,000 students in the current school year. ... That trend has been fairly consistent: For at least 40 years, private school enrollment has dropped following recessions.

The Council for American Private Education, which represents 18 major national organizations (including the Oral Roberts University Educational Fellowship) and 32 state affiliates (including Oklahoma), is urging Congress to include private schools in the school component of the upcoming economic recovery package.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

House Republicans: 'We must look past outdated education models'

House Speaker Chris Benge and several members of his Republican caucus announced their 2009 agenda today. According to a House press release,
House Republicans have made funding a priority in our education system, but money alone will not help our children compete globally for jobs. Our children are a diverse population and all learn in many different ways. We must look past outdated education models and reform our system to include a blend of educational opportunities tied with accountability in a safe and orderly environment. Choice, local control, and high standards in our school systems are critical to ensuring that our children are prepared to compete in today's marketplace.

Did Bush hurt the charter school movement ...

... by trying to help it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Demography is not destiny

"The state certainly doesn’t benefit when we low-ball students' potentials," the state's largest newspaper editorializes today ("By the numbers: Demographics must not lower expectations").

I agree.

Ya got trouble right here in Oklahoma City!

As author and attorney Bruce Shortt pointed out a couple of years ago in an article for OCPA, "Oklahoma's crack team of government educators, the folks who spend billions of dollars a year to achieve heretofore unknown levels of semiliteracy and illiteracy among otherwise normal children, periodically take time out from their educational misfeasance to offer ominous warnings that we've got trouble — terrible, terrible trouble — lurking in homeschooling homes all across the state."

Well, they're at it again. Oklahoma homeschoolers might want to light up the switchboards again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So much for that excuse

The Associated Press reported yesterday that
Poverty and a growing population of minority students, including non-English speaking Hispanics, are presenting major challenges to public schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, a state school official said Monday. Sandy Garrett, state superintendent of public instruction, ... said whites now make up only 22 percent of the student population in Oklahoma City. Hispanics are the biggest minority at 40 percent, followed by blacks at 30 percent, American Indians at 5 percent and Asians at 3 percent.

The more cynical among us might suspect that Sandy is trying to make excuses for poor student performance in Oklahoma. But I have confidence that's not the case. For surely Sandy recalls what OCPA pointed out in the November issue of Perspective ("Demography Is Not Destiny"):

Educators sometimes imply that we shouldn’t expect too much from low-income and minority students. Florida proves them wrong. Thanks to abundant school choice and systemic education reform, Hispanic 4th graders in Florida now have higher reading scores than the statewide average of all 4th-grade students in Oklahoma.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Public-sector deadwood

Former state Rep. Debbie Blackburn, a liberal Democrat from Oklahoma City and a former public school teacher, once acknowledged that she has "taught with people that I thought should never have been in the profession" and that it might make sense to "get rid of the deadwood."

Oklahoma edu-blogger Wesley Fryer made a similar point yesterday:
It's a fact: Some teachers remain in the classroom not because they love their jobs, love their kids, or are passionate about learning, they remain for the steady paycheck and the three months off in the summertime. Anyone who has spent a length of time teaching in our public schools has run into these types of teachers. It's quite ironic that in our current economic climate, the "employee at will" nature of many business-world contracts is strikingly visible outside of schools [yep], and the challenge posed by "deadwood teachers" who are unlikely to ever be fired or replaced in their jobs is as glaringly obvious as ever.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The bottom line is the bottom line

Can you imagine Bob Stoops stepping to the microphone after the OU-Florida game and trying to spin reporters? Can you imagine Stoops prattling on about how shiny the Sooners' helmets were or how well-prepared the coaches were, while ignoring the — oh, what's the metric I'm groping for? — the final score?

Neither can I. That's not how Bob "No Excuses" Stoops operates. That's not how most folks in the regular world operate. But of course, as Chester Finn has pointed out, "the regular world" is quite different from "educator-land."

So I think Oklahomans are right to be amused and/or frustrated at the spin coming out of educator-land on the heels of the latest "Quality Counts" report from Education Week. The state's largest newspaper today seemed a tad underwhelmed with Sandy Garret's assertion that "we’re moving forward" in this state. "That's one way to look at it," The Oklahoman editorialized. "Another is to consider that the real bottom line is student achievement, and in that area, our state's children still have a long way to go."

Wesley Fryer seems to agree. One of the nation's leading education bloggers, Fryer wants to know since when is a "D" grade considered good and improving? "D's and F's are not 'good enough' or 'improving scores' for our children or for our state," he says.

Friday, January 9, 2009

'We will pass education reforms'

So the state Senate leader assured my friend Dave Saba this week.

Let's roll!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

House Republicans plan to help autistic children

"In the coming weeks," a House press release said yesterday, "House Republicans will announce a plan to help families of children with autism without imposing a costly mandate." Here's hoping that plan includes tax credits for special-needs scholarships.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Quote of the day

"I had an experience in the past couple of weeks that really evolved my thinking about charter schools. I used to think charters were the epitome of all evil, and just created solely to bring down public schools. After my experience, I find I need to alter that view a lot. The people I met at this charter conference, I must say, are just like me, just like you. People who were simply fed up with the status quo and were tired of hitting their head against a system that will not change."

-– Julie Washington, elementary vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles


HT: Mike Antonucci

Senate Republicans want more parental choice

Republicans in the Oklahoma State Senate today released their policy agenda for the 2009 legislative session. One of their policy initiatives: "providing more local control and great choice for school boards and parents." Sounds promising. We shall see.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Homeschooling continues to grow

"The ranks of America's home-schooled children have continued a steady climb over the past five years," the nation's largest newspaper reports today on its front page.
The number of home-schooled kids hit 1.5 million in 2007, up 74% from when the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics started keeping track in 1999, and up 36% since 2003. The percentage of the school-age population that was home-schooled increased from 2.2% in 2003 to 2.9% in 2007. "There's no reason to believe it would not keep going up," says Gail Mulligan, a statistician at the center. ...

The 2007 estimates are based on data from the Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says the estimates are low because home-schooling parents "are significantly less likely to answer government-sponsored surveys."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Private schools at public expense

The death yesterday of former U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-Rhode Island), father of the Pell Grant, serves to remind us that school choice is alive and well in this country, with public dollars flowing to private schools all the time.

Think of it: an 18-year-old student can use (gasp!) taxpayer dollars to attend Oral Roberts University, a Christian institution whose mission is "to enable students to go into every person's world with God's message of salvation and healing." Or Oklahoma Baptist University, a school which is owned by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and which "engages in educational tasks in a manner consistent with the purposes of the Convention: to furnish the means by which the churches may carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20)." Private schools, public expense.

I have yet to hear an opponent of K-12 school choice in Oklahoma explain why it would be bad public policy to let an 18-year-old high school student in Shawnee use public money to attend, say, Liberty Academy, but good public policy for that same student, a few months later, to use public money to attend Oklahoma Baptist University.

Private-school scholarship helped young Obama

"President-elect Obama had caring adults in his life who saw to it that he went to good schools," the Children's Scholarship Fund (CSF) points out. "Like CSF recipients, President-elect Obama used a scholarship to attend private school -- in his case Punahou School, the private school in Hawaii where he studied from 5th grade through high school."

Wouldn't it be great if more Oklahoma schoolchildren, particularly disadvantaged children, could receive scholarships to attend private schools?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I'll drink to that

The state's largest newspaper suggests the following New Year's resolution for the state's largest labor union: "Resolve to embrace one school reform proposal for every funding gimmick you trot out in the new year."