Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gen Z homeschoolers will be prepared

Penelope Trunk is an A-List blogger who founded three startups, including Brazen Careerist. Her career advice runs in 200 newspapers, and Inc. Magazine called her "the world's most influential guidance counselor." She says Generation Z
will be homeschooled much more frequently than any generation before them, and Generation Z will understand how to synthesize data, self-direct learning, and ask the kinds of questions that make or break companies.

The portion of Generation Z that gets the old-fashioned, classroom-based education, will end up being unprepared to compete.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Give mothers their druthers (and their money)

"Is my mommy paying your salary?"
Let me say up front that I'm not thrilled to be writing about newborns and toddlers on a blog that deals with schools. I don't think babies and toddlers should be in schools. I agree with Patricia Cox, the superintendent of the Aline-Cleo Springs School District near Enid, that "in a perfect world, a beautiful world, children would not start school until age 8."

But that's not the world we live in. We live in a world where Oklahoma public schools offer extended daycare and happily enroll six-week-old students in an "education" program whose "curriculum" encourages "language enrichment" and "problem solving." We live in a world where Oklahoma's top education officials go out of their way to pronounce it "exciting" and "outstanding" that six-week-old students are part of Oklahoma's "early childhood education" system.

This surrogate parenting, of course, is key to the feminist project. As Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly explain in their new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—And Men Can’t Say:
The left wants to diminish the role and authority parents have over their preschool children. The lingo used for this goal varies. Sometimes it’s called "pre-kindergarten (pre-K)," sometimes "early childhood education," sometimes "full-day kindergarten," and sometimes just "day care." Except for old-fashioned nursery schools, which children attend for a few hours a day, two or three days a week, these programs are really euphemisms for babysitting.
This tax-funded-babysitting lobby was out in full force this summer as several Oklahomans—professional "child advocates," representatives of the daycare lobby, educators and bureaucrats, and so on—gathered on August 18 in Oklahoma City to consider policy recommendations of the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR).

Now it's important to bear in mind that in 2010 Oklahoma spent $1.5 billion (billion with a b) on children from birth to five, according to the director of the liberal Oklahoma Policy Institute. This includes $447 million for "early education" and $128 million for "parenting education, child care, and family support." But for the left, of course, it's never enough. They want more of your money for more government intervention in the lives of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

When considering this push for an ever-expanding nanny state, "it is hard not to suspect the distorting influence of self-interest," as Bryce Christensen once observed. After all, said Dr. Christensen, author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America, "mothers who stay at home with their children do not create new opportunities for educators or bureaucrats or lobbyists. Those opportunities open up only by persuading parents to turn their children over to surrogates while opening up their tax checkbooks to pay other people’s salaries."

Now what’s interesting—bizarre, actually—about the OPSR meeting is that of the 55 people there to discuss policy recommendations, 53 of them were women. (Where are the "gender equity" advocates when you need them?) But make no mistake, these 53 women hold views which are not consistent with the views of most Oklahoma women.

Indeed, the very afternoon of the OPSR meeting, the respected firm SoonerPoll released the results of a new survey. "Now thinking about early-childhood policies in Oklahoma," SoonerPoll said in one question, "do you think state government should focus more on creating and expanding programs for children from birth to age five, or making it easier and more affordable for one parent to stay at home with children from birth to age five?"

Only 26 percent of respondents said programs, while 57 percent said parents. Among women, the margin was 30 percent to 56 percent. Deliciously, among women with household income under $35,000, the margin was 29 percent to 57 percent. In other words, the 53 salaried women at the OPSR meeting can’t even win the very demographic they profess to care about the most.

Let’s look at another SoonerPoll question: "In two important ways, Oklahoma is a national leader in early childhood education. First, among all the states Oklahoma has the highest percentage of four-year-olds in state-funded preschool programs. Secondly, Oklahoma is one of the few states that offer a tax break for stay-at-home parents. Assuming there is a limited amount of money, which of the following do you think should take precedence: Increasing the amount of money spent on preschool programs for four-year-olds, or expanding the tax break for parents who stay at home with their four-year-olds?"

Now one would think preschool would prevail here. After all, Oklahoma parents signing little Johnny up for preschool or kindergarten routinely blurt out to reporters how much money they’ll be saving in daycare costs. And as George Bernard Shaw taught us, "a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

But it turns out Oklahoma parents would prefer the tax break, and by a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent. Among women, the margin was 51 percent to 35 percent. Among women with household income under $35,000, the margin was 55 percent to 29 percent.

Gov. Mary Fallin and the legislature should make it more affordable for Oklahoma women to stay home if they choose. Rather than a mere tax break, let's eliminate the income tax altogether. The feminists won't like it, but the majority of Oklahoma women will.

  • "It is clear," writes Tyler Williamson of the 1889 Institute, "that schools no longer exist primarily to educate students."
  • Even liberals matter-of-factly acknowledge that public schools "provide not just education, but basic child care" and are "a reliable source of child care."
  • The Oklahoman ("Education and careers" supplement, April 29, 2012) avers that Oklahoma is "the leader in early childcare education." School principal Elizabeth Lund adds: "Let's be honest, schools are not about education."
  • It's small wonder the career-advice counselor Penelope Trunk says "the U.S. school system is really just the biggest babysitting institution in the world." 
  • "High child-care costs prompt many parents to enroll their children on time, or even early, in kindergarten to avoid the expense for another year," Education Week reports.
  • NPR helps drive home the point:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oklahoma scholarship program off and running

The Oklahoman's Megan Rolland has a report on Oklahoma's new tax-credit scholarship program, which is similar to programs operating in seven other states.

Here's some more information:
Click image to enlarge

Friday, December 23, 2011

More Special Ed tragedies

Kevin P. Chavous of the American Federation for Children discusses Special Education and the "factory response" of many public schools.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Liberty superintendent works to suppress liberty

The Tulsa World has a slobbering puff piece today ("Rural superintendent speaks out against private school vouchers") on Donna Campo, a former small-town girls basketball coach now earning $124,125 annually to oversee fewer than 600 students in the inaptly named Liberty Public Schools.

A professing Christian, Mrs. Campo presides over a school district which, as a matter of law and public policy, must (like Peter) deny Christ. Seemingly untroubled by this, Mrs. Campo has in fact decided to double down: the World says she is "a central figure in the fight against vouchers," which is to say she's a leader in the movement to discriminate against Christians on the basis of their religion. All this despite the fact that not one of the students in her district has applied for a voucher.

Now one might think the Liberty superintendent would have more important things to do than to suppress educational and religious liberty. After all, the average ACT score in her district is a disappointing 18.5. Only 42 percent of her students go to college -- and nearly two out of three require remediation once they get there. Unsurprisingly, the math achievement of the average Liberty student is at the 41st percentile relative to an international comparison group. If one picked up the Liberty school district and dropped it into Canada, the average Liberty student would be at the 33rd percentile in math achievement. If Liberty were relocated to Singapore or to Finland, the average Liberty student would be at the 24th percentile in math achievement.

Come to think of it, with an educational product like that, perhaps Mrs. Campo's anti-liberty crusade is a wise use of her time after all. The monopolists know it's not easy attracting willing customers; it's much simpler to get your revenue units by force.

UPDATE: The state's largest newspaper has an excellent editorial here.

Not just creepy, but evil

The latest from the public-school cluelessness department: Incest humor!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

School choice helps thwart Special Ed bounty system

Nine years ago OCPA drew attention to Oklahoma's shameful Special Education "bounty system." Now Kenneth Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, reminds us that school choice can help alleviate the problem.

Obama rules by fiat, Oklahoma plays along

"Whether it is in the area of environmental regulations, labor and immigration law, No Child Left Behind, the auto bailout, the selective enforcement of other federal laws, and the regulation of the Internet (among others), the Obama Administration has in fact enacted its agenda via legislative fiat," attorney Mike Brownfield writes over at The Heritage Foundation blog. "So what’s the problem? A big thing called the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers."

It's disappointing to see Oklahoma apply for a No Child Left Behind "waiver." As former deputy secretary of education Eugene Hickok says, these waivers are "unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Machete at preschool

"It's the kind of stuff that gives moms nightmares," the Associated Press reports:

a machete near a play area, household chemicals accessible to preschoolers, and instructors teaching without a criminal background check. These violations and others were found at Head Start centers across the country, according to a report released Tuesday by the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department.

It's enough to make a fella nostalgic for the good old days, when the kids only had to worry about nunchucks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Give a Catholic School scholarship, get a tax credit

Click image to enlarge

'The best and brightest (and politest)'

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, says "homeschoolers can get a great education, while at the same time learning the rules of civility and politeness that we seem to be losing in our culture."

School-choice program helping autistic boy

"When Kelly McLemore’s son Aaron was diagnosed with autism at age 3, she immediately enrolled him in the public preschool," writes the American Federation for Children.
In a self-contained classroom, Aaron struggled every day.

He didn't socialize well with the other students or his teacher. He often had outbursts of anger and was aggressive towards others. Kelly would keep Aaron home several days each week to give the teacher a break.

"My concern," Kelly said, "was that not all kids learn the same. Not all disabilities are the same."

When she heard on the news about a new school choice program that utilized education savings accounts, Kelly immediately applied. As the first family in the state to submit an application for the program, the McLemores were soon approved to participate.

Now in first grade at Chrysalis Academy, Aaron has made significant improvements.

"He is more calm and relaxed," Kelly said. "Aaron is interactive now with adults and other kids. He does tasks that are requested of him and is paying attention."

Aaron is able to watch television with his family, play with his three brothers and the dog, and has shown an interest in computers.

"This is what I’ve been praying for for three years," said Kelly. "My son can be active and productive in society now."

NEA already working to reelect Obama

Mike Antonucci has the story.

School choice documentaries available online

Three recent documentaries critical of K-12 education in America are now available for online viewing, two of them free of charge. Each film dramatizes the failures of public education, the efforts by lower-income parents to secure a better education for their children, and the ways that bureaucracy and entrenched interest groups work to thwart those efforts. If you missed the opportunity to see these films in theaters, now you can watch them at your convenience and easily encourage your friends, neighbors, and elected officials to do the same. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.)

The Cartel (92 minutes) is available for free streaming on Hulu and is also available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool's first graduating class.

Together, these people and their stories offer an unforgettable look at how a widespread national crisis manifests itself in the educational failures and frustrations of individual communities. They also underscore what happens when our schools don't do their job. "These are real children whose lives are being destroyed," director Bob Bowdon explains.

The Lottery (80 minutes) is also available for free streaming on Hulu and for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

Waiting for "Superman" is not available on Hulu, but is available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers. It's notable as a critique of the public school system from the left side of the political spectrum.

It was a morning like any other -- as Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was taking his young children to school -- that he was moved to act. Like many parents in America who are lucky enough to have the means, Guggenheim's children were headed that morning to an expensive private school, where he was assured they would find themselves in an invigorating environment with talented teachers devoted to bringing out the best in them.

But as he drove past the teeming, troubled, poorly performing public schools his family was able to bypass, Guggenheim was struck with questions he could not shake: What about the kids who had no other choice? What kind of education were they getting? Where were the assurances that they would have the chance to live out their dreams, to fulfill their vast potential? How heartsick and worried did their parents feel as they dropped their kids off this morning? And how could this be right in 21st Century America?

One would hope that anyone seeking a position on a school board in next spring's elections will have seen these films and be prepared to talk about the implications for the school system he or she seeks to serve. Would that Oklahoma's school boards were working to increase educational options for all Oklahoma children, rather than using lawsuits and foot-dragging to obstruct and attack the expansion of school choice.

Friday, December 9, 2011

ALEC pushes back against federal overreach

I'm a member of the education task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and last week's meeting in Phoenix was a lively one. The Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke was there, and writes:
American taxpayers, businesses, and families are outraged by the nationalization of health care through Obamacare. They’re upset by the federal overreach, the loss of health care choices they'll soon face, Obamacare's astounding price tag, and the opaque process by which this massive legislation was enacted.

If they found Obamacare upsetting, then Americans should take a look at the Obama Administration’s overreach in education. Last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) did just that, examining the push for national standards during a meeting of its Education Task Force. ...

Conservatives are concerned about this fast-moving effort to nationalize standards and tests. And last week, state leaders amped up the fight against more federal control of education.

At the ALEC meeting, model legislation was passed out of the Education Task Force that provides a blueprint for states that want to exit the national standards project and regain control over what is taught in local schools. ...

It’s time for state leaders to stand up to strong-arming from Washington, instead of faulting conservative organizations for pushing back on this latest federal overreach. A nationalization of education is underway, and unless conservatives work to fight Washington’s power grab, Obamacare won’t be the only overreach we’ll have to live under.

Not all Oklahoma school districts 'at their level best'

Mr. Ira Harris, who is paid nearly six figures to oversee a school district of 263 students, recently acknowledged that he "cannot and will not argue that all school districts in Oklahoma are at their level best ..."

He's right, of course. Indeed, he need look no further than his own district, Boise City, where the math achievement of the average student is at the 39th percentile relative to an international comparison group.

Here's another way to look at it:  If one picked up the Boise City school district and dropped it into Canada, the average Boise City student would be at the 31st percentile in math achievement. If Boise City were relocated to Singapore, the average Boise City student would be at the 23rd percentile in math achievement. If it were relocated to Finland, the average Boise City student would be at the 22nd percentile in math achievement.

This is unacceptable. Indeed, one is tempted to say there's a crisis in education in Boise City.

National School Choice Week will be here soon

January 22-28, 2012 is National School Choice Week across these United States. Several things will be happening in Oklahoma, including an event January 24 in Edmond featuring J.C. Watts and others (stay tuned for details). For now, here's a video recapping last year's festivities.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Special-needs program faces legal challenge

An innovative Arizona program for special-needs kids is being challenged by the education establishment. Fortunately, the good folks at the Institute for Justice are on the case.

Quote of the day

"We should not needlessly deprive families of valuable time they could spend together ... [for] whenever the family situation permits it, the best place for a preschool child is often at home. [Research] has demonstrated that the conversations children carry on at home may be the richest source of linguistic and cognitive enrichment for children from all but the most deprived backgrounds."
-- Yale professor Edward F. Zigler, one of the fathers of Head Start

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quote of the day

"Freedom of education, being an essential of civil and religious liberty ... must not be interfered with under any pretext whatever. We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of conscience in the education of children as an infringement of the fundamental ... doctrine that the largest individual liberty consistent with the rights of others insures the highest type of American citizenship and the best government."
-- From the national platform adopted by the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, 1892

OKC archbishop discusses school for autistic children

Yesterday at the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Paul Coakley discussed the new Good Shepherd school for autistic children and the importance of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. The video is here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How much will it cost Oklahoma to implement Common Core?

"So far states have done the costless and non-constraining step of adopting a set of standards," Jay P. Greene writes.
Once the nationalizers try to make the standards concrete and binding by incorporating them into newly designed high-stakes testing, we are likely to see a lot more resistance. And adopting those new tests, revising teacher training, professional development, and textbooks to fit the national standards and testing will require considerable effort and expense—causing more states to rethink their initial support for Common Core.

There's little evidence that national standards will work, but there's no question they're going to cost Oklahoma taxpayers a bundle. So I repeat the question I asked nearly a month ago: How much is it going to cost?

It's time to move school-board elections to November

In a speech this year at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels explained why Indiana decided to move its local school board elections from the spring to the fall. In the spring, he said,

nobody votes. It’s a lot easier to dominate, for a small or for an interest group to dominate the outcome and elect a friendly school board in the sparsely attended primary elections. And so now they will have more of the public at least eligible or at least on hand to take part in those elections.

Oklahoma should follow Indiana’s lead. Because as Hoover Institution fellow Bill Evers points out, Progressives have been able to transform our local school districts through such things as “nonpartisan elections, district boundaries that did not match other jurisdictions, [and] holding school elections at times other than that of the General Election.”

So instead of electing school-board members who represent the views of Oklahoma’s center-right majority, we find ourselves with school-board members who represent the views of the education establishment whose voter-turnout apparatus put them into office. And this results in bad public policies. I’ll cite five examples.

First, we see some surprising provisions in teacher contracts. Gov. Daniels points to provisions ranging

from things as trivial as what the humidity in the school shall be or what color the teachers’ lounge shall be painted—I am not making this up—to more troublesome things like the principal can only hold staff meetings once a month or can only hold them on Mondays, to still more troublesome things like no teacher will be required to spend more than x hours with students [and] … no teacher can be observed in the classroom by the principal without a pre-conference and two days’, three days’, five days’ notice.

These problems exist in Oklahoma too. Earlier this year, the Education Action Group analyzed collective-bargaining agreements from six Oklahoma school districts and concluded that teacher-union contracts are “bleeding Oklahoma schools dry.” Regrettably, I can’t say I was surprised this month when scholars at AEI and The Heritage Foundation concluded that American public-school teacher salaries are $120 billion over market value.

Second, we’re treated to the spectacle of school boards disobeying state law. This anarchy was too much even for the liberal Tulsa World.

Third, we’re treated to an even more disturbing spectacle: school boards using tax dollars to file a lawsuit against the parents of special-needs children.

Fourth, we have a school board teaming up with other tax consumers in a chamber of commerce to oppose reductions in Oklahoma’s income tax rate.

Fifth, we have a school board passing a resolution declaring its opposition to scholarships for special-needs children.

These things happen because not enough of these voters are voting in school-board elections. It’s time “to restore avenues for popular participation,” Evers says. It’s time to move school-board elections to November.

[Cross-posted at Inter Alia]

Another view on digital learning

"The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school" in Los Altos, California, The New York Times reports. "So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard."
But the school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Unsafe-schools watch

"Police are investigating an Oklahoma elementary school teacher who hosted a tree-trimming party at her home attended by several third graders whom the educator videotaped wearing Christmas-themed bras and panties she provided to the girls," The Smoking Gun reports. This third-grade teacher has resigned, but perhaps she can find employment at the OU Women’s Outreach Center, which has a "sexpert" program and on Monday hosted a "Coffee, Condoms & Cocoa" event.

In other news, it turns out the Catoosa school district has its own police department.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New school is helping autistic children

In The Sooner Catholic, Ray Dyer reports on a new school for autistic children believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Di Smalley, president and CEO of Mercy Health System of Oklahoma,
credited the Oklahoma Legislature with helping to make the school a reality. The lawmakers supported the creation of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship that allows public funds to be used by parents to send their children with special needs to private or parochial schools.

Already little Lindsey, and her parents, are helping to improve the lives of special-needs children. 

White Johnny can't read

Nearly one in five middle- and upper-income white 4th graders in Oklahoma can't read.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Unsafe-schools watch

The Oklahoman reports that an Edmond student was beaten unconscious in a school restroom. He
was knocked to the floor, kicked and stomped, and could have been killed, prosecutors said. He suffered a fractured skull, a severe concussion and head lacerations, along with a seizure.

Friday, November 18, 2011

So rest easy

A superintendent who is paid $17,500 a month to oversee a school district in which half of the sixth-graders can't read at grade level, and in which the math achievement of the average student is at the 25th percentile relative to an international comparison group, would like you to know that he believes in accountability.

American schools not getting the job done

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the bright side, the little girl wasn't sued

If mama ain't happy -- tough luck

Tahlequah Public Schools superintendent Shannon Goodsell, who is paid $124,858 annually to oversee a school district on the federal needs-improvement list, is not a fan of school vouchers. Among other things, he raises the issue of accountability:

The only entity the private school is held accountable to is Mom. If Mom is happy, the money stays with the school. If Mom is not happy, then Mom has the right, if she wants, to pull them out and put them back into the public schools ...

That is very well said, though, oddly, Mr. Goodsell appears to think it's an argument against vouchers.

In any case, let us contrast this private school's accountability with the accountability faced by Mr. Goodsell's public schools. Let's say Mom sends her children to a Tahlequah public school, and is not happy that Tahlequah produces students with math performance worse than that of the typical student in the average developed country. Indeed, let's say Mom is downright embarrassed that the math achievement of the average student in Tahlequah is at the 32nd percentile relative to an international comparison group. Let's say Mom is appalled to discover that if one picked up the Tahlequah school district and dropped it into Canada, the average Tahlequah student would be at the 23rd percentile in math achievement. Or that if it were relocated to Singapore, the average Tahlequah student would be at the 17th percentile in math achievement. Or that if it were relocated to Finland, the average Tahlequah student would be at the 16th percentile in math achievement.

In short, let's say everyone acknowledges the obvious: the Tahlequah Public Schools desperately need improvement. To whom are these educators accountable? Ah yes, and how is that accountability to distant bureaucrats working out for Mom, who can only watch as another year goes by and her son's childhood continues to slip away?

As the late Steve Jobs once said: "I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell [telephone] logo on it and it said 'We don't care. We don't have to.' And that's what a monopoly is. That's what IBM was in their day. And that's certainly what the public school system is. They don't have to care."

No, they're going to get paid whether Mom is happy or not. They're not accountable.

How much is your school spending?

"Can you tell me ... how much your local public school spends each year?" Chester E. Finn Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli ask in the current Hoover Digest. "Five thousand dollars per student? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand?" The correct answer is: "Nobody knows, not even the principal—that’s how opaque our system is."

"Because of the various funding streams that feed the system," adds Jonathan Butcher in the current issue of Inside ALEC, "discovering exactly how much taxpayers spend per student is more like deciphering a riddle than reading a balance sheet."

When it comes to deciphering the riddle, I believe OCPA has done as good a job as anyone.

Reform-minded Democrats say ZIP code is being replaced with choice

"Only in education have we empowered strangers and geography rather than parents to make choices as to what is best for children," write two reform-minded Democrats. "Someone in your local school district, who does not know you or your child, orders you each fall to send the child to a school based on these five digits regardless of whether its programs fit your child’s and family’s needs or delivers strong academic outcomes."

Fortunately, they write, "ZIP code is being challenged and replaced with choice."

Bullied students sending distress signals, need life preserver

It’s no secret that bullying is a big problem in Oklahoma’s schools. Examples of emotional, mental, and physical abuse are too numerous to chronicle.

Parents in Broken Arrow, for example, say their son was beaten with nunchucks by another student, had his head forced into a toilet, and was even shoved by a substitute teacher. Unsurprisingly, the boy cried daily and said he wanted to kill himself.

One mother in Tulsa says she was compelled to leave her job as an engineer in order to tutor her son after school because the Tulsa public schools failed to protect him from harm. For three years she came to the school playground during recess to ensure his safety.

Patricia Hughes, an educational psychology professor at Oklahoma State University, says bullying in Oklahoma schools “is leading to suicide more and more often, more and more young. We’re seeing an escalation in the incidents, in the violence. Here, we’re seeing suicides happening very, very, very close to us.”

Last year in The Edmond Sun, Patty Miller reported that

After being told by school administrators “that is just the way middle school students act and hopefully within a few months these girls would target someone else,” the Duncans requested that more be done.

After interviewing the girls the administrator told the Duncans’ daughter that things were probably going to get worse and she would just have to live through it.

An hour after the interview Kathleen picked her daughter up for lunch. “She was standing at the curb, shaking all over,” Kathleen said. “She jumped in the car, curled up in a fetal position on the floor and started sobbing uncontrollably.”

The Duncans had her evaluated by a professional counselor who advised them she was too traumatized to return to this school environment. She would never feel safe there again.

“That is when we moved her to a private Catholic school,” Duncan said. “Luckily we found the money to pay for private school tuition, unlike many parents who do not have that option.” ...

“On one front your child’s spirit is broken,” Duncan said, “and there is no more frustrating feeling than watching your child be abused.”

“The other front is the fact that the school administration just wants you and the problem to go away.”

No child should “just have to live through it” (and indeed, the kids who commit suicide don’t). Victims of bullying deserve an escape hatch.

Fortunately, those victims who happen to be special-needs students can receive a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to go to a private school. But we need to give all bullying victims a way of escape. If indeed school administrators “just want you and the problem to go away,” then bullying victims should have that option.

In a new report published by the Independent Women’s Forum, Dr. Vicki Murray Alger says “students should not have to wait years at a time or become victims of violent crime before their parents are allowed to transfer them to safer schools.” She recommends that states adopt a Safety Opportunity Scholarship (SOS) program which would empower parents to transfer their children immediately to a safe school, whether that school is public or private.

With all these children sending out distress signals, it’s time for the legislature to toss them a life preserver.

[Cross posted at Inter Alia]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sand Springs school board vouches for the failed status quo

Sand Springs Board of Education

"The Sand Springs Board of Education went on record Monday night opposing a state voucher system for special education students," Paul Waldschmidt reports in the Sand Springs Leader. "Board members voted unanimously to sign a resolution opposing the use of vouchers in general, and specifically special education vouchers."

Now one might think board members Michael Mullins, Debra Thompson, Krista Polanski, Jackie Wagnon, and Bo Naugle would be more focused on pressing concerns -- such as the inferior academic performance of a few thousand of their students -- than on a scholarship being used by none of their students. One would think they would be reluctant to defend a policy born of bigotry. One would think they would be ashamed to discriminate openly against some of their constituents on the basis of religion. Alas, no.

Perhaps the most puzzling part of the resolution refers to an alleged "negative impact that vouchers will have on all Oklahoma public school districts." Researcher Greg Forster (Ph.D., Yale University) has found 19 high-quality empirical studies which demonstrate that school choice improves public schools, but no studies which find that school choice harms public schools. Since Mullins, Thompson, Polanski, Wagnon, and Naugle obviously just filled in the blanks drafted this resolution themselves, they must be aware of high-quality empirical studies that have escaped widespread notice. I urge them to send them to me as soon as possible. My address is 1401 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73104.

Incidentally, why does the resolution include this curious instruction: "Send to: 8506 E. 61st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74133"? Is Union so flush with cash that, in addition to having astroturf in their football stadium, they can afford to run an astroturfing operation against Lindsey's Law? If so, is this an appropriate use of staff time and taxpayer resources?

The Sand Springs superintendent, Lloyd Snow, also supported the resolution, telling board members: "Until we stand up to this nonsense [which strikes me as an inapt word choice to describe the educational freedom on which our country was founded], it's going to keep increasing." Little does he realize that even as he stands up to it, it's going to keep increasing. And I doubt it would do much good to explain it to him; after all, as one mom of a special-needs child put it, the bureaucrats just don't get it.

It's telling that Mullins, Thompson, Polanski, Wagnon, and Naugle have so little confidence in their own schools that they fear people would leave if given a choice. And it's disappointing they would oppose a policy which is favored by their constituents. This is yet another reminder that we need to move school board elections to November (an idea which is gaining traction as the 2012 legislative session approaches). With any luck, it won't be long until school boards in Oklahoma start doing what the school board of third-largest district in Colorado did: Unanimously approve a voucher program which uses public money to send students to private schools, most of them religious schools.

UPDATE: Linked by BatesLine, one of Oklahoma's best political blogs (according to Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post). Michael Bates reminds us that the filing period for school board in Sand Springs and across the state is December 5, 6, and 7. "Please consider running. It's apparent that the current school board members are more devoted to preserving their power than to providing the best education possible so these special-needs kids can reach their full potential."

'My teacher is an app'

"More kids than ever before are attending school from their living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens," The Wall Street Journal reports. "The result: A radical rethinking of how education works."

And of course the National Education Association is not happy, because it's difficult to unionize an app.

Lindsey's Law Q & A

Helpful memo from the State Department of Education here.

Head in the Sand (Springs)

The recent news that 73 percent of Oklahoma's fourth-graders are below proficient in reading, and 66 percent are below proficient in math, is but the latest in a litany of bad news on school performance. But it's news that doesn't trouble the superintendent of the Sand Springs Public Schools, a man named Lloyd Snow, who is quick to assure us that "education hasn't failed, except maybe in a few overcrowded, underfunded urban districts." In other words, it certainly hasn't failed in Sand Springs (where one of the schools just made the federal needs-improvement list).

One suspects Mr. Snow will be equally untroubled by a new index called the Global Report Card, which indicates that the math achievement of the average student in Sand Springs is at the 33rd percentile relative to an international comparison group. In other words, Sand Springs produces students with math performance worse than that of the typical student in the average developed country.

Here’s another way to look at it: If you picked up the Sand Springs school district and dropped it into Canada, the average Sand Springs student would be at the 24th percentile in math achievement. If you placed it in Singapore, the average Sand Springs student would be at the 18th percentile in math achievement.

Education hasn't failed? In the private sector, imperviousness to reality will get you fired. In government, it will get you nearly 15 grand a month.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quote of the day

"People are capable of incredible self-deception, and university-trained and intelligent people are probably the most self-deceived," says John Hood of the John Locke Foundation. "They [Head Start boosters] convince themselves that a little bit more money would do the job."

'Better education through lower taxes'

"Raising taxes has a long record of educational failure," Andrew Coulson writes. "Surprisingly enough, lowering them actually works."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teachers favor Oklahoma's school-choice law

The Association of American Educators -- "the largest national, non-union, professional educators’ association, offering an alternative to the partisan politics and non-educational agendas of the teacher labor unions" -- recently released its 2011 membership survey.

A full 78 percent of survey respondents nationwide approve of Oklahoma's new law providing a tax credit to individuals and corporations that donate to organizations providing Opportunity Scholarships for children to attend private schools.

How much will it cost Oklahoma to implement Common Core?

The California Department of Education estimates that Common Core will cost nearly $800 million to implement in that state.

What's the cost of implementation in Oklahoma?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

School vouchers are the solution

"School vouchers for private schools are the solution to our education problem," David Harding of Moore writes today in The Oklahoman.

The shift to digital learning

It's happening faster than you think, writes Tom Vander Ark. "The old system is being enveloped by new capabilities and the pace of tech development continues to accelerate. We’re living on an exponential curve."

Child abandoned at bus stop

His mom says the Cleveland, Oklahoma, public school is unapologetic.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New law is helping autistic children

With a boost from Lindsey's Law, the Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy is providing specialized help for autistic children.

'This has been a godsend'

Parents say Lindsey's Law is helping their special-needs children.

Oklahoma leading the nation

A new digital-learning report card says Oklahoma is leading the nation in transforming education for the digital age.

'Sobering statistics' on sexual harassment in schools

A new report from the American Association of University Women "presents the most comprehensive research to date on sexual harassment in grades 7-12 and reveals some sobering statistics about the prevalence of sexual harassment and the negative impact it has on students' education."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another reminder that Lindsey's Law is necessary

Chart shamelessly swiped from Matt Ladner

More of the same

"The Nation's Report Card released Tuesday showed stagnant test scores for Oklahoma, leaving the state among the worst performing education systems in the U.S.," The Oklahoman reports today.

Legislators looking out for taxpayer interests

"Here’s an eye-opening school statistic for you," Greg Forster wrote in an OCPA article this year. "Only half of Oklahoma’s public education employees are teachers. The bureaucracy is now so big, it takes up half the system. It’s the blob that ate the schools."

To his great credit, state Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow) is trying to do something about it. The Oklahoman reports today that "Brumbaugh told members of a budget subcommittee on education that legislators should encourage public school districts to privatize food services as well as medical services and janitorial services. Contracting out transportation services also could be considered." After all, as Dr. Forster pointed out, 

There's absolutely no reason for any sector of government to directly employ bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, or any of the rest of this category. The whole enchilada needs to be privatized posthaste. You wouldn't just eliminate unnecessary positions that are there due to featherbedding, although that's considerable. More important, though, you’d be able to pay the market rate for the positions you kept, instead of hyperinflated civil-service salaries and benefits (think pensions). And you’d be able to fire people if they didn’t deliver good services.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this assessment. State Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton) said a school district in her area tried to privatize janitorial services. "It was a disaster," she said. "It was not effective at all. Our school custodians take great pride in their work."

That's disappointing enough coming from a Republican, but coming from a member of ALEC ("limited government, free markets, federalism") it is extremely disappointing. (Though, to be honest, not as disappointing as arguing against school choice for special-needs children.)

Just a guess here, but if Republicans can't even pluck this low-hanging fruit, my guess is they won't be showing a lot of interest in the new Heritage/AEI study which concludes that American public-school teacher salaries are $120 billion over market value.

Even so, Rep. Brumbaugh and other conservatives in the legislature deserve credit for their continued attempts to protect taxpayers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spending money we don't have on stuff that won't work

American heroine Phyllis Schlafly -- George Gilder says "she changed the political landscape of her country" -- was in Oklahoma City last week and said it was a mistake for Oklahoma to apply for a federal grant from the Obama Administration dealing with children from birth to age five. No surprise there; analysts from The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Home School Legal Defense Association have said much the same thing.

Oklahoma policymakers who applied for the grant will be hard pressed to look at this chart and argue that Oklahoma students will benefit from Washington giving us more money.

Education forum this week at Langston-OKC

Bob Bowdon, the award-winning documentarian who produced and directed The Cartel, will be speaking at a forum Thursday evening at Langston University-OKC. Larry Sand, director of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, will also be speaking, and I will be giving a brief presentation on “Why Oklahomans from A to Z Should Embrace School Choice.” More information about the event is available here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Somewhere Tocqueville is smiling

There's a groundbreaking for a new classroom at San Miguel School this week, the Tulsa World reports. "Since 2004, San Miguel School has been educating children who are most at risk of dropping through the cracks of educational, social and economic systems. The school is mission-driven, not tuition-driven, supporters say, and is funded entirely by donations from the community."

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Oklahoma districts need improvement

"As federal standards steadily make it tougher for schools to meet academic performance requirements," The Oklahoman reports, "more and more schools and school districts in Oklahoma have found themselves on the notorious list of schools in need of improvement."

Owasso superintendent's tolerance only goes so far

"In what has increasingly become a troubling sign of the times, an Oklahoma public school district has barred a community-led Christian club for students from publicizing its before-school meetings," writes Matthew Sharp, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund.
Other similar clubs that teach values, self-esteem, and morality to students, like the Boy Scouts and the Young Men's Christian Association, are still allowed to publicize their events in the Owasso schools. Even a business like Baja Jack's Burrito Shack can promote its "tasty Mexican food for breakfast" to the students at Northeast Elementary.

But the Christian club, "Owasso Kids for Christ," which teaches the same values, self-esteem, and morality as the Scouts and YMCA but from a biblical perspective, is barred on the basis that it is "religious." ...

The bottom line: For some reason there appears to be some degree of animus aimed at Owasso Kids for Christ. So much so, in fact, that the district superintendent discouraged the more-than-100-member club from publicizing its activities in the larger Owasso community through signs and banners and through local media and advertising outlets because he believed such publicity would "stir up trouble."

What kind of power does a school district wield when it not only prohibits a Christian organization from announcing its Bible club for students while allowing dozens of other community groups to access the district's communicative mediums, but also takes upon itself the role of suggesting that the Christian organization not advertise at off-campus locations either?

Needs-improvement list

Here are the Oklahoma districts and schools on the needs-improvement list.

Personal digital learning

Is changing the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Freedom of conscience requires school choice

Freedom of conscience requires school choice, writes Charles Glenn, a professor of educational leadership at Boston University and the former director of urban education and equity efforts for the Massachusetts Department of Education. "Today, every country in Western Europe has well-established policies providing public support to parental choice, including on the basis of religious preferences, and educational freedom was incorporated as a basic human right into international covenants after World War II."

Even as school superintendents in Jenks and Union continue to stick up for discrimination on the basis of religion, Dr. Glenn says the "state 'Baby Blaines' are a major barrier to expanding parental choice, and it is important to the cause of educational freedom that they be challenged at the state level."

'Our school system is like the Trabant'

"When government runs things," John Stossel explains, "consumers suffer."

Socialism's finest

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Owasso Kids for Christ sues Owasso Public Schools

"A Christian club which meets at an Owasso elementary school has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Owasso Public Schools has violated the group's first amendment's right of free speech and free exercise and the Fourteenth Amendment's right for due process and equal protection," the News on 6 reports.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A nation (still) at risk

[Click infographic to enlarge.]

Schools teach how to do less with more

"The problem with public education is not lack of money," Mark Steyn writes, "but that so much money is utterly wasted."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Raises all around!

The state's most powerful labor union wants to increase teacher salaries $2,000 across the board in 2012. Even if a teacher is mediocre, or poor, or downright incompetent, the OEA believes a $2,000 raise is in order.

In addition, OEA wants to give more money to teachers with master's degrees and seniority, "even though there is no evidence that these things help students learn," as Bill and Melinda Gates point out today in The Wall Street Journal.

Friday, October 21, 2011

State legislator suggests voucherizing early ed

In addition to governors like Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is one who chose not to apply for a federal "early learning" grant from the Obama Administration. The ABC affiliate in Indianapolis reports:
State Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the state does not fund preschool but Indiana is also one of the few states in the black. "I think it's basically resources," Behning said. ...

The state has allocated more dollars toward funding full-day kindergarten, but Behning said more money does not always mean better results. He pointed to Oklahoma, which pioneered preschool programs but graduation rates there have not improved, he said. "There was absolutely no improvement at all. Just having early childhood (education) is not a silver bullet," Behning said.

The state currently spends $175 million on child care services through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, money Behning said could be used to support early education. "There's no reason why we shouldn't try to make child care vouchers, and turn them into an early childhood education voucher," he said. "That's one way to leverage current dollars and not spend another dollar."

Jenks promotes home schooling

Neither the adults nor the children are in their own home, but hey, it's a start.

Preschool spending limits school choice

Oklahoma has applied for up to $60 million in federal "early learning" funds from the Obama Administration, even as The Wall Street Journal reports that "any expansion of testing is likely to fuel the debate over its value, especially among young children" and as a Heritage Foundation analyst warns of Oklahoma's risks in taking this federal money. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that "Florida will reject a federal early learning grant of up to $100 million if it comes with strings attached including any requirement for state funding, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday." One hopes Oklahoma would do the same.

Unfortunately, as Heritage reminds us, all this government spending and regulation has a pernicious crowd-out effect (Tulsa's Trinity Episcopal Day School and Evangelistic Temple School are two of the latest victims), thus limiting school choice.

UPDATE: Some YWCA childcare programs in Tulsa are also biting the dust.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quote of the day

Even if vouchers were to take money away from the public schools -- and I should point out that not all voucher proposals do -- that does not in and of itself mean that public schools will be harmed.

When you have an area of the country -- and most often here we are talking about inner cities -- where the public schools are abysmal or dysfunctional or not working and where most of the children have no way out, it is legitimate to ask what would happen to the public schools with increased competition from private schools and what would happen to the quality of education for the children who live there.

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), September 30, 1997

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tea Party to governor: Spurn Race to the Cradle money

Warning that federal intervention could cause private schools to close, the Tea Party network in Florida urged Gov. Rick Scott not to apply for Race to the Cradle money. Gov. Scott applied for the grant anyway, but pledged he would only accept the Obama grant "if the award comes back with no strings attached."

Are public school teachers overpaid?

That's the question to be addressed at an American Enterprise Institute event November 1.
The public commonly accepts that public school teachers are "desperately underpaid," in the words of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and that raising teacher pay should be a priority of education reform. But is this true? AEI Resident Scholar Andrew Biggs and Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst Jason Richwine will provide new data on teacher salaries, fringe benefits, and job security that point to significantly more value in teachers' total compensation packages than was previously evident. Although some teachers may be underpaid, the data suggest the majority are receiving higher pay than they would be likely to receive in private-sector employment.

'It's time for American education to catch up with the world around it'

"Students are living in a digital world," says former OCPA intern Taylor Stair, "but their education system is stuck in analog."

Are tax credits better than vouchers?

They're 'just babies'

Patricia Cox, superintendent of the Aline-Cleo Springs School District near Enid, says some of her students are "just babies." She says, "In a perfect world, a beautiful world, children would not start school until age 8."

Regardless of when they start, it's time for Oklahoma to diversify its preschool portfolio.

Fund students, not schools

In a recent OCPA report, Dan Lips explained how Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) can empower parents to customize an education for their children. Now Lindsey Burke, senior education policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, is out with an excellent new memo on ESAs (“Education Savings Accounts: A Promising Way Forward on School Choice”).

A child entering kindergarten today “can expect to have more than $120,000 spent on his or her education by the time the child graduates high school,” she writes. “And approximately 90 percent of that money is derived from state and local sources. Education Savings Accounts operate on the philosophy that parents are best equipped to make the important decisions about their child’s education. Instead of automatically allocating a share of a child’s education funding to the public-school system, ESAs ensure dollars will be spent under the direction of parents, at any school of their choice.”

Burke recommends that state policymakers “transition from funding schools to funding students through Education Savings Accounts, empowering parents with control over their child’s share of education funding. ESA dollars should be universal and available for any education-related purpose, including: private-school tuition, private tutoring, online learning courses, or education-related services. Parents should also be allowed to roll over unused ESA dollars from year to year, or to save ESA funding for college tuition.”

Oklahoma has a fair amount of school choice already, but not nearly enough. ESAs “are broadening the school choice landscape in vital ways,” and it’s time for Oklahoma policymakers to consider them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Selective outrage on 'public money to private schools'

Thanks to Oklahoma's new special-needs scholarship law, "at least $700,000 in state public school funds will be paid this year to send special-education students to private schools in Oklahoma," Kim Archer reports in the Tulsa World.

That's good information to have, but I would suggest that some follow-up reporting would discover that $700,000 isn't the full story. Why? Because, as even the opponents of Lindsey's Law can tell you (see, for example, the first 15 seconds of this clip), even before Lindsey's Law was enacted school districts already sent special-needs kids to private schools. My recollection is there are hundreds of private placements each year (apparently at least 10 are out of state), with nary a peep from school administrators about "constitutionality" or "public money going to private schools."

Online learning

Is here to stay.

Monday, October 17, 2011

OEA membership declines

Education reporter Mike Antonucci has the latest union membership numbers, and he reports that the Oklahoma Education Association had 23,284 active members (i.e., working teachers, certified staff, and education support employees -- not students or retirees) in 2009-10, which is down 2.9 percent from the previous year.

'Public schools and the decline of Christianity'

IndoctriNation Trailer from IndoctriNation on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

'The Steve Jobs model for education reform'

In the weekend Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch says that's the education-reform approach he prefers.
If you read the front pages of the New York Times, they will tell you that technology's promise has not yet been realized in terms of student performance. My answer is, of course not. If we simply attached computers to leeches, medicine wouldn't be any better today than it was in the 19th century either.

You don't get change by plugging in computers to schools designed for the industrial age. You get it by deploying technology that rewrites the rules of the game.

Our children are growing up in Steve Jobs's world. They are eager to learn and quick to embrace new technology. Outside the classroom they take technology for granted—in what they read, in how they listen to music, in how they shop. ...

Just as the iPod compelled the music industry to accommodate its customers, we can use technology to force the education system to meet the needs of the individual student.

Steve Jobs knew all about competitive markets. He once likened our school system to the old phone monopoly. "I remember," he said in a 1995 interview, "seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said 'We don't care. We don't have to.' And that's what a monopoly is. That's what IBM was in their day. And that's certainly what the public school system is. They don't have to care."

We have to care. In this new century, good is not good enough. Put simply, we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. To be willing to blow up what doesn't work or gets in the way. And to make our bet that if we can engage a child's imagination, there's no limit to what he or she can learn.

Friday, October 14, 2011

'Oklahoma is ceding its ability to innovate'

Today in The Oklahoman, Bob Holland praises Oklahoma for its progress on school choice, but is disappointed that we have "followed the siren call of the big education establishment to embrace the so-called common core standards, an incipient national curriculum."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

'Parental authority is at the heart of school choice'

John E. Coons, an emeritus law professor at Cal-Berkeley who has championed school choice for four decades, says "parental empowerment can't exist unless the parent has the power to enforce his or her own rules or decisions."
You can't be a responsible person unless you have authority. The popular talk about parental responsibility needs to include this premise. Bill Cosby picks on parents who disengage from school. He’s right, but this stick of his has two ends. Passivity and despair are the response of powerless parents to the predicament we've arranged for them. It is the classic recipe for impotence and withdrawal by the adult and bewilderment by the child who learns that the role of parent carries little social or moral weight.

Whatever family may mean, if you value it, you’d better see to it that the not-so-rich American parent has real authority over who has access to the child's mind for the prime hours of 13 years of his or her life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

As Oklahoma races to the cradle, Heritage Foundation analyst warns of risks

"Tennessee will not apply for up to $60 million in onetime Race to the Top funds for early childhood education," The Commercial Appeal reports today.
"We want to be very careful in the current fiscal environment not to take on additional activities we can't sustain financially, " [Commissioner of Education Kevin] Huffman said. ... Instead, through a partnership with Vanderbilt University, Tennessee is researching the effectiveness of its current investment before adding more, Huffman said. 

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is applying for this Race to the Cradle grant, and over at CapitolBeatOK Patrick McGuigan reports ("Heritage Foundation analyst warns of risks in taking federal education grant dollars") on his conversation with researcher Lindsey Burke, who was in Oklahoma City last week. Burke said,

It's still to be seen what new requirements or costs will result from participation in the ELC [Early Learning Challenge] grant. But federal dollars typically come with federal strings and reporting requirements, which can create added expenses and headaches for states.

The Obama administration's ultimate goal is to encourage states to implement universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children, regardless of family income. But state preschool is a questionable investment for several reasons. Fade-out is a common phenomenon with preschool in general, with benefits dissipating by third grade. And, a study by the RAND Corporation found that preschool has few, if any, long-term benefits for middle- and upper-income children.

Oklahoma has been offering all 4-year-old children the opportunity to attend taxpayer-funded preschool since 1998. Oklahoma spent $139 million on early education in 2008, and spends more than $7,400 per child in preschool.

Yet, despite this expansive growth in state preschool at considerable taxpayer expense, Oklahoma has not seen improvements in academic achievement as a result. In fact, Oklahoma's 4th grade reading scores have declined since 1998 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. While numerous factors influence NAEP scores, if state-funded universal preschool was producing all of the benefits proponents claim, it would likely be evident in 4th grade reading scores.

It's theoretically possible that Oklahoma could be denied the federal grant, though it is highly unlikely given that prominent Obama fundraiser George Kaiser visited the White House 16 times (to discuss "early childhood education," et al.) and also appeared on the platform with Secretary Duncan and Secretary Sebelius when this grant competition was unveiled. If Oklahoma does receive the grant, Burke says it is "certainly a legitimate concern" that federal regulation of Oklahoma's private providers could follow.

Oklahoma parents want and deserve preschool choices. Regrettably, this federal grant -- like other attempts to nationalize education policy -- could prove hostile not only to federalism, but to school choice.