Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why are Tulsa school employees staying at the Venetian in Las Vegas?

Tulsa Public Schools officials would certainly have you believe that money was tight in the 2013-14 school year. Since that was the case, Steve Gunn asks, "how did district officials justify spending $223,887 on hotel lodging for employees that year, or $158,174 on air fare and other forms of transportation?"

The Tulsa district had 241 separate transactions in 2013-14 for accommodations at hotels throughout the nation, done mostly through Commercial Card Services. 

Some of the trips got pretty pricey, and involved stays at some pretty swanky hotels. A total of $2,722 was spent on four nights at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Another $3,394 went for five nights at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. 

Seven staffers went to the National Title 1 Conference in San Diego. Six of them apparently stayed at one hotel for $5,700 while one stayed at another for $1,130.

The district spent $5,216 on lodging for three staffers for three nights in New York. It also spent $3,609 for school board members to attend a National School Board Association event. 

Yet another $4,943 was spent for 13 staffers to spend one night apiece at the Wyndham Jade Hotel in Orlando. That equates to nearly $400 per employee. Were there any decent hotels around that charged less than that? 

Then there was the trip New Orleans for 11 employees to spend three nights, at a cost of $9,114. 

Those are just a few of the many pricey trips taken by school employees in 2013-14.
District records also show transactions for 163 transportation-related transactions, mostly for air fare, that year. 

Most of the hotel stays and transportation costs appear to be for staff members attending various types of educational conferences. Obviously educators benefit, to one degree or another, from attending conferences and networking with other educators. But the fact is that professional development is becoming much more accessible online all the time, at a fraction of the cost that it takes to travel. 

Was that fact considered in Tulsa? 

Even if much of the district’s travel was funded through grants – which is the case in many school districts – the spending is still questionable. 

If the feds want to give school districts that kind of money, they should allow school officials to spend it on their most pressing needs – which apparently have been many in the Tulsa district lately – rather than mandating year after year of expensive travel.

Student threatened with gun at Pauls Valley High School

KOCO has the story.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Educational freedom wiki

Great new resource from Cato here.

Progressive 'fairness'

"I am a stay-at-home, home-schooling mother of five," Kay Buccola of Kenmore, Washington, writes in a letter published today in The Wall Street Journal.
Though we relieve the public schools of five charges, we still are heavily taxed for them. Though I am not paid to teach, we fund the salary of others’ teachers. Though we pay for our own lessons, sports and books, our taxes pay for those for others. Though we require no day care, we are taxed to subsidize others’ day care. Though we feed our own children, we pay for others’ school lunches. 

To afford all of these obligatory donations, my husband works two jobs. And now President Obama asks us to carry more of a tax load so that working mothers can be relieved of some taxes, while we help educate their children. And this is “fairness”?

Well said, Mrs. Buccola. You remind me of another homeschooling mother I know.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Legislation seeks to curtail sexual abuse of students

State Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) has proposed legislation which would require school districts to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the state, Lisa Monahan reports for News 9.
If Senate Bill 301 becomes law, the [state board of education] would be afforded a full-time investigator to look into sexual misconduct allegations. A teacher proven to be involved in an inappropriate relationship with a student would be flagged statewide, and have his or her teaching license revoked.

"We want to make sure a person hasn't been moving around the state molesting or having sex with children," said Loveless.

And if you think this isn't a problem in Oklahoma, I would suggest you haven't been paying attention

Common Core, bullying spur homeschool growth in Tahlequah

Homeschooling is growing in the Tahlequah area, Cathy Spaulding reports in the Muskogee Phoenix. She quotes Tavia Fuller Armstrong of the Tahlequah homeschool group as saying her organization's membership has tripled in the last six months.
“A lot has to do with the Common Core,” Armstrong said, referring to a controversial curriculum that supporters say promotes rigor and higher-level thinking skills. Critics, however, have said Common Core Curriculum encourages cross-cultural relativism and sloppy conceptual thinking.
The Oklahoma Legislature repealed the state’s Common Core math and English curricula in 2014, mandating that new standards be prepared. 
Armstrong said people continue to be concerned about Common Core influence, even with its repeal. “The textbooks have already changed,” Armstrong said. 
Parents also are concerned about bullying in schools, she said.
Armstrong said School Choice Week is not about opposing public education. “We encourage parents to have the best options to pick for their children — public school, virtual school, private school, or home school,” she said.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Investigators say Okla. teacher had sex with student in teachers' lounge

"An Oklahoma high school teacher who teaches seventh grade and high school classes in marriage and child care has been charged with felony second-degree rape after police said she admitted having sex with a student," Jessica Miller reports. "At least two of the instances of sexual intercourse are said to have occurred in the school's teacher's lounge, investigators say."

Having sex with students is a no-no, of course, but sadly it's not at all surprising. What caught my eye in this particular story was the teacher's poor spelling ability:
I have made a horrible mistake. I have let my judgement faulter and I am embarrassed and mortified for the deasions I have made in the last two weeks.

OEA has lost almost one-fifth of its membership over the last 10 years

The Oklahoma Education Association has lost almost one-fifth of its membership over the last 10 years, Mike Antonucci reports. The OEA's total membership is now 22,307, which is down 925 from the previous year.
It's also worth remembering that the OEA just lost "November's most important election."

Wesleyan Christian School student receives OSF scholarship

Rocky Clark, superintendent of Wesleyan Christian School in Bartlesville, receives a scholarship check from Charlie Daniels, vice president of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, as WCS development director Jan Boomer (left), state Representatives Earl Sears and Travis Dunlap, and state Senator John Ford look on. 

Wesleyan Christian School in Bartlesville received a $3,500 scholarship check this week from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF).

“We’re excited to get this scholarship,” said Rocky Clark, Wesleyan Christian School superintendent. “It will go to a student who couldn’t have enrolled at our school without it. He’s an honors student, and is active in sports and fine arts. This scholarship will really help him.”

Jan Boomer, the schools's director of development, says OSF scholarships will allow more lower-income students to attend Wesleyan Christian. “Wesleyan Christian now has over 320 students, pre-K though 12,” she said. “It provides a safe, Christian learning environment and excellent academics. Our average ACT score last year was 26.”

Boomer and OSF vice president Charlie Daniels expressed gratitude to state Senator John Ford and state Representative Earl Sears for supporting legislation in 2011 that enabled the creation scholarship-granting organizations like OSF.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Democratic polling firm finds Americans support school choice

According to a new national poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Beck Research, nearly 70 percent of Americans support school choice. Here's the text of one of the questions:
Generally speaking, would you say you favor or oppose the concept of school choice? School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs.

Fully 69 percent say they support school choice, while just 27 percent oppose. Read the American Federation for Children news release and the entire survey here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lawton families to discuss homeschooling

Here's the text of news release provided today by the folks at National School Choice Week:

Homeschooling families from across the Lawton area will gather to provide more information to parents about their educational choices available for their children on Thursday, January 29, 2015, organizers announced today. This event is timed to coincide with National School Choice Week 2015.

Families will gather at the Lawton Public Library from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. After the meeting and discussion, parents will be able to visit open houses of homeschool co-ops and classes.

The event will include a discussion of Oklahoma homeschooling laws; national, state, and local resources; learning styles and homeschooling methods; and curriculum, sports, and socialization.

"We look forward to connecting Lawton families with the best resources possible for their homeschooling education," said Kirsten Belh, homeschooling leader. "We look forward to celebrating the freedom for families to choose how to educate their children and the resources our community can offer any family that chooses homeschooling."

The event is jointly sponsored by Classical Conversations of Lawton, Lawton Christian Home Educators, and Lawton/Fort Sill Homeschool Association.

National School Choice Week (January 25 – 31, 2015) will be America's largest-ever celebration of opportunity in education. Featuring more than 11,000 independently organized events across all 50 states, the Week shines a positive spotlight on effective education options for children. National School Choice Week is independent, nonpolitical, and nonpartisan, and embraces all types of educational choice – from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

MLK III: Education ‘must be born anew’

Martin Luther King III
Jabar Shumate, a former Democratic state senator from Tulsa, likes to say that ensuring a quality education for all children is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. I believe he's right, and it's a point I stressed in 2009 when I served on the Oklahoma State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

"It is no secret that public education in this country is in trouble," civil-rights activist Martin Luther King III once told me in a written interview. "For poor children and children of color the problem of equal access to quality education is magnified. ... America's educational systems are wholly lacking in preparing our youth for the 21st century, and accordingly, must be born anew."

Mr. King, whose father's birth we celebrate next week, supports tax credits for donations to K-12 scholarship organizations because he believes we must "increase equal access to private education."

"Education is the key to freedom and opportunity," Mr. King said. "We basically have one supplier, the public education system, and it has become a huge bureaucracy. This bureaucracy has to be challenged. Fairness demands that every child, not just the rich, has access to an education that will help them achieve their dreams."

Oklahoma State Advisory Committee of the
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ESA can help autistic child

MLK motivates educational-freedom fighter

Talking school choice in New Orleans with
school-choice heroine Virginia Walden Ford
Virginia Walden Ford was one of the first black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock after desegregation.

"My own journey — to provide an opportunity for quality education for all children — began in Little Rock, Arkansas," she recalls
It continued in Washington, D.C., and has now brought me full circle back to Little Rock to stand with parents so that all children can have the chance for a great education."
In 1957, Little Rock’s Central High School became the center of the struggle for educational opportunity. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had blocked black students from entering Central High. President Eisenhower sent in soldiers from 101st Airborne to escort nine black students to their school. The controversy continued, and the school closed the following year.
A few years later, my twin sister and I were among the first black students to enter Central High in the wake of the controversy. My father became the first black assistant superintendent of the Little Rock public school system.
The pursuit of educational excellence and opportunity runs deep in my family.
Years later, as a mother living in Washington, D.C., I became involved in the fight for school choice in our nation’s capital. A private scholarship became a lifeline for my son, and I wanted other families to have the same opportunity. In 2003, that dream became a reality with the passage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP).
Rereading “I Have a Dream,” the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered on August 28, 1963, I thought of my days at Central High and how that option made such a big difference in my life. It was an incredible school that offered the tools I needed to move forward successfully.
In the years I have fought for educational freedom for American children, much of Dr. King’s speech has resonated in my mind. This week, as we remember how proud we all were that day, I have reaffirmed my commitment to school choice and call on all Americans to do the same.
Mrs. Walden Ford is a founding member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the author of Voices, Choices, and Second Chances: How to Win the Battle to Bring Opportunity Scholarships to Your State. I'm pleased to say that we have brought such scholarships — whether state-funded or privately funded — to the state of Oklahoma on a limited basis. But we still have a long way to go to ensure that every child in Oklahoma has an opportunity to receive an effective education that prepares them for life.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oklahoma teacher sent to prison in rape case

"A former English teacher at Kellyville High School was sentenced Monday to a year in the state Department of Corrections for second-degree rape," The Oklahoman reports.

Friday, January 9, 2015

'Letting education and religion overlap'

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Robert Maranto and Dirk C. Van Raemdonck say expanding vouchers to include parochial schools is a good idea.

Winning friends and influencing people

The Tahlequah Daily Press criticizes "worthless" "bozos" in the state legislature who are "wetting all over themselves."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Former Democratic state Sen. Jabar Shumate joins Oklahoma Federation for Children

Jabar Shumate
The Oklahoma Federation for Children, a state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, announced in a news release today that former state Sen. Jabar Shumate (D-Tulsa) is joining the staff as Director of Legislative Affairs and State Director for Oklahoma. 

Shumate resigned from the Oklahoma Senate at the beginning of the year to take on promoting school choice policies in the state full-time.

“We are thrilled to have such a dedicated ally and experienced legislator join our Oklahoma team,” said Bob Sullivan, co-chair of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. “Jabar is committed to extending educational options and choice to every child in Oklahoma, and we are excited that he is joining our efforts to give every child regardless of their background the opportunity to learn in a high-quality setting.”

“Jabar has been a champion for school choice throughout his time in office and we are excited to have him continue to work with us as a member of our staff,” said Russell Perry, co-chair of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. “His hard work and dedication to providing students the opportunity to go to the school that best suits their needs is inspiring and he will be a great addition to the team.”

Since 2012, Shumate served as a Democratic Senator for Oklahoma’s 11th Senate District. He has been an advocate and champion for educational choice throughout his term, and has authored and introduced numerous education bills to the Oklahoma State Senate. Shumate’s legislative experience and keen political insight will be tremendous asset in Oklahoma and throughout the country. Featured at several national conferences, Shumate is a sought-after speaker in the ed reform community who has addressed legislative leaders throughout the country about the need to break down barriers to educational choice.

The Oklahoma Federation for Children is chaired by Bob Sullivan of Tulsa and Russell Perry of Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Federation for Children works to increase the array and quality of K-12 educational options available to Oklahoma’s children.

The Oklahoma Federation for Children is a state-based project of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A couple of good teacher union quotes ...

... courtesy of Mike Antonucci:
  • "Unions are disingenuous when they claim to represent the interests of the students. That’s not what they were created to do and is not what they are paid by their members to do."
    • Harrison Blackmond, Michigan state director of Democrats for Education Reform and former UniServ director and staff attorney for the Michigan Education Association
  • "I didn’t think it could get worse, but right now I think it’s just as bad as it’s ever been. People don’t want to believe that the unions are constructive, just generally."
    • Susan Moore Johnson, a research professor at Harvard’s graduate school of education, discussing the public image of teachers’ unions

ESA can help boy with cerebral palsy

The cruelty of low expectations

"I believe it is cruel to allow students to graduate and find they can't enter college without having to retake many courses they already took in high school or to be turned down for a job because their math and reading skills are still on a sixth-grade level," state Superintendent Janet Barresi writes in the Tulsa World.
Oklahoma students are underperforming their peers both nationally and internationally. National Assessment of Educational Progress scores indicate that only one-fourth of Oklahoma’s eighth-graders are proficient in math and 29 percent are proficient in reading. ACT results show that only 35 percent of Oklahoma high school students who took the test are ready for college-level math or science. Finally, college remediation rates have hovered for years around 40 percent.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top teachers become multimillionaires

"I think one of the benefits of private education is that teachers compete with each other," says a millionaire teacher quoted in this Washington Post story.

Friday, January 2, 2015

'Many Oklahoma teachers are entering the profession insufficiently prepared'

"Officials have warned that Oklahoma faces a teacher shortage since many schools struggle to fill all positions with qualified individuals," The Oklahoman notes today in an editorial. "Now a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality highlights another problem: Many Oklahoma teachers are entering the profession insufficiently prepared."
Notably, the report stresses the need for Oklahoma to better prepare teachers to help struggling readers at all levels, from elementary through high school. The council specifically recommends that new elementary teachers be required to “pass a rigorous test of reading instruction in order to attain licensure.” ...
The report also warns of shortcomings in math instruction. In elementary schools, it suggests that Oklahoma officials require prospective teachers to achieve “separate, meaningful passing scores for each core subject” including math. Currently, the report notes, “A candidate may achieve a passing score and still be seriously deficient in a particular subject area."
In high school, the report warns Oklahoma’s teacher certification process can allow unqualified individuals to teach high-level courses. Teachers currently take a general science assessment that combines biology, chemistry and physics; the test doesn’t provide separate scores for each area. Thus, the council notes, “candidates could answer many — perhaps all — chemistry questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach chemistry to high school students.” ...
It’s often noted that teacher salaries in Texas are higher than in Oklahoma. But it appears the bar for entering the teaching profession in Texas is also higher. Thus, simply raising teacher pay in Oklahoma won’t close the education gap with Texas. It seems the teacher challenges facing Oklahoma schools aren’t simply a matter of quantity, but also quality.

OCPA economist looks at teacher shortages

In Oklahoma's public education system, Wendy Warcholik writes in the Tulsa World, "the consumer is certainly not empowered to effectively solve the shortage problem, especially when it is beneficial for the establishment to make policy decisions that create these so-called shortages. The only real solution is to break up the monopoly by expanding school-choice opportunities."