Thursday, March 31, 2011

Oklahoma poses serious threat

... in the eyes of the nation's largest teachers union.

Indiana, Oklahoma lead the way

I attended the press conference yesterday where Gov. Mary Fallin, Supt. Janet Barresi, Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudecki, and Republican legislative leaders locked arms with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to promote aggressive education reforms. When a reporter asked Gov. Bush which states were leading the way with bold, transformational reforms, he pointed to Oklahoma and Indiana.

Right on cue, Indiana took a big step forward yesterday. Here's hoping Oklahoma holds up its end of the bargain, most notably with SB 969 by state Sen. Dan Newberry.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Indiana's bold move

"Indiana's Republican leadership is pushing ahead with a proposal that would be the nation's broadest use of school vouchers," the Associated Press reports, "allowing even middle-class families to use taxpayer money to send their kids to private schools."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

WaPo raps Obama

Headline: "White House ignores evidence of how D.C. school vouchers work."

Homeschooled senior values flexibility

In the March/April 2011 issue of Imagine, a publication of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, homeschooled senior Alexi Sargeant answers some homeschool FAQs.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

'Parents with the power to choose'

Nearly one-third of Tulsa Public Schools students are on choice transfers, the Tulsa World reports today.

Friday, March 25, 2011

'Collective bargaining turns teachers into teamsters'

There's a must-read article ("Less Perfect Unions") by Peter Brimelow in the current issue of The American Conservative. "Collective bargaining turns teachers into teamsters," he says.

Brimelow points out that teacher unions are a monopoly on top of a monopoly on top of a monopoly, and argues that public-sector unions, unthinkable even to the likes of George Meany and FDR, "are simply not a sustainable life form."
Eventually, the rest of society figures out that it’s being attacked by a rent-seeking parasite and does something about it. ... The Teacher Trust is ultimately defending a system that cannot work: the socialized provision of education. The Soviet Union had the same problem. And absolutely no one expected it to collapse—but it did.

Great moments in patch-through calling

The least you could do is give the teachers some talking points.

HT: Mike Antonucci

WaPo's Jay Mathews acknowledges the voucher evidence

He's still not a voucher fan, but he does acknowledge the evidence.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Voucher evidence is not in dispute

Greg Forster's latest report is out, and this is really starting to get tiresome.
This report collects the results of all available empirical studies using the best available scientific methods to measure how school vouchers affect academic outcomes for participants, and all available studies on how vouchers affect outcomes in public schools. Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers do not benefit participants and hurt public schools, the empirical evidence consistently shows that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools.

OKC schools: Spending records? Who has time to keep spending records?

"March 13-19 was National Sunshine Week across America," writes Steve Gunn of the Education Action Group.
It was created to encourage transparency at all levels of government, so taxpayers can get a closer look at how laws are written and public dollars are spent.

But a big, dark cloud remained over the Oklahoma City school district.

Defying the spirit of transparency, district officials refused a request to provide details about the amount of money they spend on union labor.

The request came from our organization. We have been active in several states, trying to educate the public about the significant amount of money that schools are forced to spend due to various provisions in union collective bargaining agreements.

From our research in other districts, we know these costs often add up to a big chunk of change. With so many states preparing to slash school aid, we want the public to realize there are still areas that can be cut from local school budgets without hurting students, if the unions would only cooperate.

So we sent a freedom of information request to the Oklahoma City district, asking 25 specific questions.

Most of them were pretty simple, like how much is spent on employee insurance premiums, automatic annual salary increases, and reimbursement for unused sick days.

But 20 of our questions came back with the simple response, "NOT A RECORD."

We were perplexed until we discovered an enclosed e-mail message from Kathleen Kennedy, an official with the district.

"Most of the information you requested is not a record and as such, we do not legally have to create one as identified in the Open Records statutes," she wrote.

Kennedy might as well have written, "It's none of your business."

It's entirely possible that Kennedy is legally correct. Perhaps Oklahoma law does not force school districts to keep detailed financial records, or to create and share such records at the request of citizens.

But perhaps it should.

The fact is that the Oklahoma City district is in deep financial trouble, having recently cut $17 million from its operating budget.

It seemed odd to us that a district with such financial problems would not keep detailed financial records, particularly in the age of user-friendly computer spreadsheets.

We made a similar request a few weeks ago to the Jenks school district, and officials there had no problem answering our questions.

As we asked in a press release sent to media outlets across the state, how can Oklahoma City school officials expect anyone to empathize with their financial problems if they have no records of where their money is going? How can the district put people in charge of the budget who do not bother to track and document how tax dollars are spent?

Would the school district have such a big deficit if officials had a better handle on where the money is going?

Beyond that, we were frustrated by the fact that the school clearly has this information at its disposal, yet is willing to hide behind a legal technicality to conceal it from the public.

Do Oklahoma City school officials really believe the public has no legitimate right to know where tax dollars are going? Are they not familiar with the concept of transparency and keeping the public informed?

We’re sure there are some Oklahomans who won't be bothered by this story, because our organization is based in Michigan. They probably think we're sticking our noses where they don’t belong.

But if the school can legally hide its financial records from us, it can do the same to the media and taxpayers of Oklahoma. That can't be a comfortable feeling for citizens who care about open, accountable government.

As Education Action Group CEO Kyle Olson put it, "Any school district that hides information from the public is a district that does not deserve the trust or support of the public."

We've been invited to discuss this issue on the News Radio KTOK (AM 1000) in Oklahoma City tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. If you’re in the area, please lend us your ear.

GOP hopefuls woo homeschoolers

In today's Wall Street Journal, the reporter quotes Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, one of seven homeschoolers in the Iowa legislature: "The political world has really woken up to the importance of this constituency."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

School choice is back

Current school-choice programs, though successful, are too small to allow innovators and entrepreneurs to sustain systematic reform, Greg Forster writes in the March issue of OCPA's Perspective. But with bold new ideas (like Education Savings Accounts) springing forth, we could be on the cusp of a huge expansion of school choice.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Measuring the impact of special-needs scholarships

Oklahoma's special-needs scholarship program is still in its infancy, but a new research brief [click images to enlarge] from The Foundation for Educational Choice suggests the law's supporters have reason to be optimistic.

Teacher unions are harmful, should be disempowered

Most Oklahomans believe that teacher unions harm the common good. Andrew Spiropoulos, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at OCPA, says policymakers should do something about it. "Conservatives have no reason to be defensive about promoting laws that affect particular interest groups," Spiropoulos writes today in The Journal Record.
The truth is that there is nothing wrong with government deliberately using its power to limit the ability of interest groups to pursue their self-interest in ways that harm the common good. What is the point of electing conservatives if they won’t dismantle the legal and political structures that have enabled trial lawyers or teacher unions to prosper at the expense of their fellow citizens?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The state's third-largest school district just passed a voucher plan

In Colorado.

Scholarship tax credit clears state Senate

The Oklahoma state Senate today passed a scholarship tax credit bill sponsored by Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa). A recent SoonerPoll found the idea is popular among Oklahoma voters.

State Senator Judy Eason McIntyre of Tulsa was the only Democrat to vote for the measure, while Republicans Mike Schulz of Altus and Bryce Marlatt of Woodward voted against it.

Barresi unveils forward-looking agenda

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi announced her education agenda yesterday, asking Oklahomans to rethink, restructure, and reform the education system.

We are educating people out of their creativity

HT: Lew Rockwell

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drowning in red ink, the children won't be silenced

Operating under the theory that "quantity has a quality all its own," hundreds of Oklahoma educators are expected to descend upon the state Capitol today, many wearing red tee shirts emblazoned with the words "We Won't Be Silenced."

In an effort to make sure the children aren't silenced either, OCPA prepared the following flyer (click to enlarge). It is being distributed widely today at the Capitol.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jewish day school to celebrate 36th year

Next month the Flo and Morris Mizel Jewish Community Day School in Tulsa will celebrate its 36th year of operation.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not all it's cracked up to be

"Maybe there's more to Newman than meets the eye," Elaine suggested. "No," Jerry assured her. "There's less."

Same with pre-K.

Your tax dollars at work

Oklahoma taxpayers are already getting a disappointing return on their K-12 investment. To make matters worse, they get to pony up again. "Nearly 43 percent of first-time freshmen who entered Oklahoma's public colleges in the fall of 2009 were not prepared for college work," The Oklahoman reports.

"Higher education?" Boston University president John Silber liked to quip. "Higher than what?"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Parents sue Oklahoma City Public Schools for bullying and abuse

"The parents of a thirteen-year-old student at John Marshall High School are suing the Oklahoma City Public Schools and school administrators for failing to protect their daughter from bullying, harassment, and abuse," according to a press release from Absolute Legal Services.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Carrie and Henry Holeman claim damages for prior acts of bullying and harassment upon their daughter. The Holemans allege school administrators failed to appropriately address the bullying of their daughter for two school years, which led to the October 18, 2010 attack on their daughter while she rode home on an Oklahoma City Public Schools bus.

In that incident, several other students pushed the Holemans' daughter to the ground and began violently attacking her. Henry Holeman tried rushing onto the school bus in order to rescue his daughter, but the bus driver immediately thwarted his attempts by removing him from the school bus. The Holemans' daughter continued to receive punches and kicks, until being removed from the bus by her mother, Carrie Holeman. "I was just doing what any parent would do if they were in my situation and saw their daughter being attacked," says Carrie Holeman. "We want this to be an example and a statement for other victims."

The lawsuit alleges that the bus driver physically assaulted Henry Holeman and his daughter, and actively prevented her from leaving the school bus safely. The Holemans also allege that their daughter suffered physical and emotional damages because of bullying and the October 18th attack. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000.00.

When discussing the lawsuit, the Holeman’s attorney, Jeffrey Taylor, stated, "We know the end result of these kinds of hateful attacks. We have a history of bullying cases that end badly. We believe that this lawsuit will act as a reminder to every school district that they need to take a more active approach in addressing these kinds of sensitive issues. Our schools need to do more to protect our kids' safety, especially when they are on notice of the bullying and harassment."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lawmakers want more money to go to the classroom

According to this report, more than 100 Oklahoma school districts devote less than half their resources to the classroom.

Not really surprising, considering this recent OCPA article and pie chart.

Good news, bad news for Edmond

The inimitable Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III, unimpressed with one of Col. Potter's claims, once cracked wryly: "That is roughly comparable to being the finest ballerina in all of Galveston."

I couldn't help but think of Winchester's remark when I read that state Superintendent Janet Barresi spoke to the Edmond Rotary Club yesterday, telling them that Edmond is one of the best school districts in all of Oklahoma.

She also mentioned the devastating Atlantic piece, which shows that Oklahoma is trailing Uruguay and Bulgaria.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'A war of attrition with the unions and their kept politicians'

"In political terms 2010 may have been the year of the Tea Party movement, but in policy terms it was the year of school choice," Dan Proft writes in the current issue of School Reform News. "And with courageous reformers at the helm of several states, 2011 could be even better."
Last year, school choice moved beyond the think tanks and policy journals and squarely into popular culture. ...

Progress has been substantial. The excitement generated by movies such as Waiting for “Superman” and The Cartel has been uplifting. The political leadership of Republican governors such as [New Jersey's Chris] Christie, Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Florida’s Rick Scott, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and others has been encouraging.

The debate is no longer over the merits of school choice but rather over what forms it should take. ...

The unions are like a collective of candlemakers attempting to block the introduction of electricity. Thank goodness the candlemakers were not as obstinate or politically powerful.

After all, why should the kids be the only ones?

"A new state law will double the minimum amount of fines given to parents of truant school children," the Muskogee Phoenix reports.

But are increased fines really a sufficient punishment? I say it's time we send a message: Confine them in a large complex -- replete with security guards and metal detectors and which is sometimes put on lockdown -- whose occupants (many of whom are illiterate) are there by compulsion.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

'You're supposed to be the socialists, not us'

So how is it that Sweden has one of the most market-driven school systems in the world?

I'm thinking he should rely more on evidence, less on feelings

"I feel that our public schools are doing a great job in educating our students," says Oklahoma state Sen. Richard Lerblance (D-Hartshorne).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Congressman throws in the towel

Spending more money on education doesn't necessarily translate into better student performance. Conservatives have been saying that for years, of course, and of late even some prominent liberals are saying it (e.g., this big-time lefty documentarian, this famous community organizer, this Newsweek columnist, and this Soros-funded think tank). 

Comes now a Democrat Congressman who just flat throws in the towel:

I think when you look at student performance and you look at money and you want to say that somehow there should be some correlation there I think that’s wrong-headed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Democrat senator: School choice is a vital part of public education

Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams
As I've pointed out before, the government has no right to be the "default position" or some sort of "privileged player" when it comes to educating children. Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a former Democratic candidate for governor, agrees.

[School choice] opponents seem more concerned with propping up a system than educating children. They cling to the antiquated belief that existing public school systems have the right of first refusal when it comes to educating our children. An innovative and productive public education system can include home schooling, parochial schools, private schools, cyber schools, public charter schools and, yes, traditional public schools -- all of which I support. 

"School choice is not an alternative to public education," he says. "It is a vital part of an innovative and productive public education system."

Friday, March 4, 2011

'Making school choice a reality'

Senate Bill 969, a tax-credit scholarship bill by Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa), is popular with Oklahoma voters and is moving through the Legislature. Here's an excellent video which helps explain the concept.

Do parents essentially forfeit their rights

... when they send their children to a public school?

Risking eternal damnation, pension reformers proceed

Oklahoma state legislators are continuing to address Oklahoma's pension problems, even as one retired educator says some such legislators probably "should die and go straight to hell."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another day at the office

In Oklahoma City the police arrested 17 middle-school girls in a bathroom brawl, while in Harrah the police are charging 7 junior-high students in a prescription-drug overdose case.


That's the current status of teacher policy in this state, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

You got a problem with that?

Seven school systems, seven superintendents, seven administrative staffs -- in one Oklahoma town of fewer than 4,000 people.

Cal Thomas to speak at Regent Preparatory School

Author and columnist Cal Thomas will speak March 31 in Tulsa at Regent Preparatory School of Oklahoma. More information is available at the school's website or by calling 918-663-1002.

'Teachers wonder, why the scorn?'

Neal McCluskey isn't thrilled with the question. Checker Finn points to unionization:
They are reaping a bitter harvest that they didn’t individually plant but their profession has planted over 50 years, going from a respected profession to a mass work force in which everyone is treated as if they are interchangeable, as in the steel mills of yesteryear.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'Ed school courses are too easy'

And weak students end up as schoolteachers, according to this piece in The Christian Science Monitor. One is reminded of the recent quote from Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality:
"It's easier to get into ed. school in the U.S. than it is to qualify to play college football."

What's the best way to give students online opportunities?


Tuesday, March 1, 2011