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.