Friday, December 31, 2010

Another lefty acknowledges money isn't the problem

First it was a big-time lefty documentarian. Then a prominent community organizer. And now Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter weighs in:
You know, the problem has not been that we haven't spent enough on education. The trend lines on that are straight up over the last 25 years. But we're not getting our money's worth ...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jeb Bush's influence felt in Oklahoma

"In state capitals across the country, numerous lawmakers and officeholders say they are determined to follow the ambitious and often polarizing education blueprint fashioned by [Jeb] Bush, a Republican, during his two terms as Florida's governor," Education Week reports ('Jeb Bush's Influence on Education Policy Spreads').
Mr. Bush, 57, says he urges them to act boldly, even if it causes them grief and costs them political capital.

"If they want to be elected and be popular, then they probably ought to go do something else," he said in an interview. "This takes a lot of hard work, and it's typically pretty controversial.

"What I try to tell people interested in starting down this path is [that] taking an idea, converting it into policy, turning that policy into law, and then executing that law is a process that's not dissimilar to a political campaign," he added. "You're going from start to finish. You have to be intensely focused on this."

Mr. Bush's work with state policymakers is hands-on.

Earlier this year, he phoned individual Oklahoma legislators to urge their adoption of a Florida-style program to provide vouchers to students with disabilities, according to his aides, a measure that eventually became law.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meanwhile, children's lives continue to be devastated

Oklahoma's education system saw "devastating budget cuts" this year, Megan Rolland reports today in The Oklahoman.
Readers can decide for themselves whether the adjective "devastating" belongs in a straight-news story. Before making your decision, I encourage you to examine the charts below. And be sure to keep an eye out for the January issue of OCPA's Perspective, in which the cover story demonstrates that Oklahoma's education system has nearly as many non-teachers as teachers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

School system creating 'national security burden'

"Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday," the Associated Press reports.
"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system." ...

The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?"

The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

"It's surprising and shocking that we are still having students who are walking across the stage who really don't deserve to be and haven't earned that right," said Tim Callahan with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group that represents more than 80,000 educators. ...

Tom Loveless, an education expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the results echo those on other tests. In 2009, 26 percent of seniors performed below the 'basic' reading level on the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Delicious irony: Choice foes validate Friedman's dictum

"It took a bit of time, but some northeastern Oklahoma school boards have finally come to their senses regarding a state law for special-needs students," The Oklahoman editorializes today.

Why the change of heart? Why would the lawbreakers in Owasso and Bixby suddenly fold? "Maybe all it took for the wake-up call," posits Sand Springs Leader executive editor William Swaim, "was the possibility of ouster for school board members, who would not have the legal expenses for their defense covered by taxpayer dollars."

Ah yes. What was it that (ahem) school-choice champion Milton Friedman once said? You don't spend other people's money as carefully as you spend your own.

Oklahoma lawbreakers garner national attention

In the current issue of School Reform News, Ben Boychuk reports on the Tulsa-area school districts which are disobeying a new state law providing scholarships for special-needs students.
“It appears the school boards are trying to bait parents into suing them, which will probably happen,” said Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. [Hey, someone should make a movie about that.]

“Since the constitution trumps a mere statute, they claim to be duty-bound to disobey the statute,” Dutcher explained. “At least one recent poll finds Oklahomans, by a margin of better than two to one, disagree with that approach.”

Even foes of the law expressed disbelief at the boards’ noncompliance.

“I can think of no precedent for it in over 40 years of practicing law,” said Bill Wilkinson, a Tulsa attorney and former commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Mr. Wilkinson is quoted in the article as saying the law places financial burdens on school districts and is open to abuse, but

Dutcher says concerns about parents abusing the special-ed vouchers are overblown. Instead, districts may be responding to financial incentives, he said.

“Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall said, ‘It’s not about the money,’ and since education bureaucrats are famously indifferent when it comes to money I see no reason to doubt him,” Dutcher said. “Except he also said his district isn’t complying because ‘We don’t have enough money to fund what we do now.’ So, yes, I would say it has to do with money.”

Mendenhall’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

“I try not to chuckle when public-school boosters say they’re worried about waste, fraud, and abuse,” Dutcher said. “Especially after all these years of the special-ed bounty system — labeling kids ‘disabled’ who aren’t disabled, permanently altering the course of their lives, just so [the district] can get extra money for the government schools. Now they can’t bear to let any child ‘escape.’”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pressing their luck

Here's one for the stupid criminals file: Jarod Mendenhall and Broken Arrow's law-breaking school board members are actually inviting a uniformed police officer to the scene of the crime.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Vouchers seem poised to make a comeback'

"Private-school vouchers seem poised to make a comeback," David Harrison reports today for Stateline. "Newly-elected Republican governors in Florida, Nevada and Wisconsin are pushing plans to give private school vouchers to thousands of families, as is Indiana’s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. In all of those states but Nevada, Republicans control both houses of the state legislature, giving the voucher plans a good chance of passage."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'This is a wake-up call for our state'

Incoming school superintendent Janet Barresi doesn't think it's too much to ask for Oklahoma to outpace Azerbaijan.

OKC homeschoolers headed to national championship

Homeschoolers pretty much dominated a regional robotics competition this month, and the students from Oklahoma City are headed to the national championship at the ESPN Pavilion in Orlando.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bixby, Owasso lawbreakers relent

They have now decided to obey the law.

Edmond superintendent respects your right to break the law

Edmond Public Schools superintendent David Goin respects the right of school boards to break the law. Oklahomans disagree with him by a margin of better than two to one.

Very disappointing. One more bureaucrat who just doesn't get it.

Dysfunction junction

OCPA adjunct scholar Andrew Spiropoulos has long made the point that Oklahoma's state government is dysfunctional ("nothing gets done and nobody is responsible"). He revisited the topic yesterday in The Journal Record. "We tie down our executive officials with a dizzying array of boards and commissions that act like leeches on our public circulatory system," he writes, "because we are unwilling to trust either the individuals the people have chosen to do their jobs well or the people to throw these officials out if they have performed poorly."

Exhibit A is the state Board of Education, which yesterday took no action against the Tulsa-area school boards which are openly flouting state law. If you're not going to enforce the law, what's your function? Nothing gets done and nobody is responsible.

One reason New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is so effective (aside from the fact that he's an out-and-out stud) is that in New Jersey, the chief executive actually has, like, power and stuff. It's time for Oklahoma's executive branch to start executing. In February the state Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin should strip the state Board of Education of its managerial powers and let our elected officials get about the business of doing their jobs.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sex offenders getting jobs in schools

"Registered sex offenders are getting jobs in schools as teachers, administrators, volunteers and contractors," USA Today reports on its front page today.
An Education Department study estimates that millions of kids in kindergarten through 12th grade are victims of sexual misconduct by a school employee at some point. The GAO report also notes most sexual abuse of children goes unreported.

The blind leading the blind

This FOX 25 puff piece on sex education, featuring a "doctor" of sociology and an "advocate" for children, has the unintended effect of reminding me how thankful I am my children are not in these schools.

Now that's entertainment

Here's what we know from recent news reports surrounding the Tulsa Public Schools.

The top bureaucrat is earning more than a quarter-million dollars annually to oversee a district in which half of the sixth-graders can't read at grade level, but which did manage to borrow $100,000 from your grandchildren to secure a federal earmark for campus police, which will attempt to enforce the law in a district that is openly flouting the law.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

National School Choice Week is January 23-29

OCPA has added its support to the first-ever, nationwide call for effective education options for every child -- National School Choice Week, which is taking place from January 23 to 29, 2011. We will be joining a diverse array of national and state-level organizations, as well as nationally recognized figures including Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. John McCain, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, Frank Luntz, and singer John Secada in a national call for more choices and better options for every child. Please click on the link above to learn more.

Three cheers for National Board certification?

CapitolBeatOK reports today that 225 Oklahoma teachers achieved National Board certification in 2010. Hats off to those teachers -- this certification is by no means easy to attain -- but, as I have pointed out before, there's less to National Board certification than meets the eye.

Recent studies pertaining to National Board certification have found negligible benefits, suggesting there are ways for Oklahoma's cash-strapped legislators to get more bang for their buck.

Six students awarded Henry scholarships

Let's hope and pray none of them live in Jenks or Broken Arrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'School choice for all Oklahoma students'

That's one of the 2011 policy goals of AFP-Oklahoma and its more than 22,000 activists.

The 'Government Education Complex' ...

"is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation," Bruno Behrend writes.
The complex is made up not only of associations of administrators and teachers unions, but an interconnected network of bond dealers, builders, architects, law firms, textbook companies, and other service providers who profit off of the overproduction of service contracts, debt, public employment and bureaucracy. This interlocking network has played a role in funding the campaigns of 1000s of elected officials at all levels and in both parties. ...

The transition from a Government Education Complex to a Parent/Child Learning Network should be our goal, and every incremental step in education reform must be measured by whether it leads there.

Autistic boy says online learning 'changed my life'

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Punish lawbreakers, not innocent students'

"An Owasso lawyer is challenging the Owasso Public School Board of Education's decision to ignore House Bill 3393 as 'willful misconduct' and grounds for each member to be removed from the board," Danielle Parker reports today in the Owasso Reporter.
George Cummings is seeking a Writ of Ouster requesting the Attorney General's Office usurp school board members Pat Vanatta, Amy Cady, Gail Ballinger, Brent England and Frosty Turpen, from their positions.

"Removal from office and appointment of new board members is the best solution since it punishes lawbreakers, not innocent students," Cummings said in an Oct. 26 letter to the Oklahoma Attorney General.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Black children -- and grown-ups -- empowered by school choice

Florida Democrats "support all forms of school choice, including vouchers and tax credit scholarships," explains the Florida coordinator of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Why? "The answer is black middle-class jobs and the rise of black-owned schools."
Every Florida black elected legislator opposed the early school choice programs, but the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students and the McKay Scholarship for exceptional students have caused a change in attitude. These programs have enabled black churches and community groups to create financially viable schools, and as these schools have grown so has black political support for school choice. Black ministers are employing black teachers and administrators to work in their growing schools and are seeing the lives of black children turned around. These ministers, in turn, are pressuring black elected officials to support these scholarship programs, and they are responding.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Public money for me, but not for thee

One of the chief arguments against giving parents more options is that "public" money shouldn't go to "private" organizations. So school officials go to great lengths -- even to the point of willfully violating state law! -- to ensure that no public money goes to a private organization that could help a special-needs child, even if that child has been reduced to tears and thoughts of suicide because of being harrassed daily in a public school, beaten by classmates with nunchucks, and shoved against a wall by a substitute teacher. Some hills are worth dying on, you understand: No public money for private organizations.

Unless, of course, those private organizations help to enrich high-paid executives and union lobbyists. Then public money is okay. Or unless those private organizations happen to be high-priced law firms. As Broken Arrow Ledger executive editor William Swaim writes,
Far too much of education money is being spent to pad attorneys’ pockets. I wonder how we squabble over a few thousand dollars leaving the school (HB3393) when at the same time paying law firms a few hundred thousand dollars each year?

Tulsa Public Schools, unfortunately, are paying nearly $700,000 each year (to Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold), up almost $300,000 from a few years ago. BA is trending upward too in its six figures leaving the school. When you start to get into six figures, it’s time to really look at cost vs. benefit. ... You will get very little sympathy if you continue to pay these astronomical rates ($250/hour) without exploring more viable options.

Bottom line: No public money for private firms that help children; lots of public money for private firms that enrich grown-ups.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time to disestablish America's secular church

"We can affirm that education is a common good deserving taxpayer support," The Heritage Foundation's Jennifer Marshall writes.
But we should question the notion of government as sole provider of schooling, a relic of the common school agenda. Public education should describe a goal (an educated citizenry), not prescribe a means (a government monopoly school system dominated by unions).

Parents, who have the most vested in their children's success, should have real decision-making authority to manage their education. They deserve more than lip service about their significance. Rather than having to conform to the one-size-fits-all factory model of education, parents should have the freedom to direct the funding for their children's education, customizing it to student needs from a variety of options.

Promising alternatives already have sprouted up in the cracks of the current system - charter schools, private school choice through vouchers and tax credits, homeschooling, online learning, and hybrid forms of these.

Given room to flourish, the possibilities are endless. Intentionally or not, [Waiting for 'Superman' filmmaker Davis] Guggenheim has exposed the myth of the common school.

Ultimately, the only solution that will satisfy the American spirit is to disestablish the myth and recover a vision for education worthy of a free people.

11-year-old assaulted at school


Tulsa World decries 'school anarchy'

"School board members have sworn to uphold the law, and they aren't doing so," the Tulsa World editorializes. "If that amounts to willful official misconduct, we hope the attorney general will do what it takes to make sure the law is carried out. ... If the attorney general can turn up the heat on the school board members and force them back into legal operation of school districts, then he should do so."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Regulations ...

"are an attempt, crude and usually unsuccessful, to imitate the accountability inherent in competitive markets," Andrew J. Coulson writes.

Owasso lawbreakers hit with complaint

"An Owasso lawyer wants the state Attorney General's Office to replace the Owasso school board if does not rescind its decision to disobey a new state law that requires private school scholarships for special education students," the Tulsa World reports.

I wonder how hard it will be to fire her

An Oklahoma City teacher has been charged with murdering her lesbian partner.

14-year-old Edmond homeschooler has novel published

"At 14, when girls can be preoccupied with clothes, makeup and hanging out with friends, Mikayla Holden is busy writing a sequel to her first Western novel, which was published this summer," John A. Williams reports in The Oklahoman.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thousands bullied in Oklahoma schools

"The statistics are staggering," Michael Baker reports in The Oklahoman. "During the 2009-10 public school year in Oklahoma, there were 15,967 incidents of bullying and 648 of those resulted in physical injury, according to school-reported incident data collected by the state Education Department."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Are the Tulsa-area lawbreakers violating civil rights?

"Oklahoma public schools which violate the civil rights of students risk losing federal education funds, U.S. Department of Education official Jim Bradshaw told CapitolBeatOK recently."

Mary Fallin: 'I am for school choice'

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Governor-elect Mary Fallin expressed support for special-needs scholarships and said she supports "further reforms."
I am for school choice. One of the best reforms in recent history has been choice in education, allowing parents and students a choice in where they go, the ability to choose the best place for school. A child's success in education should not be determined by their ZIP code.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Digital learning unstoppable

Here are some new policy recommendations.

Advice for the OEA

"The first rule of recovering from an ass-whupping is to admit you got an ass-whupping," Mike Antonucci advises the Oklahoma Education Association. "The second rule is to analyze yourself before you blame it on some outside and uncontrollable factor. Unless OEA does this, it may never get another chance to flush away $3 million in dues from NEA members in other states."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Que los padres elijan

Let the parents choose.

OEA boss: 3 out of 4 teachers aren't making schools better

File this one under "great moments in union messaging."

A recent SoonerPoll (Nov. 5-11, 2010; margin of error ± 4.3%) asked 518 likely Oklahoma voters: "Which view comes closer to your own: 'Teachers unions help make schools better' or 'Teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from getting better'"? The results:

● Teachers unions help make schools better ... 25%
● Teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from getting better ... 55%
● Neutral / No opinion ... 20%

You would think there's really no way for the union to spin this one. But you would be wrong. As M. Scott Carter reported yesterday in The Journal Record ('Poll: Unions viewed as obstacles'), "the president of the Oklahoma Education Association said the data underscores the belief that many people support union’s work." Indeed, "'What that Sooner Poll says to me is that one out of every four teachers are making schools a better place to be,' said OEA President Becky Felts. 'It sounds like 25 percent of those surveyed have some type of contact with the teachers' union and know what we’re doing.'"

As a taxpayer, I'm relieved to know that 25 percent of teachers are making schools better. I sincerely hope your child is fortunate enough to have one of them.