Monday, December 29, 2014

Bartlesville CPA explains scholarship tax-credit provision

"There is a little-known Oklahoma tax law that allows taxpayers to make a tax-deductible donation to a private school scholarship program and get a tax credit of 50 percent of the amount of their donation," writes Debbie Mueggenborg, CPA. I encourage you to read her entire article in the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise here.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Put more dollars into the classroom

State Sen. Kyle Loveless believes that many of the dollars currently paying for administrative overhead should be redirected to the classroom. Here's his recent conversation with Michael Carnuccio on FOX 25.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Catoosa teacher fired

I have no doubt that her heart was in the right place, but still -- you cannot put students in the trunk of your car.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oklahoma school 'was like a battleground'

"Brittany Blake, 16, went to school each day on guard; she was being targeted by bullies," Terry Hood reports from Moore.
“It was like a battleground,” she said. “A school should be a safe place, and it wasn't for me.”

Writing poetry was her refuge; detailing her daily clashes with bullies.

“People were always pushing me into lockers, knocked me down, knocked stuff out of my hands,” Brittany said.

Physical abuse she documented with pictures, but kept secret from her family, including her mother, Vicky.

“We live with the girl every day and we didn't have a clue,” Vicky said. She said, looking back, she didn't pay attention to the signs.

“She'd wear heavy makeup, I guess, and long sleeves when it was warm outside, said it was cold in the classrooms, so she'd wear a jacket to hide her bruises,” Vicky said.

Brittany eventually left her central Oklahoma school and started a homebound program, but the bullying followed her on social media.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The next chapter in educational choice: ESAs


'We are tearing at family fabric when we separate children from parents'

"The early childhood school debate sometimes misses the heart of the matter," writes Russ Pulliam.
The early childhood push originally was aimed at at-risk children, those growing up in homes without enough sophisticated adult talk or missing parents who would know how to prepare them for school. But sometimes advocacy slides more toward universal pre-K education that’s supported by taxes.

Yet skeptics point to studies suggesting that early childhood programs work well when teachers only have a few students and parents receive special training. A less-intense approach won’t necessarily help students in the long run. ...

Jim Strietelmeier works with at-risk families through Neighborhood Fellowship in another low-income area of Indianapolis. He’s zealous for helping families in need but thinks the pre-K campaign has gotten carried away.

"I would be against universal preschool because it feeds into an American greed that will eventually destroy family relationships," he said. "Policy should be geared toward parents educating children in those pre-K years, to build family responsibility. When you detach children from familial relationships, you have an increase of psychological problems."

As a foster parent, he knows that some young ones should be removed from the home. But he is wary of the broader push away from family. "Parents nurturing children will prevent the decay of society," he said. "We are tearing at family fabric when we separate children from parents."

Pay raises for good teachers, but not for bad teachers

"Most Oklahomans do support raises … for good teachers," the state's largest newspaper notes today in an editorial.
But blanket pay raises are typical in schools — and potentially counterproductive. A 2014 study by The New Teacher Project noted lockstep teacher pay can actually encourage poor-performing teachers to remain in school while incentivizing good teachers to leave.

"The amount of taxpayer money that goes toward rewarding poor teaching is staggering," the report said. "Last year, schools in the U.S. spent a conservative estimate of $250 million giving pay increases to teachers identified by their districts as ineffective." A true performance-pay program that financially rewards good teachers could resolve that problem.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kevin Durant visits OKC school for homeless kids

Hats off to KD for paying a visit yesterday to the kids at Positive Tomorrows, a school that serves homeless children. You'll love the kids' reaction in this video.


Earlier this year OCPA produced a brief video about the school. It will do your heart good to take a look:


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why aren't Republicans trying harder to reach school-choice voters?

Excellent post by Michael Brickman here.

Separation of church and state, in its current form, is 'an instrument of intolerance'

"A leading member of the Klan in his earlier years was Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black," Mark Bauerlein reminds us over at First Things. "He was third in command of the largest Klavern in the United States. It was Justice Black, of course, who revived Jefferson’s line and planted it into American jurisprudence."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

'Throwing money at a system that's not working'

Former Gov. Frank Keating (a Republican) and former state treasurer Scott Meacham (a Democrat) took to the pages of The Oklahoman last week to sound the alarm about Oklahoma’s very serious educational-performance problems. “It appears policymakers, the education establishment, and even a vocal minority of parents in Oklahoma are in a state of denial when it comes to what’s happening,” they wrote.

Keating and Meacham outlined some practical, structural fixes. “Once these structural problems are addressed, only then should we have a serious discussion about increasing funding,” they added. “Oklahoma remains near the bottom in the nation on per-pupil expenditures for education. Clearly, we can’t underfund our way to excellence. But throwing money at a system that’s not working won’t change anything.”

They’re right. We know from federal data, for example, that only half of the money we’re throwing at the system is going to instruction. But sometimes it’s not even necessary to mine the spending data. Sometimes a simple thought-experiment is illuminating:

Are Oklahoma parents really 'ignorant and stupid 80 percent of the time'?

Jonathan Gruber, an Obamacare booster who has repeatedly mocked the American people for their alleged stupidity, testified before Congress today. Unfortunately, he's not the only Democrat who has evinced contempt for we the sheeple.

I wrote in 2010 about a Democratic state lawmaker in Oklahoma who wants politicians and bureaucrats — not parents — to choose schools for children. As he put it, parents "may think they know what's best, but do they?" And yesterday on Twitter, a Democratic political consultant in Oklahoma was similarly forthright with his antipathy to parental choice.




I disagree. And I continue to believe that Oklahoma parents have the right and the responsibility to choose schools for their children.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Welcome, Journal Record readers

OCPA president Michael Carnuccio has an excellent column this week in The Journal Record in which he makes mention of this blog. Readers wanting more information about school-safety issues should check the Unsafe Schools category or the Sexual Abuse of Children category.

Do Parent Trigger laws work?

Early indications are positive, according to an October 8 press release from Parent Revolution:
Ever since parents began using California’s historic Parent Empowerment Act, a key question has followed our work around California and the nation: Does parent power lead to student success?

We know that the challenging nature of school transformation efforts means that it will take years to more conclusively answer that question. Almost all student assessments were suspended in California schools last year due to field-testing for new Common Core-aligned assessments.

Even with that enormous challenge, however, it is encouraging to see that the first two Parent Trigger schools saw significant student gains in CST science scores, the one test that was administered last year. Here is some raw data:



24th Street / Crown Preparatory Academy

CST Science – Grade 5, Grade 8, and Grade 10 Life Science

2013
2014
Students Tested
84
102
% of Enrolled
98.8%

Students with Scores
84
101
Mean Scale Score
312.6
373.0
% Advanced
2%
33%
% Proficient
19%
32%
% Basic
42%
23%
% Below Basic
18%
7%
% Far Below Basic
19%
6%


Desert Trails Preparatory Academy

CST Science – Grade 5, Grade 8, and Grade 10 Life Science

2013
2014
Students Tested
82
68
% of Enrolled
83.7%

Students with Scores
82
68
Mean Scale Score
297.5
348.5
% Advanced
2%
12%
% Proficient
10%
35%
% Basic
30%
38%
% Below Basic
30%
9%
% Far Below Basic
27%
6%

10 year science score data for Desert Trails Elementary Schools
Year
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
Adv.
3
2
0
2
4
0
0
3
5
2
12
Prof.
8
15
14
13
24
21
12
19
26
10
35
Basic.
45
38
37
35
44
30
34
33
30
30
38
BB
30
27
37
25
17
21
32
24
11
30
9
FBB
15
19
12
26
11
28
23
20
28
27
6
Adv./Prof
11%
17%
14%
15%
29%
21%
12%
22%
31%
12%
47%



This data, while very limited in nature, also aligns with the parent survey data gathered at the end of last year, in which 91 percent of parents at Desert Trails Preparatory Academy and 83 percent of the parents at 24th Street Elementary said their schools had improved from the year before.

Kathy Duncan, a parent of two Desert Trails Preparatory students, shared her satisfaction with the school’s transformation: "As a parent, I am happy to send my child to DTPA. Everyone was happy the first day. I saw new faces that had never seen before. I would like to shine a light on [Desert Trails school leader] Ms. Debbie Tarver and her staff. My children, Jeremiah and Evelyn have had an exceptional time at DTPA."

While this data doesn’t paint anything close to a complete picture, it’s promising. Chief Strategy Officer Gabe Rose explains, "We of course cannot draw conclusions based on one subject test during one year, but the emerging evidence at these schools gives us an abundance of hope that we are on the right track, and can’t wait to share all data we gather with parents as they organize to do what’s best for their kids. We know from research that at best, only 25-30 percent of school turnaround efforts generally succeed, but we are confident that the consistent presence of organized and engaged parents will make our efforts substantially more successful."

Yes, it matters to close the political power gap and to empower low-income parents of color. It’s not only the right thing to do, and it can, does, and will turn schools around so they work better for all kids -- because all kids matter.

What's the OEA's financial status?

The indispensable Mike Antonucci has it here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

High-school senior sues government school

Interesting post by Michael Avramovich here.

OKC homework assignment details student slitting teacher’s throat

CBS Houston has the story.

Public money to private schools (cont'd.)

[Guest post by Patrick McGuigan]

I've noted before on this blog that public dollars flow to private schools all the time. With the fate of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program hanging in the balance, now is a good time to adapt and update some of my past reporting on just how widespread the practice is. Some examples:
  1. News stories about Oklahoma's pre-kindergarten (four-year-old) education programs casually incorporate by reference "free" (tax-financed) pre-K services, including at church-affiliated or other private providers receiving public support.
  2. The ubiquitous federal Title I program provides remedial services to elementary children in high-poverty areas where schools are failing (or are at risk) to meet core achievements. Public school officials are directed to consult with private schools on delivery of services.
  3. Private schools utilize Title I services. Funding is driven by the "proportion of private school children from low-income families residing in participating public school attendance areas." The law requires equitable, not lesser, services for private school students. The second Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind Act established provisions for "supplemental services" to children, provided by a public or a private entity. Students enrolled at failing public schools can receive extra help – tutoring, computer-assisted education, and similar things – outside the normal school day. Parents can pick from a state list, and districts pay providers directly.
  4. In many districts, tax funds are used to pay private vendors who provide online courses, often for students failing in traditional classrooms. Privately run online work has become common for children who need alternative instructional approaches.
  5. As school populations fluctuate, sites no longer needed are leased (and occasionally sold) to private businesses or institutions.
  6. Pell Grants are the best-known federal program supporting students based on economic status, with outright grants through public or private schools. College students can get $4,000 or more a year and never have to pay it back. Some use Pell Grants at a public institution and later at private schools, and vice versa. This has empowered millions of lower-income Americans.
  7. Stafford Loans allow lower- or middle-income students to access below-market interest rates, with no repayment until completion. The program works directly with private alternatives.
  8. The Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG) program provides grants of up to $2,000 a year to residents who choose to attend private not-for-profit colleges, often church-affiliated.
  9. The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) assists students who complete core requirements. Also known as "Oklahoma's Promise," OHLAP is available for students in public or private (including religiously-affiliated) universities and at career tech centers working with public two-year institutions.
Other examples of tax dollars financing private delivery of desirable services across all age levels include but are not limited to Head Start, child care assistance, and public-school food, custodial, maintenance, transportation, and security services.

Bottom line: Every day millions of public education dollars flow to private vendors or entities.