Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fire! Get the money!

[Guest post by Greg Forster]

University of Oklahoma President David Boren wants voters to hike the state sales tax to fund a slate of goodies for educators, with the bulk of the proceeds going to an across-the-board $5,000 raise for all teachers. Such a measure is extremely unlikely to have a positive effect on school outcomes. Even the smaller portion of boodle that will supposedly go to “incentive pay” schemes is an almost certain loser.

The whole boondoggle reminds me of a 30-second video, entitled “Get the Money!”, produced by entrepreneur Jean-Marc Le Doux during the 2008 crisis to satirize equally loopy bailout schemes. In the video, the tranquility of a placid suburban home is shattered when the occupants discover that an electrical outlet is on fire. “Fire! Get the money!” shrieks the wife. The couple barrels into the room clutching two big buckets full of money, which they proceed to throw at the fire in a futile effort to extinguish it.

Educational mediocrity is indeed as urgent as an electrical fire in our national living room, so a sense of urgency is appreciated. But throwing even more money at the same old broken system is no more likely to improve its outcomes than throwing money at an outlet is likely to put out the fire. Indeed, after two or three generations of Boren’s “Get the Money!” solution, we have now wasted so much precious time that the educational fire has already burned down the living room and spread to the kitchen (economic stagnation), the bedroom (breakdown of the family), and the guest room (intergenerational poverty).

Boren’s scheme would raise $615 million a year, of which $378 million would fund a $5,000 raise for all teachers. By comparison, a piddling $50 million would go to “locally controlled reforms like incentive pay,” in the words of The Oklahoman. “Another $125 million would go to higher education to keep down tuition and fees,” because throwing more subsidies at colleges has such a great track record of lowering tuition and fees (in fact, colleges always respond by raising tuition and fees, for reasons that are obvious to anyone with either a working knowledge of economics or an ounce of common sense). Boodle would also be doled out to early childhood programs, which consistently fail to improve later educational outcomes, and vocational education.

The $5,000 teacher raise would be indiscriminate, offered to all teachers—effective and ineffective alike. There is therefore no particular reason to expect it will improve educational results. It will help attract and retain good teachers, and also bad ones. Boren is putting no more thought into his solution than those shrieking homeowners in the video.

If it were true, as is so often claimed, that teachers in general are severely "underpaid," there might be some grounds to expect that this “underpayment” was driving better teachers away from the profession, and a raise would restore balance. But even if this were true, it would still be wiser to concentrate the money on reforms that target higher performance. Why not a $10,000 bonus for all teachers at the 50 percent of schools that improve their graduation rate most in the coming year? Even better, why not start by identifying the 50 percent of schools with the lowest graduation rates and then offer a $20,000 bonus to all teachers at the 50 percent of those schools that improve graduation rates the most? Or use the money to strike a bargain with the education establishment—bribe them to accept a universal ESA program?

In fact, however, teachers are not underpaid. Few of the people making this claim have even thought about what “underpaid” means. Teachers make less than brain surgeons, yet no one thinks this makes teachers underpaid; ditch diggers make less than teachers, yet no one thinks this makes ditch diggers underpaid. Professions make different amounts based largely on the entry requirements of the profession, and U.S. Department of Labor data have consistently shown—for years!—that teachers make about the same as other professions with similar entry requirements. If you consider that their benefits packages tend to be more generous than average, while they make comparable pay, they are if anything overpaid (as a result of their past political strength, which allowed the unions to manipulate the market in their favor).

How about those “locally controlled reforms like incentive pay”? It’s not clear what “incentive pay” means, but one thing is clear. If the reforms really are locally controlled, the chances that they will include meaningful merit pay are approximately zero. One of the most severe systemic problems in our education system is the colonization of local school boards and other school governance structures by the school unions. The inmates run the local asylum. (This problem is one reason some education reformers have foolishly turned to increased state and federal power over schools, in a vain attempt to strongarm school districts into reforming.)

Even if the reforms did include merit pay, they’d be unlikely to work. Merit pay programs for teachers have a dismal record. The measurements of teacher “merit” never seem to align with actual teacher merit. (Hence in my example above I used graduation rates as the measurement we could reward teachers for improving, if we must choose some measurement—we do know how to calculate that reasonably well, and it’s not even all that tough to catch schools when they lie about their graduation rates.) Even more discouragingly, the teachers themselves generally have no confidence in the measurements even when they’re good ones; the teachers ignore the merit pay programs because they don’t expect the programs to reward merit.

All this is a distraction from the real issue, and in two senses. On the one hand, Boren is offering to throw more money at our educational house fire primarily because the scheme includes money for him (“to keep down tuition and fees”) and to his school-union allies (OU has a college of education, which makes OU part of the K-12 education blob). All his rhetoric is meant to misdirect us from what is, at bottom, a cynical power play to grab cash. On the other hand, talking about funding levels is a distraction in a more substantive sense. The more money we throw at the house fire, the longer it takes us to come to our senses and pick up the bucket of water labeled “school choice.” 

[Greg Forster (Ph.D., Yale University) is a senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. He is the author of six books, including John Locke’s Politics of Moral Consensus (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (Crossway Books, 2014). He has written numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals as well as in popular publications such as the Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education.]

Why America is behind Europe on educational freedom

"The United States ranks among the lowest of Western democracies in governmental support for educational freedom," Charles Glenn writes, "and particularly for the right of parents to select schools that correspond to their own religious convictions."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Former OU prof has sensible suggestions for our 'broken education system'

Today in The Oklahoman, Gary Greene, who taught for 20 years at the University of Oklahoma in the College of Education, has a column with many sensible observations. Some highlights:
Most school administrators are relatively overpaid when you compare the daily work of a teacher to that of principals/superintendents. ...

The median income for Oklahomans is $25,229, with teachers starting at $31,606 for about 10 months of work, and Oklahoma has one of the lowest costs of living in the nation. The average pay for Oklahoma City teachers is $53,449. ... 
Why do Oklahoma schools have so many coaches? Most Oklahoma schools employ head coaches and many assistant coaches and well-paid athletic directors. Can we play competitive sports with fewer coaches? Sure we can. It will save dollars that could be applied to academics. 
Oklahoma spends hundreds of millions of dollars on student transportation. In most of Europe, it's the parent's responsibility to transport kids to school. Maybe Oklahoma parents should do the same by providing private transportation or paying a fee for school bus transportation. ... 
Prior to 1970, most local schools were responsible for vocational education. Oklahoma has developed a CareerTech system that centralizes vocational training at a huge expense. For example, the state Department of Career Tech has 176 employees with a budget of $171 million. ... There is significant duplication of CareerTech and community colleges programs. ...
Oklahoma has 517 school districts. Johnston County has six school districts all located within a few miles of each other, all operating independently, producing a product that is consistently below standard. ...

Friday, December 25, 2015

An education ranking that's worth celebrating

State Rep. Lee Denney discusses Oklahoma's ranking in the National Association for Charter School Authorizers' latest analysis of nationwide charter school policies.

Monday, December 21, 2015

College craziness points up the need for higher-ed choice

Economist Richard Vedder, who helps Forbes compile its annual college rankings, recently observed:
As Milton Friedman told me more than a decade ago, higher education today has some negative externalities, ones that seemingly exceed the positive spillover effects, suggesting maybe we should be taxing rather than subsidizing universities in the United States.
With Oklahoma's political leaders staring at a massive "revenue failure" for 2016, all options need to be on the table. Of course, we can't end higher-ed subsidies overnight, as Cato Institute scholar Neal McCluskey points out in a recent article in The Weekly Standard. "The best starting point would be to turn state higher education funding into grants, connecting it explicitly to student choices rather than allocating it to institutions. At least then what policies and people are punished or rewarded would be based on individual, not government, decisions."

In suggesting student grants McCluskey echoes Friedman himself, who believed that restricting higher-education subsidies "to schooling obtained at a state-administered institutions cannot be justified on any grounds. Any subsidy should be granted to individuals to be spent at institutions of their own choosing."

Oklahoma's college students should be given a voucher redeemable not only at public colleges and universities but at nonpublic ones as well. After all, why should our political leaders discriminate against education obtained at private institutions? Why should Oklahoma taxpayers be forced to subsidize a public university's polytheistic "holiday" event celebrating "all religions" (including Islam) at Christmastime? Or why should they be forced to fork over $40,000 of their hard-earned money to a hip-hop artist with a history of obscene, violent, misogynistic language?

"Conservatives are rightly aggravated by college craziness," McCluskey writes. "But they have no right not to be aggravated—only not to pay for it." It's time to expand higher-ed vouchers in Oklahoma.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Achievement gap? No excuses, please

"We reject any and all attempts at genetic explanations for achievement gaps, leaving differences in education policy and culture as possible sources for achievement gaps," Matt Ladner and Dan Lips write.
We note, however, that the control of culture is precisely the mission of schools. The school staff controls the school culture and keeps the focus of students on academic achievement. Ineffective schools fail to control school culture. In the worst cases, students seize control of school culture and stigmatize academic achievement through peer pressure and/or violence. 
We do not believe anyone has ever seen evidence of a "racial combat effectiveness" gap in the United States Marine Corps because it doesn’t exist. The United States Marine Corps enlists people from all states, races, and classes of American society, but because it is an organization with a strong culture and mission, it transforms people of all backgrounds into Marines. Likewise, the job of schools is to transform ignorant children into numerate and literate young people with at least the minimum skills to succeed in the world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The poverty excuse is 'a crutch that is unfounded in evidence'

"[P]overty can’t explain away America’s lackluster academic performance," write Michael J. Petrilli and Brandon Wright. "That excuse, however soothing it may be to educators, politicians, and social critics, turns out to be a crutch that is unfounded in evidence. We need to stop using it and start getting serious about improving the achievement of all the nation’s students."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

For better mental health, consider delaying kindergarten, Stanford study suggests

"A study by Stanford Graduate School of Education professor Thomas Dee suggests that delaying kindergarten by one year, known as 'redshirting,' can significantly reduce hyperactivity and boost attention spans," Eric Schulzke reports.

Left and Right agree on need for market-based teacher pay

Terry Stoops explains.

Lamb, Pruitt, Bridenstine discuss educational choice

Last month, The McCarville Report released the results of a SoonerPoll survey it commissioned regarding Oklahoma’s 2018 governor’s race. Three names polled were Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and Congressman Jim Bridenstine. I recently sat down with all three of them to discuss their views on parental choice in education.

[Cross-posted at OCPA]

Pruitt stands up for school choice, religious freedom

"Many states, including Oklahoma, have amendments in our constitutions that limit religious liberty far more than what the U.S. Constitution allows," Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt recently said in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tulsa Pastor Says #MyDreamIsSchoolChoice

"About 5,000 Tulsa students are attending underperforming schools, according to a study by the Metropolitan Baptist Church," KTUL reports.  
The church is partnering with the Tulsa C.A.R.E. Alliance to create a movement in improving education in the city. ... "Our schools today are not serving all children equally. There are some children that are in schools that are continuing to struggle, said Pastor Ray Owens of the Metropolitan Baptist Church. Owens said his church and the Tulsa C.A.R.E. Alliance are hoping to change that struggle by starting a movement #MyDreamIsSchoolChoice. 
"We got to help parents find the school that works for their children. Every school is not right for every child. So, we're pushing the idea of choice so that, we believe, parents are the best advocates for their kids," said Owens.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Duncan student arrested for sticking students with needle

"A Duncan Middle School student was arrested Thursday after allegedly sticking other students with a needle during class," Christian Betancourt reports.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Is teacher pay a scarcity issue?

"What is scarce is valued more highly than what is common," Stevi Knight reminds us. "This basic economic principle explains the high value of diamonds, the competition between contestants on The Bachelorette, and why pennies are found forgotten in the middle of parking lots." Does scarcity also help to explain teacher pay?

The school choice information problem

“I support school choice,” some education policymakers say, “but we need to make sure parents choose good schools!” In this month's issue of Perspective, Greg Forster discusses how we can help parents make wise choices.

School choice reduces racial segregation

A common myth about private-school choice programs is that they are examples of “white flight” used by rich families to avoid sending their kids to school with minorities.

The empirical research says otherwise. “School choice reduces racial segregation and provides a more racially integrated school experience,” writes education researcher Greg Forster. “Of the eight studies that have examined racial segregation in private choice programs, seven found that choice moved students from more segregated classrooms and schools into less segregated classrooms and schools; one found no visible difference. No empirical study has ever found that private school choice increased racial segregation.”

And the evidence keeps mounting. A new study by economist Benjamin Scafidi, “The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K–12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools,” finds that private-school choice programs increase integration.

This is just common sense. After all, “the government school system is very heavily segregated by race because it’s tied to residence,” Forster reminds us. “People tend to live in racially homogenous neighborhoods, and tend to go to school where they live. School choice breaks down racial barriers by making it possible for students to go to school outside their neighborhoods.”

School choice also goes hand-in-hand with urban revitalization, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Oftentimes the most vocal advocates of private-school choice programs are minorities. The nationwide 2015 Education Next/Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance survey found strong support among African-Americans for a variety of school choice measures. For example, 66 percent support vouchers for low-income families, while only 17 percent oppose.

Minorities are often far less concerned with racial balance. What they want is the social and economic upward mobility that comes with a good education.

And as they move to schools that better meet their needs, they help make those schools more racially, ethnically, and economically diverse.

School choice increases integration, and that’s good for everyone.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fund parents, not bureaucracies

What constitutes a good education in the 21st century? That was the topic of a panel discussion yesterday at Rose State College organized by political science professor James Davenport. My message (starting at the 21:45 mark) was essentially this: There are more than 700,000 students in Oklahoma. I do not presume to know what constitutes a good education for each of them. That is for their parents to decide. Oklahoma's political leaders, who are committed to funding education, should give the money to parents rather than to the system.

Will ESAs be the downfall of public education?

In 2010, arguing against the proposed Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for Children with Disabilities, Democratic state Sen. Jay Paul Gumm predicted the program would "do maximum damage to public education."

Has that happened? No, it hasn't. (Indeed, that turns out to be the most laughable prediction since that time David Boren said Barack Obama is a "nonpartisan" leader who would bring Americans together.) Only a tiny fraction of Oklahoma's eligible students are utilizing the Henry Scholarship program. And new survey research tells us that 74 percent of Oklahoma voters think the program is "a good thing for Oklahoma," while only 11 percent say it’s a bad thing.

State Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) remembers the doomsday predictions surrounding the Henry Scholarship program. They didn't come to pass, just as the current doomsday predictions about ESAs will not come to pass. Sen. Jolley discussed ESAs on MiddleGround radio yesterday with Dave Bond; listen here beginning at the 1:28:00 mark.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Obama's new voucher plan for high school students

"The Obama Administration recently announced an experimental program to provide vouchers to allow public high school students to take courses in public or private institutions—as long as those institutions are postsecondary," the Council for American Private Education reports.
As the Department of Education put it, “For the first time, high school students will have the opportunity to access federal Pell Grants to take college courses through dual enrollment.” 
“A postsecondary education is one of the most important investments students can make in their future. Yet the cost of this investment is higher than ever, creating a barrier to access for some students, particularly those from low-income families,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. 

McLoud school district, taxpayers to pay $1.4 million to sexual-abuse victims

"The families of 14 young girls who were victimized by former elementary schoolteacher Kimberly Crain have reached a $1.4 million settlement with McLoud Public Schools," The Oklahoman reports.
Crain rattled this community four years ago when it was disclosed she had secretly videotaped students in suggestive poses and various stages of undress. She also had encouraged them to engage in classroom video chats with strange men, including one the children referred to as “Uncle G.”   
McLoud schools Superintendent Doran Smith said the $1.4 million is “a total amount” for the families of all 14 children involved in the case. He did not know how the funds would be split up among the families, saying “their lawyers are handling that.” 
Smith said the district's insurance provider is covering $1 million of the settlement, which is the cap on such claims. The remaining $400,000 will be paid in the coming years by local residents whose property taxes support McLoud Public Schools.

Oklahomans 'emphatically support school choice expansion'

Oklahoma voters and parents “emphatically support school choice expansion.” That’s the assessment of respected public-opinion researcher Pat McFerron, president of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, after reviewing the results of the firm’s latest survey.

“Oklahomans, particularly those with children in school, are clamoring for greater school choice,” The Oklahoman’s editorial board notes (“Oklahoma lawmakers should move ahead with ESA measure”). “It's always been clear that there are no legitimate policy reasons to oppose ESAs in Oklahoma. Now it's evident there are no legitimate political reasons for lawmakers to withhold their support either.”

UPDATE: Michael Carnuccio discusses the survey in a Journal Record column here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Across-the-board pay hikes don't make sense

"Paying the most effective teachers enough to keep them in the classroom makes sense," Jason Richwine writes. "An across-the-board increase for the profession does not."

The teacher shortage crisis is overblown, but challenges remain

"There's no epic shortage of public school teachers," Nat Malkus writes, "but where and whom schools hire is often problematic."

Tulsa school bus doing 70 mph, tailgating, weaving in traffic

FOX 23 has the story.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Doesn't fit the narrative

Mike Antonucci points us to a new NCES brief "that won’t get anywhere near the volume of headlines devoted to nationwide teacher shortages."

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Oklahoma’s proficiency gap

Why doesn't Oklahoma recognize the importance of honestly measuring student performance?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hey, it's only money

"It seems an auditing firm used by more than 100 Oklahoma school districts typically records irregularities not in the audit, but in separate letters," The Oklahoman notes today in an editorial. "The districts then report a 'clean' audit to state officials, effectively reducing financial scrutiny."
In McAlester, Superintendent Marsha Gore and her husband (the district's plant operations director) are accused of making tens of thousands of dollars in improper purchases with school funds over a 12-month period. The pair reportedly used school money for everything from Hillary Clinton campaign materials to a $129 hourglass to a $2,048 treadmill. ... 
Some are angry at the firm, but school district officials are also to blame. It's hard to believe this lack of transparency isn't driven by impure motives in at least some instances, especially given the findings of those school audits that are reported. 
At Tannehill, the school paid over $1,000 for Internet service at the superintendent's home. 
At Whitefield, the school paid travel reimbursement to the superintendent for driving from his home to school. 
In Timberlake, the superintendent's salary was increased without any amendment to his contract or board approval. 
In Alex, an employee was reimbursed for personal expenses and district equipment was used by school employees for personal use. 
At Whitesboro, the superintendent was reimbursed for travel-related meals and lodging without adequate invoice/receipt documentation. 
At Canadian, travel reimbursements were provided even when employees did not provide a school-related reason for the travel, a destination, or description of the trip. 
In Paoli, the school was carrying outstanding checks from as far back as 2002. 
In Crooked Oak, the district was still paying an absent, sick employee who had exhausted all medical leave. The superintendent tried to explain that one away by saying the employee's life insurance had lapsed due to the school district's negligence and officials were trying to make it up to him. 
The list goes on. If the aforementioned items are examples of what has occurred at districts that report their audits, there's reason to wonder what's going on at districts with 'clean' audits that fail to report 'supplemental' documents.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Questionable expenses from McAlester superintendent, husband

The MiddleGround News has the story.

Alleged fraud in Swink draws scrutiny

[Below is the text of a news release yesterday from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.]

In the wake of alleged misappropriation of funds at Swink Public Schools, the State Board of Education approved establishment of a task force to create an action plan for the school district in southeastern Oklahoma. In reviewing an audit of the small district, board members and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister also expressed concerns that a Broken Arrow-based auditing firm hired by the district had found no financial problems over the previous five years.

A review by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) showed that the firm of Sanders, Bledsoe, and Hewett had failed to uncover alleged embezzlement in the district that totaled nearly $235,000. Eventually, a June 30, 2015, audit by the firm outlines several instances of alleged fraud by the district treasurer and encumbrance clerk, including:

  • Altered school district checks payable to the treasurer and her relatives;
  • Travel reimbursement for trips not taken;
  • Unapproved fuel charge cards; and
  • Unauthorized purchases, including alcohol and tobacco.

The FBI and U.S. Department of Education are investigating the allegations. Prosecutors are expected to file criminal charges against the pair.

The board questioned Swink Superintendent Mark Bush and officials of Sanders, Bledsoe and Hewett as to why the firm — which has been performing annual audits for the district since at least 2011 — did not find any suspicious activity in the district’s books until this year. Alleged instances of fraud have increased each year, with $7,200 misappropriated in 2010-2011, to $89,600 misappropriated in 2014-2015, according to the audit.

Of 114 school district audits conducted last year by Sanders, Bledsoe and Hewett, all but seven were “clean” and absent of findings. Representatives of the firm told the State Board that irregularities they find are often conveyed in letters to the district instead of in actual audits.

“I have a real problem with audit findings that don’t make their way into the audit,” Hofmeister said. “This is a cautionary tale for other districts around the state. If an audit looks too good to be true, it might be. It is important for administrators and board members to maintain tight controls and ask questions, especially given the fiscal challenges facing our schools.”

In the June 30, 2015, audit, the auditing firm highlights a number of incidents of alleged fraud and makes 10 recommendations for the 164-student district to strengthen internal controls.

Board members voted unanimously to establish a task force comprised of OSDE officials and chaired by board member William Flanagan, a retired certified public accountant and personal financial specialist. The panel will work with officials in the Choctaw County district to strengthen financial oversight. In turn, these recommendations might be worth consideration by school districts across the state.

“Misappropriations of funds is a charge we take very seriously, and we are holding the Swink school district and board members accountable for both the actions of its employees and the auditing firm they hire. We will not sit by and watch tax dollars being stolen from our schoolchildren,” Hofmeister said.

OSDE General Counsel David Kinney, who is also a CPA, consulted with State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones and the Oklahoma Accountancy Board in the department’s review.

McAlester superintendent bought Hillary 2016 gear on school credit card

The Daily Caller has the story.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tulsa schools want you to call a little girl a boy

You may have seen the news last week that two daycare workers in Texas were fired because they refused to call a little girl a boy, even though the girl's two fathers wanted them to.

Now KJRH and News 9 are reporting that Tulsa Public Schools—which is already on record declaring that reality is optional—is moving ahead with staff training on "gender nonconformity" issues.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

No, Hillary, public schools do not 'take everybody'

Robert Pondiscio explains.

Teachers need help with disruptive students

“The behaviors I see from them [students] daily are yelling across the room, cussing at other students, interrupting my instruction, bullying other students," says one Oklahoma City teacher. "I need help. Not just some broad program geared toward general teaching efficacy ... I need help with the specific students and issues I have right now.”

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sexting in schools an increasing problem in Oklahoma

"Sexting in schools is a problem more administrators are seeing, even with kids as young as pre-teens," News 9 reports.
Schools in Canadian County have called the sheriff's office several times about the alarming trend, which includes sexting rings that trade nude pictures like baseball cards. 
Kids as young as 11 and all the way up to high school seniors are sexting, sometimes at school. 
“It happens from home and they bring it into the school, they'll have truth and dare type scenarios where they'll try to do crazy pictures maybe somewhere at school,” said Lt. Adam Flowers with the Canadian County Sheriff's Office. 
Lt. Flowers will not reveal which schools, but he said it is rampant and no longer only involves videos. 
“I've seen videos and pictures that are triple X rated, it's awful,” Lt. Flowers said. 
Now, investigators are seeing rings of activity where kids are swapping nude pictures they have received in exchange for other nudes.

Black voters support school choice

Jason Bedrick has the details.

Plenty of report cards to consult

Some Oklahomans have pronounced the state’s A-F grading system “flawed” and “unfair.” But OCPA president Michael Carnuccio wonders if they have they considered the numerous other report cards available, such as the Nation’s Report Card,,, and GlobalReportCard .org. Surely not all of these reports can be flawed or unfair.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Profit without honor?

"If there’s one thing the government education blob knows it hates, it’s 'profit,'" Greg Forster writes in this month's issue of Perspective. And yet:
What does the education establishment always advocate? More spending. Where does that spending go? A good deal of it goes to for-profit corporations. From textbooks to cafeteria food to school buses, our schools supply the ghouls and vampires of the private sector with billions of dollars of business a year.

OKC teachers 'are being abused physically'

"Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done," one teacher says, "but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors."

Parents have a universal human right to choose the kind of education given to their children

[I was pleased to attend the World Congress of Families (WCF) last week in Salt Lake City, and indeed to speak at a separate policy roundtable event co-sponsored by the American Conservative Union (ACU) and the Sutherland Institute. Below is a press release from the WCF which should be of interest to readers of this blog. —BD]

Brandon Dutcher participated in 
an October 28 panel discussion 
titled “Economic and Social 
Conservatives Must Unite if 
America Is to Save Its Culture: 
The Family Prosperity Initiative." 
Also featured in the policy roundtable 
discussion: OCPA economists Wendy 
Warcholik and Scott Moody, ACU 
executive director Dan Schneider, Kansas 
Gov. Sam Brownback, Wisconsin 
Family Council president Julaine Appling, 
and Iowa state Senator Julian Garrett.
The World Congress of Families (WCF) has asked pro-family advocates around the world to sign an online petition that defends the basic human rights (as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - United Nations, 1948) of every human life from conception to natural death. As the historic Ninth World Congress of Families drew to an end last Friday in Salt Lake City, organizers of the congress were pleased to announce that 17,433 advocates had signed the petition within a week. The online petition was circulated by World Congress of Families partner CitizenGo. Click here to sign the petition.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, and has generally been accepted as the foundation of international human rights. It also represents the commitment of 193 members of the United Nations to basic human rights and fundamental freedoms to all human beings.

"The remarkable amount of signatures this petition has received in such a short period of time is indicative of the importance of human rights and our need to be vigilant in supporting them," said Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director of WCF IX. The WCF is challenging other human rights and civil rights organizations around the world (including Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty International and Southern Poverty Law Center) to sign the pledge and also protect the basic human rights of all people.

Here are a few key points from the UDHR:
  • In Article 3, the UDHR defends the right to life by saying that "everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." 
  • Article 6 says that "everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."
  • Article 18 defends the right to freedom of thought and religion by explaining that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
  • Article 16 unequivocally states that "Family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." Article 16 also states that "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and found a family." 
  • Article 25 states that "motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance," and that "parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given their children." 

'Misleading' report from liberal group 'stretches the truth beyond the breaking point'

"Funded by George Soros and other left-wing heavy hitters, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is an organization with an agenda that includes carbon taxes, death taxes, Obamacare, food stamps, and increasing the minimum wage—the standard liberal fare," OCPA president Michael Carnuccio writes. "The CBPP also favors increased government spending on our monopoly school system, issuing a new report claiming Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education." The CBPP report has been cited extensively in Oklahoma.

"The problem is, the report is highly misleading," Carnuccio explains. Oklahoma Senate boss Brian Bingman was even more forthright. "This report stretches the truth beyond the breaking point," he writes. And OCPA research fellow Steve Anderson explains further why the report is extremely flawed.

Liberal journo: New research has 'certainly put a damper on my enthusiasm for universal pre-K'

Liberal journalist Ezra Klein says a new study should give universal pre-K advocates pause. 

I say it's time to give parents some pre-K choices

Parent removes daughter from Tulsa elementary school after bullying

FOX 23 has the story.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The integration anomaly

In a new study, "The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K–12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools," Dr. Ben Scafidi finds:
  • Neighborhoods are becoming more integrated, while public schools are becoming more segregated.
  • Examination of existing empirical evidence shows school choice increases integration in U.S. schools.

Failing to acknowledge the merits of school choice

"Recently, the Center for Public Education, an arm of the National School Boards Association, released a report on the merits of school choice," James V. Shuls writes. "The paper claims to summarize 'what the research says.' Interestingly, the report fails to include almost every analysis that has found benefits to private school choice programs."

UPDATE: Jason Bedrick adds: "The Center for Public Education does not explain what criteria it used to determine which studies to include in its supposed review of the research on school choice. Hopefully they will respond to Prof. Shuls’ critique by issuing a revised report that is more transparent and thorough––but don’t hold your breath."

Mustang teacher arrested on drug complaints

"I hope the citizens of Canadian County are as outraged as I am that a school teacher had a dope dealer and addict living with her—and selling drugs out of her house," says sheriff Randall Edwards.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Let's enact school choice, not another tax increase

University of Oklahoma president David Boren—who in 2008 endorsed Barack Obama for president, assuring us that Obama was nonpartisan and was committed to ending the divisions in our country—has floated a plan to raise the state sales tax by 22 percent in order to increase government spending on common education and higher education.

Some of us have seen it all before (see chart below) and are in no mood to be fooled by Lucy holding the football again. A better idea is to increase competition in our educational system by creating Education Savings Accounts, as former Oklahoma secretary of commerce Larry Parman writes in an article opposing the Boren tax increase. "Let parents decide how well their child's school is doing and give them the ability to vote with their feet." 

UPDATE: Below is more helpful information on the Boren tax increase, including observations on why it failed.
  • Mr. Parman methodically dissects the Boren plan in this video.
  • Former Gov. Frank Keating, discussing "the Boren proposal making our sales tax the most expensive in the country," asks the question: "For what? Nothing. Nothing. No reform. No private school choice. No rigor. No accountability. Nothing. Just add more money, as if more money will solve a problem. More money doesn’t solve a problem.” 
  • Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb opposes the tax hike and supports school choice.
  • Gov. Mary Fallin voices concerns that a 22 percent tax increase "may cause more people to shop online."
  • OCPA economists Scott Moody and Wendy Warcholik give four reasons the sales tax hike is a bad idea.
  • OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it "poses a serious threat to both conservative governance and the best interests of the state." He says it makes no sense "to force a poor single mom buying groceries to feed her children to pay more in sales tax" so we can further subsidize tuition for the children of millionaires.
  • OCPA trustee John Brock (writing in the Tulsa World and in The Oklahoman) says the proposed sales tax increase “will produce a crop of unattractive economic and political consequences.”
  • OCPA economists Scott Moody and Wendy Warcholik explain how the tax increase would be bad for Oklahoma businesses: 
  • OCPA president Michael Carnuccio says it's incumbent upon school bureaucrats to get rid of bloat before asking taxpayers for more money.
  • An Arkansas economist says Hillary Clinton's penny sales tax for education provides a cautionary tale for Oklahomans.
  • Oklahoma City University officials Steven Agee and Russell Evans say the penny sales tax is not a good solution.
  • When the state "raises the already-high sales tax and absconds with the revenue,” writes OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos, “it cripples the ability of cities … to finance any public improvements or even maintain the level of services.”
  • Though not writing about the Boren tax increase itself, former OU education professor Gary Greene points up all manner of inefficient education spending
  • Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett opposes the Boren tax hike. Gov. Mary Fallin is expressing concerns. Even state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is withholding judgment for now.
  • Oklahoma City Councilman Pete White says of the Boren tax hike, "I don't see how we can tolerate it." He says it "would be devastating to cities and towns throughout Oklahoma." 
  • "Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, in his individual capacity, and the Oklahoma Municipal League filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying the proposal would pose a threat to the public because it would cause the state to have one of the highest sales tax rates in the country," the Tulsa World reports. "'As a result, citizens will be economically burdened and will spend less,' the brief states. 'Oklahoma businesses will see revenues decline and will struggle to survive, as citizens spend less or turn to the Internet for their purchases. New businesses will pause when considering Oklahoma as a business-friendly place to invest.' Cities and towns would see a decline in sales tax revenue, which is their lifeblood, the brief states. The decline would affect the ability to provide services for police, fire, roads and bridges, the brief states."
  • Oklahoma County assessor Leonard Sullivan reminds us that Oklahoma County "would be crippled by a 2 1/2-cent sales tax increase."
  • "Given the onerous requirements the proposal imposes on future legislative appropriations," writes OCPA's Michael Carnuccio, "other core areas of government would be cut significantly to fund the additional spending increases mandated by the proposal."
  • OCPA's Jonathan Small tells Oklahoma Watch and the Associated Press that Oklahoma can increase teacher pay without having to adopt the Boren tax increase.
  • The estimable Tax Foundation says the Boren tax hike would make Oklahoma's combined state and average local sales tax the highest in the country.
  • "We are already being hurt tremendously by Internet sales," says Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett. "This will exacerbate the problem. That is without question."
  • The Oklahoma Municipal League points out that the Boren tax increase could hurt Oklahoma police and firefighters.
  • OCPA president Michael Carnuccio says that with Oklahoma's per-pupil available revenues at an all-time high, it's possible to raise teacher pay without resorting to a 22 percent hike in the state sales tax rate.
  • The Sand Springs City Council has approved a resolution opposing the Boren tax increase.
  • Oklahoma GOP national committeeman Steve Fair says the Boren tax increase is a bad idea.  
  • Is this expenditure more important than teacher pay?
  • At least one Tulsa City Councilor doesn't care for Mr. Boren's "ridiculous, half-cocked solution."
  • Instead of a tax hike, asks state Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Tulsa), "how about some financial transparency and oversight? How about family Education Savings Accounts? Let’s push school choice so children can attend the public or nonprivate school of their choice." 
  • "An initiative petition effort in Oklahoma that would raise the state sales tax to fund various education initiatives also includes language that would strip state legislators of appropriation power, preventing any adjustment to spending for education in down years," The Oklahoman notes. "This means other areas—such as public safety, health and road funding—would face huge budget cuts in times of shortfall. In Mississippi, voters apparently trusted elected lawmakers to handle this job. It will be interesting to see if Oklahoma voters take a similar course, or if they choose to handcuff state policymakers." Looks like it's time for the Takings Coalition to get the band back together.
  • Democratic state Rep. Ben Loring has concerns about the tax. "A sales tax is a regressive tax, in other words, a poor person pays a far higher percentage of their income under a sales tax than anyone else does," he says. Moreover, he says, "if this is passed, I don't foresee the legislature giving any additional moneys to education than what this tax will generate."
  • "I would like to see The Oklahoman ask the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University for a breakdown of their administrative positions with accompanying salaries listed," writes Gary H. Chaffin of Oklahoma City. "I see reports quite frequently of a new position of vice president of this or chancellor of that being created to address some supposed problem. I never see any reports of either school, or any other school for that matter, trying to find ways to save on administration costs. All they ever want is more money! I venture to say the public would be shocked at the number of such positions and the amount of taxpayer money being spent on these salaries. The public should demand this information before even considering another tax." 
  • Dick Soergel of Oklahoma City believes "higher education should present the public with more information," such as "breakdowns of total annual revenue for each of the past 10 years; the student/teacher ratio (including graduate assistants who are teaching many classes); the average salaries of our college professors compared with surrounding states; the average salaries and growth in administrators at our colleges; an analysis of funding the number of colleges and universities versus our tax base, and plans for addressing the liberal bias that is prevalent in our colleges and universities."
  • "OU President David Boren wants a sales tax increase to fund education while loaning a bankrupt technology company over $500,000," writes Dub Whalen of Oklahoma City. "This company was started by an OU professor who holds many valuable patents and works for OU. It's not bad enough that taxpayer money is used to fund private companies under the guise of job creation, but we have state universities in the loan business while continually raising tuition."
  • Tom O'Neill of Edmond says Mr. Boren's "newest request for yet more money for the education empire is an insult to taxpayers.
  • John Harris of Oklahoma City says "when the state gets the number of school districts to a reasonable level and pares the administrators," among other things, "then I will vote more money. Until then, I will reluctantly vote no."
  • The Boren tax increase was defeated by a margin of 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent.
  • "Yet those close to him say—and Boren, himself, acknowledges—that this campaign is about how history will remember him,"
  • A perceptive public school teacher realizes that Higher Ed sunk her pay raise.
  • "It was Boren's effort to mislead voters that ultimately led to the defeat of this state question," Steven C. Agree writes. "Once voters were educated about the issue, and the fact that essentially $400 million of the estimated $615 million in tax revenue would not be going to teacher pay raises, there was an obvious revolt at the ballot box." Agee believes we should be wary of people "who seek to feather their own nest by riding the coattails of our public school teachers."

OKC teachers criticize discipline policies

"Suspensions may be down in the Oklahoma City school district, but hundreds of teachers say bad behavior continues to disrupt learning and little is being done about it," Tim Willert reports in The Oklahoman.
Nearly 90 percent of 836 teachers responding to a union survey say they are responsible for administering the majority of student discipline, despite assurances from district officials that school administrators are spending more time doing interventions. 
Many describe chaotic classroom settings and said they feel like baby sitters who spend more time trying to control defiant students than planning and teaching.

“I have 40 minutes of scheduled (planning) time and 30 minutes of scheduled lunch each day, but rarely get to utilize it because I am dealing with discipline issues,” a teacher said. “This year I have acquired multiple bruises, bite marks and a knot on my head from a student pulling my hair so hard. This is frustrating and makes me feel very helpless.”

Friday, October 23, 2015

Newspaper raps plaintiffs trying to kill special-needs law

If the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program is unconstitutional, The Oklahoman editorializes today, "then state spending to treat the poor at many major hospitals obviously is too, which could throw Oklahoma's health care system into chaos. Let's hope Oklahoma Supreme Court justices demonstrate better reasoning skills than the plaintiffs in this case."

Anti-voucher humdrum from the usual suspects

Former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons has heard it all before.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

Oklahoma graduation rate declines

"High school graduation rates for most states continue to improve, according to preliminary data released Monday by the Obama administration," the Associated Press reports.
The Education Department says preliminary data indicate 36 states saw higher graduation rates for the 2013-2014 school year. The biggest gains were in Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois. 
Five states had declines: Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Government should not penalize parents by making them pay twice

"Because parents have the personal obligation to take care of their own children, no other person can take over their responsibility and corresponding authority," writes Melissa Moschella, an assistant professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America.
Even when parents delegate part of that authority to teachers, doctors, relatives, etc., they remain ultimately responsible. For that reason, parents have not only the responsibility, but also the right, to rear their children in accordance with their consciences. 
When the state requires that children be educated in a way that parents consider harmful or inadequate, the state is preventing parents from fulfilling their obligations, thus violating their conscience rights and potentially damaging the children. It is assumed, of course, that the state considers itself to be acting for the benefit of the child, as in the case of the Romeikes and the Johanssons. But since parents have primary authority over their children, when there is disagreement between parents and state, the state should defer, except in clear and non-controversial cases of abuse, neglect, or threat to public order. ... 
The state also has the right to enact minimal educational regulations with a view to the maintenance of public order. Such regulations assure that all children receive the education that they need to become law-abiding and productive citizens able to participate responsibly in the democratic process. However, the state can and should enact such regulations in a way that supports, rather than undermines, the primacy of parental educational authority. It thus should not impose a particular curriculum, require that all children attend a state-run school, or penalize parents (even financially, by requiring them to pay both school taxes and private school tuition or homeschooling costs) for not sending their children to a school operated by the state.

Legal limbo persists for Henry Scholarship kids

Andrea Eger has the story.

Here's hoping for a good outcome for these kids:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The not-so-subtle ways public schools promote Islam at the expense of Christianity

David French discusses them here.

Parents explain why they don't want choices

Teacher shortage 'crisis'?

"According to Oklahoma State Department of Education statistics obtained by MiddleGround News," Jay Chilton reports, "during the past three school years, the average student-to-teacher ratio has been 14.5-to-1. During the 2012-13 school year there were 14.4 students per certified teacher, in 2013-14 there were 14.7 students per teacher, and in 2014-15 there were 14.6 students per teacher."

Oklahoma testing system ‘designed to hide failure’

Citing a recent report by the journal Education Next, The Oklahoman points out today that Oklahoma's testing system "is designed to hide failure."
Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, states are required to test students in grades three through eight in math and reading. But states set the score required to be deemed “proficient” on those tests. 
For the most part, far lower scores are accepted for proficiency on state tests than on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test. Education Next compared the share of students deemed proficient on state tests with the share ranked that way on NAEP to determine if high standards were employed on state tests. Oklahoma ranked 45th. 
More worrisome, between 2011 and 2013, Education Next found 20 states raised the standard for proficiency on state tests while just eight states lowered standards. Oklahoma was in the latter group. 
Oklahoma families deserve a public school system that combines quality academic standards with valid testing measurement of results—not a system in which failure to meet inferior standards is still deemed a success.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Funding growth, expanding opportunity

Michael Q. McShane recommends some novel funding mechanisms for schools of choice.

Survey: African-American parents emphatically favor school choice

Lennie Jarratt reports that "African-American parents overwhelmingly favor school choice, according to a new nationwide report conducted by Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies (BCRS)."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Oklahoma GOP interim chairman promotes school choice

"Our candidates for the White House are sharing their vision for America," Oklahoma GOP interim chairman Estela Hernandez writes in a blog post today.
One thing that all our candidates agree on is the need for improving education in this country. The best way to improve our student’s success is to allow parents the freedom to choose the educational path that is best for them. 
Our Republican Principles says, "It is the right of every parent to act in their children’s best interest including health decisions and choosing the form of their education, whether at a public school, private school, or homeschool." 
Currently, there is a move by Democrats to institute a sales tax dedicated to education. Before we simply throw more money at the problems of education we need to reform the system. Students who are trapped in underperforming schools must be given the opportunity to succeed. 
We need more solutions and less rhetoric, we must come together as parents, as Republicans, as Oklahomans and work together for a stronger, more efficient education system that offers real solutions and real options. 
OCPA recently released a great video about Republican solutions for education, I encourage you to watch it. 

Four ideas for expanding school choice in Oklahoma

[Guest post by Patrick Gibbons]

Oklahoma already has two private-school choice programs which are making a big difference in the lives of children. Unfortunately, the programs only serve a tiny fraction of Oklahoma students. Here’s how policymakers could help more children.

Expand Tax Credit Scholarships

We know that tax credit scholarships are popular among the voting public. Policymakers should look to improve and expand Oklahoma’s existing program. They should remove the cap on corporate and individual donations so both groups can donate as much as they wish and also increase the total cap above the current $3.5 million, which is a just a tenth of one percent of Oklahoma’s state appropriations for education. Moreover, adding an “escalator” to the cap can allow the program to grow automatically if scholarship organizations raise 90 percent of the funds for the current cap. In addition, offering tiered scholarships based on income level can ensure equity by providing lower-income families with more financial support.

Provide Individual Tax Credits for Education Expenses

Parents paying for private education or home education have to pay twice: once in taxes to support public schools and again for tuition, fees, textbooks, and school supplies. To address some of this unfairness, some states now offer tax credits for these education expenses. Illinois has the largest tax credit program with nearly 300,000 families earning credits up to $500 for educational expenses. [Model legislation for Oklahoma is here.]

Individual tax credits for education expenses are subject to one major criticism: you only get tax credits up to the amount you owe in taxes. Since wealthier families tend to owe the most in taxes, they will get the largest tax credits. Which brings us to the next policy proposal.

Provide Refundable Tax Credits for Private School Expenses

One solution to the problem mentioned above is a refundable tax credit for educational expenses, such as exists in South Carolina. That program allows parents of special-needs children to receive up to $10,000 in tax credits for educational expenses. If the credits exceed your tax bill then you receive a tax refund for the difference. This ensures that the rich aren’t the biggest beneficiary of the program. (However, not all families can afford to wait several months for the refund.)

Create Education Savings Accounts

When Arizona’s special-needs voucher program was declared unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court speculated that a program which allowed parents to choose more than just private schools could be constitutional. Thus, the nation’s first ESA program was born.

With an ESA, the state funds an educational account parents can access to pay tuition, school fees, textbooks, school supplies, curriculum, and therapies. In Florida, for example, parents can even contract out services with charter, virtual, and district public schools. Under ESA programs, reimbursements are reduced from months to weeks, or can be immediate through the use of a debit card.

[Former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons (M.A. in political science, University of Oklahoma) is the public affairs manager at Step Up for Students, an organization providing scholarships for low-income and special-needs schoolchildren in Florida. A former schoolteacher, Gibbons also serves as a research fellow for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.]

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The high-regulation approach to school choice

In a series of blog posts, Professor Jay Greene will discuss why he thinks this approach is mistaken.

Latinos want to talk about education more than immigration

Seven out of 10 Latinos support some of type of school choice, Julio Fuentes writes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Educational choice is a pro-family policy

"At the root of our education debates is a debate about the family," Greg Forster writes in the October issue of Perspective.
The government school monopoly is one of the most important factors undermining the family unit; universal school choice would be a big step toward strengthening it. 
I encourage you to read the entire article here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Norman adds trauma counselors to high school staffs

The Oklahoman has the story.

OKC teacher says she fears for her safety

"A middle school counselor in the Oklahoma City district says she fears for her safety and that of teachers after a student who tried to hit her with a pole was suspended for only two days," Tim Willert reports in The Oklahoman.
Meanwhile, a veteran teacher who recently resigned says student conduct at Upper Greystone Elementary School is "worse than ever" because the district is reluctant to issue suspensions. 
"When students know they can do anything they want and not be suspended they're going to do it," the ex-teacher said. "We can't fault them for that because kids need parameters and guidance and consequences. I think it's very difficult for them to receive that given the current circumstances at Upper Greystone." 
The counselor, Regina Sims, said the incident occurred Wednesday when she was left alone with the boy, who she characterized as violent, in the office of Roosevelt Middle School Principal David Clark. She said Clark had just left to attend to another matter when Sims said the boy swung the metal pole at her. 
"To be honest, I was left in an unsafe situation," she said. "I don't want to go back to Roosevelt because what happened to me is very unsettling." 
In the other case, the former teacher, who requested anonymity because of fear of retribution, said several Upper Greystone teachers have resigned since school started Aug. 3. 
"The class sizes are very large and the behavior is the worst I've ever seen," the ex-teacher said. "There are some people who have worked there a lot longer than (I did) who feel very hopeless and helpless." 
The district said two teachers have resigned from Upper Greystone since the first day of school. The former teacher, who has since changed professions, accused Superintendent Rob Neu of "bullying principals into lowering suspension rates." 
"The kids know there are no ramifications for their behavior," the ex-teacher said. 
Oklahoma City Public Schools spokesman Mark Myers said the allegation made by the ex-teacher "is false."
You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Oklahoma teacher allegedly calls being left-handed 'evil' and 'sinister'

Does this teacher deserve to benefit from an across-the-board pay raise?

Trump: Public school monopoly should 'set off antitrust alarm bells'

Photo credit: Albert H. Teich /

In his book The America We Deserve (Renaissance Books, 2000), Donald Trump made some excellent points about parental choice in education (HT: Shane Vander Hart):
Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall. Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us. With more than 85 percent of their soft-money donations going to Democrats, teachers’ unions know they can count on the politician they back to take a strong stand against school choice. 
Our public schools are capable of providing a more competitive product than they do today. Look at some of the high school tests from earlier in this century and you’ll wonder if they weren’t college-level tests. And we’ve got to bring on the competition—open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. 
Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way. ... 
Defenders of the status quo insist that parental choice means the end of public schools. Let’s look at the facts. Right now, nine of 10 children attend public schools. If you look at public education as a business—and with nearly $300 billion spent each year on K-through-12 education, it’s a very big business indeed—it would set off every antitrust alarm bell at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. When teachers’ unions say even the most minuscule program allowing school choice is a mortal threat, they’re saying: If we aren’t allowed to keep 90 percent of the market, we can’t survive. When Bell Telephone had 90 percent of the market, a federal judge broke it up. 
Who’s better off? The kids who use vouchers to go to the school of their choice, or the ones who choose to stay in public school? All of them. That’s the way it works in a competitive system.

Correcting misinformation on school choice

Martin F. Lueken does some mythbusting.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Republicans embrace parental choice in education

Ronald Reagan supported school choice. So do GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Rick Santorum. 

Other choice supporters include Senator James Lankford, Congressman Steve Russell, Congressman Jim Bridenstine, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and more:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Students are the new inmates in the American police state

"In the American police state," attorney John W. Whitehead writes, "you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.)."
Microcosms of the police state, America’s public schools contain almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.” 
From the moment a child enters one of the nation’s 98,000 public schools to the moment she graduates, she will be exposed to a steady diet of draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech, school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students, standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking, politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them, and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement. 
If your child is fortunate enough to survive his encounter with the public schools, you should count yourself fortunate.

Employment outcomes for ed-school graduates

The state's largest newspaper today discusses a new report from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education documenting the employment outcomes of Oklahoma college graduates.
After one year, a college graduate with a bachelor's degree in education earned $37,511, on average. That was more than a student with a degree in architecture ($29,798), business management and administrative services ($32,744), communications ($22,430), biological sciences ($17,682), mathematics ($26,565) and psychology ($19,443). 
Overall, the average first-year salary for those with education degrees was greater than the pay received by individuals in all but five of 32 degree fields. The exceptions were computer and information sciences, engineering, engineering technologies, mechanics and repairers, and health professions. 
The regents also found that 95 percent of Oklahoma-resident, education-degree graduates were employed within one year. That was the highest employment rate for all fields reviewed. 
In short, the report found Oklahoma graduates with a bachelor's degree in education were more likely to find employment, and immediately paid more money, than many counterparts. That bucks the stereotype, yet this doesn't mean all is well.
Read the whole thing here.

Young child goes missing from Tulsa school

KRMG has the story.

Republicans ♥ parental choice

The Republican party platforms, both nationally and in Oklahoma, place a strong emphasis on parental rights and educational choice. Here's an excerpt from the 2012 national Republican platform:
Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to education and [we] support providing broad education choices to parents and children ...

Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a personal and cultural identity. That is why education choice has expanded so vigorously. It is also why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have not succeeded, but they have done immense damage. …

School choice — whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits — is important for all children, especially for families with children trapped in failing schools. Getting those youngsters into decent learning environments and helping them to realize their full potential is the greatest civil rights challenge of our time.

A young person’s ability to achieve in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, zip code, or economic status.
The Oklahoma Republican Party platform also picks up on this theme of family preeminence:
We believe that the family is the cohesive element that maintains social order and protects individual rights. The duty and privilege of nurturing our young people belongs to parents and the traditional family. We support the sole right and responsibility of parents to rear, educate, discipline, nurture, provide healthcare, and spiritually train their children without government interference.

It is the right and responsibility of parents to direct their children’s upbringing and education — whether public, private, charter, or home school — without interference, regulation, or penalty from the government. … [W]e support the creation of a free-market education system. … We believe all parents should be allowed to use their education tax dollars for the family’s choice of schooling.

Moore students fighting in bathrooms, hallways, classrooms

"An alarming video showing kids fighting inside school has parents concerned," News 9 reports.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

With education spending at all-time high, House Speaker calls out administrative bloat

"Total funding for Oklahoma schools during the 2013-14 academic year reached nearly $5.5 billion, an all-time high," Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman writes today in The Oklahoman.
So why don't Oklahoma's local school districts just pay more? A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education shows it may be because local school boards have committed a growing percentage of their funding to salaries and benefits for administrative and nonteaching staff. 
Between 1992 and 2013, enrollment in Oklahoma schools increased by 14 percent while the number of teachers increased by 11 percent. Administrative and nonteaching staff increased by more than 33 percent. If nonteaching staff had increased at only the same rate as enrollment, Oklahoma schools would have nearly $300 million more available annually to pay teachers higher salaries. ... 
Oklahoma taxpayers are doing their part, providing the resources necessary for a quality education system that can competitively attract great teachers and lessen the impact of the national teacher shortage on our children. It's time for the Legislature to ensure school districts get those hard-earned dollars where they are needed.