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."

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