Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to fix public schools

The question is often asked, “How do we fix public schools?”

Dr. Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas, has an innovative answer: “We can fix schools by going around them.”

“We can expand access to other educational options, including charter schools, voucher schools, tax-credit schools, ESAs, digital schooling, home-schooling, and hybrid schools,” he says. “We can also expand access to enriching non-school activities, like museums, theaters, historical sites, summer camps, and after-school programs.”

“Reformers should concentrate their energy on all of these non-traditional-school efforts and stop trying so hard to fix traditional public schools.”

Stop trying to fix traditional public schools? Why would he say such a thing?

Well, “the main reason we should stop focusing on fixing traditional public schools is that, for the most part, they don’t want to be fixed,” he says. “The people who make their living off of those schools have reasons for wanting schools to be as they are and have enormous political resources to fend off efforts to fundamentally change things.”

Professor Greene, who earned his Ph.D. in political science at Harvard, argues that “trying to impose reforms like merit pay, centralized systems of teacher evaluation, new standards, new curriculum, new pedagogy, etc. on unwilling schools is largely a futile exercise. They have the political resources to block, dilute, or co-opt these efforts in most instances.”

The best way to fix traditional public schools is to give parents more educational options. Because the truth is that school choice improves public schools. Repeat: school choice improves public schools.

Dr. Greg Forster, who agrees that we should fix public schools by not fixing them, recently surveyed the empirical research on school choice. He found that “23 empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools.”

Giving parents more options really shouldn’t be controversial. After all, as Professor Greene has perceptively noted, in a free society the government rightly defers to parents when it comes to raising their children. And since education is simply a subcategory of parenting, the government should defer to parents when it comes to educating their children.

In the end, “public education” is not about propping up a monopoly. The goal of public education is an educated public—regardless of where that education takes place. Oklahoma parents should be empowered to choose among various delivery mechanisms.

Professor Greene acknowledges that his recommendation to fix schools by not fixing schools “sounds like abandoning the millions of children who remain in those schools”—but he says that is not the case.

“Just as starving children in Africa are not helped by our finishing all of the food on our plates, our futile efforts to impose centralized quick-fixes do not actually help those millions in traditional public schools. The measure of a desirable reform should not be the extent to which it makes us feel like at least we are trying, even if those efforts are counter-productive.”

In the end, it is parents—not government officials—who have the moral right to determine a child’s path. Let’s empower parents with educational choices, so that every child has an opportunity to receive an effective education that prepares them for life.

Choctaw High School teacher arrested on rape complaint has the story.

There is no teacher shortage in Oklahoma

Gallup tells us that Americans' confidence in the media's ability to report the news "fully, accurately, and fairly" is at an all-time low. One reason for this is that too many reporters, rather than writing for their customers, are simply doing conventional center-left stenography for their sources (often sources in government). Reporters on the education beat are particularly prone to this, as witness the steady drumbeat of uncritical reporting about Oklahoma's "teacher shortage."

Unlike many reporters, Andrew Spiropoulos has seen it all before and is not swept up in the teacher-shortage alarmism. Spiropoulos is the Robert S. Kerr Senior Professor of Constitutional Law at Oklahoma City University and a former senior counselor to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Oklahoma. As he writes today in The Journal Record,
A classic move of the partisan policy wonk is to stake your argument on a number that, to the uninformed, sounds impressive, but, once seen in the proper context, leads sensible people to reach the opposite conclusion. For example, 800 state teacher openings sounds high, but not when you know there are more than 40,000 Oklahoma public school teachers. Similarly, reading that there were 100 openings in Tulsa on July 30 causes concern, but when compared to the district’s nearly 3,000 teachers, you understand that it reflects a reasonable vacancy rate. Look, in any organization, you are going to have turnover. Some people retire, and others will resign, often at the last minute. Life refuses to adhere to the calendar, even the school one. 
The critical fact ignored or concealed by the myth makers is that each year Oklahoma teacher education programs produce many more new teachers than the number of open jobs. (Annually, the United States produces two-and-a-half times the number of new teachers it needs—and our state produces even more of a surplus.) Indeed, one of the principal reasons for low teacher salaries in Oklahoma, and elsewhere, is the glut of teachers on the market. 
The real problem with mythological arguments is that relying on them leads to poor public policy choices. There’s no doubt that there are some positions that, no matter how large the teacher surplus, are difficult to fill. Teachers fight over positions in the suburbs, but avoid troubled urban schools and isolated rural ones. Teachers with particular skills, including training in special and bilingual education, as well as those with real math and science degrees, are in high demand. We don’t need to raise the salaries of all teachers to reduce vacancies—we need to target our resources toward recruiting the teachers we really need.
I encourage you to read his entire article here. And while you're at it, check out Greg Forster's latest article for OCPA. "As for the so-called teacher shortage," he writes, "the unions have been inventing stories about a teacher shortage consistently for decades. The number of teachers can go up or down, it doesn’t matter; there’s always a shortage. If so, the best thing we can do is move students out of public schools, where the teaching profession is stymied by numerous union-backed barriers to entry, and into private schools that are free to hire talented young people into the profession."

Or as OCPA economist Wendy Warcholik recently argued in the Tulsa World, "the only real solution is to break up the monopoly by expanding school-choice opportunities."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

School choice mythbusting (cont'd)

"For 13 years, I've been a researcher in the school choice movement, and from day one the most important part of the job has been mythbusting," Greg Forster writes in the new issue of Perspective. "Ask any other researcher in this field and he’ll say the same. There’s no other issue in American politics where one side has built its case so thoroughly upon untrue factual statements. It seems like no media story on this topic can get by without repeating these myths as facts. It never stops."

Because the myths never stop ("public schools welcome all children," for example, and "the research on school vouchers is mixed")—and because it's been a while since Jay Greene and Marcus Winters last did some mythbusting in Oklahoma—Forster's contribution is most welcome. I encourage you to read it here.

Let's foster better education

"If Oklahoma is going to adopt sweeping reforms to serve foster children better," Greg Forster writes, "it shouldn't just think about homes. It should think about schools. As state policymakers scrounge to find $150 million to implement a proposed plan to reform the foster care system, they should also implement a policy which would actually save money. By doing so, they could revolutionize life for some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children."

Tulsa mother of hearing-impaired child grateful for scholarship

"Life in Tulsa is hectic for single mom Laura Jones and her son, Manuel," Dacia Harris writes over at the OCPA blog.
Like any six-year-old, Manuel enjoys playing outside and learning to ride the new bike he got for Christmas. In the evening, they read stories and Manuel is starting to pick out words.  
When Manuel was born early he spent a week in the NICU, so Laura took 12 weeks off from her job as a special education teacher at a local public school, where she works with kids who have a hearing loss. After Manuel failed his newborn hearing screening, Laura thought, "No … I work with kids that have a hearing loss. My child doesn’t have a hearing loss. He just failed it because he was in the NICU." The family went back for two more hearing screenings to confirm the diagnosis, and when he was four months old Manuel got his first set of hearing aids.  
Today, Manuel’s receptive and expressive language skills are on par with any other kindergartner. But instead of attending the local public school—where he would be in a larger class with more distractions and background noise—Manuel receives funding from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund to attend Happy Hands Education Center, a center for families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing and children who have other communication disorders. These scholarships are made possible by a 2011 measure passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.  
 "It was nice to know that there was something that could assist me as a single mom," Laura says. "Happy Hands doesn't turn anyone away due to inability to pay, but that there was another organization that would contribute to help Manuel's education was a blessing." 
 Hear more from Laura and some other grateful parents in this brief video:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mindless fallacies about accountability

Economist John Merrifield has no patience for the persistent fallacy that accountability to political authority is the only kind of accountability.

Luther band director resigns amid allegations

News 9 has the story.

Jeffersonian Project supports charter school expansion

[Below is the text of an issue alert distributed yesterday by The Jeffersonian Project, the 501(c)(4) affiliate of the American Legislative Exchange Council.]
To:          Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives 
From:     The Jeffersonian Project 
Re:          Please Support HB 1696

This week, the Oklahoma House will consider House Bill 1696, which allows the cities of Oklahoma City and Tulsa to authorize charter schools. Each municipality may only authorize a charter school inside their own inner-city school district and within their own city limits. This bill is specific to Oklahoma City and Tulsa public school districts and provides students in some of the lowest-performing schools additional school choice opportunities.

Any charter authorized by Oklahoma City or Tulsa is subject to a veto by the people of the school district. The bill is permissive only, and the cities do not have to exercise the new power. All potential charters are still subject to the reforms and accountability measures recently included in Senate Bill 782, which expanded charter opportunities outside Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but did not significantly expand charter opportunities in the inner cities. 
The Jeffersonian Project recognizes there should be a variety of institutions that can authorize the establishment of charter schools and that independent but publicly accountable multiple authorizing authorities—such as the cities of Oklahoma City and Tulsa—contribute to the health and growth of strong public charter schools and thriving economies.

Therefore, the purpose of this bill is to establish the cities of Oklahoma City and Tulsa as potential charter school authorizers in addition to other authorizers already defined in law.

Additionally, this bill provides the people of a community with ultimate oversight by providing the authority to fully veto a charter. There is no fiscal impact to HB 1696. HB 1696 passed the Senate on April 22 by a vote of 38 to 6. 
In accordance with the model policies of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Jeffersonian Project supports HB 1696.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Oklahoma mother raising bullying awareness after student attempts suicide

This photo, taken Jan. 24, 2012, shows a billboard in Edmond, Okla.

"A little girl's on the road to recovery after trying to take her life in the walls of her own middle school," Adam Snider reports for KFOR. "Her mother says it was bullying that pushed her daughter too far."

Every last dime

Remarking on the amicus brief Oklahoma's public school administrators filed in support of the lawsuit seeking to wipe out the state’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for Children with Disabilities, law professor Andrew C. Spiropoulos says they "have let a narrow and poorly conceived view of their self-interest cloud both their judgment and conscience."
If you read their brief, it’s clear that what they are most concerned about isn't the constitution or the welfare of the children in the program. Their first sentence of their argument is a complaint that the cost of the scholarships is deducted from the total amount of state public education funding. What really matters to them is making sure they swoop up every last dime of taxpayer money. 
What's interesting about their argument is that, despite their obsession with funding levels, they never mention how much the scholarship program costs. This year, out of nearly 700,000 public school students, only 384 receive Henry scholarships. ... Henry scholarships aren't a burden—they’re a rounding error. Although the cost to schools is insignificant, the benefit to the recipient families and the state is too great to be measured. ... 
The school leaders must, and do, argue that the state receives no benefit when it assists parents to obtain the best education for their children. So when a family, whose child was bullied at the public school, frequently leaving her in tears and dreading the day, can now afford a new school where she laughs and learns, our state doesn’t benefit. So when a child, who in her previous school remained silent and impassive, now comes to life, makes friends and reads beyond grade level, the state received no value for its money. 
Fortunately, the rest of us know that we are all better off when the government empowers parents to find the right school for their children. 
I encourage you to read his entire column here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The most popular TED talk of all time

Sir Ken Robinson's talk has more than 32 million views so far.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mid-Del school bus driver arrested after multiple accidents

"The driver of a Midwest City-Del City school bus was arrested Monday on complaints of driving under the influence of drugs and leaving the scene of multiple accidents," The Oklahoman reports.

Choice spurs public school improvement

"We're in a different era in education," Jeff Eakins, the incoming superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools recently told the Tampa Bay Times.
The earth underneath us has shifted. We're not the only game in town. Twenty-five years ago the Hillsborough County Public Schools were the only game in town. Right now parents every single day, they have the choice that they can make and we have to know that, and they can make it with one bad experience. We have to make sure that the parents who choose to send their kids to our schools, that that choice is trusted and that we reciprocate that trust.
This, of course, makes perfect sense. Competition forces everyone to bring their "A" game. As a Muskogee Public Schools official said in 2010, the enactment of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program should serve as a challenge for public education "to continue meeting the needs of the students and provide good services."

What we know instinctively and anecdotally is also borne out by the empirical evidence. "Twenty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools," Dr. Greg Forster found. "Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oklahoma's premise: private schools at public expense

"A program that pays the tuition at any Oklahoma public college or university for qualifying students took center stage at the state Capitol this week," Kathryn McNutt reports in a front-page story today in The Oklahoman ("Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program important to state's future, supporters say").

State Rep. Justin Wood, R-Shawnee, is featured in the article as one of the program's notable success stories. Rep. Wood rightly says Oklahoma’s Promise is a "life-changing intervention in a young person's life."

The program also pays for a portion of tuition at private colleges and universities. In other words, Oklahoma's Promise is, among other things, a private-school voucher program. As it should be. Restricting higher-education subsidies "to schooling obtained at a state-administered institution cannot be justified on any grounds," Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once said. "Any subsidy should be granted to individuals to be spent at institutions of their own choosing." Institutions such as Oklahoma Baptist University, for example, and St. Gregory's University.

And it's not just Oklahoma's Promise. Consider also the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG), which helps kids attend private schools at public expense. It was created in 2003 by a Democratic legislature and Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.

Indeed, "for many years, students have been assisted by a variety of state-funded scholarship programs that provide funding for students to attend private, religious institutions of higher education," Oklahoma Independent Colleges and Universities points out.
These programs include the state's Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant program (OTAG), the Academic Scholars program, and the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program. These aid programs differ somewhat from OTEG in that they can be used at both public and private institutions, but the principle behind all the programs is the same — the state has created and funded a program for the public purpose of benefiting individual students. The institutions that provide the services that benefit these students are compensated by the state for the valuable consideration they have provided the students and the state.
These higher education vouchers are good public policy. We should expand them to encompass all higher education spending: Oklahoma policymakers should simply fund students, not institutions.

Moreover, we should do the same in the pre-college years. After all, too many Oklahoma children are trapped in "a system that’s not working" (to quote former Gov. Frank Keating and former state treasurer Scott Meacham). Only a little more than a third of Oklahoma's ACT test-takers earn a college-ready score in math, the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative reminds us — which is "especially disappointing as this test is generally only taken by the students in the state with an interest in college." For untold thousands of Oklahoma children, their "life-changing intervention" needs to come much sooner.

To their great credit, policymakers provide public funds for 18-year-olds to attend private schools in Shawnee and throughout the state. They should also provide public funds for 17-year-olds (and 7-year-olds) to attend private schools in Shawnee and throughout the state.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Campus radicalism points up the need for educational choice

The late Milton Friedman believed that restricting higher-education subsidies "to schooling obtained at a state-administered institution cannot be justified on any grounds. Any subsidy should be granted to individuals to be spent at institutions of their own choosing." 

He's right. 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's overwhelmingly center-right taxpayers subsidize the study of Chicana lesbian literature at my alma mater in Norman, for example, but not equally subsidize the study of the American founding at Oklahoma Wesleyan University?

These questions come to mind as we continue to watch campus radicalism turn higher education into "a bizarre, Orwellian simulacrum of itself." The University of Oklahoma faculty Senate did its part for the cause this week, discussing a resolution on "diversity and inclusion" which will be voted on at a future meeting.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teachers, unions weren't always hostile to test-based accountability

"Many teachers and their unions have taken strong public positions against any use of student test scores in teacher evaluations," Peter Cunningham writes ("Unions Used to Embrace Grading Teachers with Tests, Until They Didn't"). "Until recently, however, many were open to the idea, which raises some critical questions:
  • Can teacher quality be effectively evaluated without some objective measure of student success?
  • If teachers aren’t accountable for boosting student learning as measured by valid assessments, what are they accountable for?
  • If test scores and student growth are ruled out of teacher evaluations, what factors should be considered to get the most effective teachers in front of the kids who need them most?
  • Finally, will resistance to test-based accountability undermine their case for more resources and their desire for more autonomy and respect?

Top-down regulations are 'a pale imitation of direct accountability to parents'

"It is inappropriate to impose an accountability system designed to regulate a monopoly on a market," Jason Bedrick writes today. 
Private schools are directly accountable to parents, who have the ability to vote with their feet if the school fails to meet their needs. By contrast, public schools are accountable to politicians and bureaucrats, not parents. Indeed, many low-income families have no financially viable options besides their assigned district school. Without the crucial feedback loop that direct accountability to parents provides, states and localities (and even the feds) have imposed numerous regulations to improve quality, generally with little success. Unfortunately, these top-down regulations have become synonymous with “accountability” when they are but a pale imitation of direct accountability to parents.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Public education 'not something housed in your school building'

Excellent observations from a teacher at Epic Charter School:
I have a beef with public schooling. It is not something housed in your school building. It is housed in your heart and mind. I dislike greatly the competition between schools and districts. I am not talking about the Jenks v Union rivalries. I abhor that there has to be a huge fight between types of schools. I WORK FOR A CHARTER. I said it. I do.

In the consultant and educational leader circles, which I often associate with, there is a huge line drawn in the sand about how the teacher in the traditional public school has to be better because they have far more dire circumstances to overcome. I saw 4 articles in #oklaed this week dealing with charters and school choice.  
This argument infuriates me because in the very next conversation “they” wish for a more direct route to teaching; they want less barriers and more pay. In my school, I have less barriers and if I do my job well, I get more pay. 
Sidebar: we are an open charter with nearly 5,000 students in all 77 counties of this great state. We take them all.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Oklahomans favor charter school expansion

Are you an education reformer or a supporter of public education?

"The reality is the public is largely in both camps," Pat McFerron writes in the April issue of Sooner Survey. "Voters do not want to cut education funding and voters do want more parental choice." Here's one of the questions from the survey:

"As you may or may not know, public charter schools are generally only allowed in the state’s largest school districts. These schools are free to parents but are not burdened with some of the regulations and requirements, such as negotiating with teachers unions, that is the case with traditional public schools. Do you favor or oppose allowing public charter schools to open in other parts of Oklahoma?"
  • Strongly Favor .......... 33%
  • Somewhat Favor .......... 28%
  • Somewhat Oppose .......... 9%
  • Strongly Oppose .......... 18%
  • Undecided .......... 12%

Private-school voucher program being celebrated at state capitol today

Today is #PreserveOKPromise Day at the state capitol. 

After the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, Oklahoma's Promise is possibly my second-favorite private-school voucher program in the state of Oklahoma. As the Oklahoma Independent Colleges and Universities aptly puts it
for many years, students have been assisted by a variety of state-funded scholarship programs that provide funding for students to attend private, religious institutions of higher education. These programs include the state's Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant program ("OTAG"), the Academic Scholars program, and the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program. These aid programs differ somewhat from OTEG in that they can be used at both public and private institutions, but the principle behind all the programs is the same—the state has created and funded a program for the public purpose of benefiting individual students. The institutions that provide the services that benefit these students are compensated by the state for the valuable consideration they have provided the students and the state.

Elk City Public Schools janitor among six accused child predators arrested

KOCO-TV has the story.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New report says 'the statistics speak for themselves'

Oklahoma's educational outcomes leave a lot to be desired. This according to a new report commissioned by the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative (OEWI) entitled "Oklahoma’s Business Case for Education Reform."
  • In grade 4, Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 10 states in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam; nearly two-thirds of the state’s fourth graders cannot earn proficient scores in math (see page 9).
  • By grade 8, Oklahoma’s students fall further behind in math, earning a ranking of 45th of the 50 states as three quarters of the state’s eighth graders score below the proficiency level in math (see page 9).
  • In high school, just over one-third of the state’s ACT test-takers earn a “college-ready” score on the ACT math section. This is especially disappointing as this test is generally only taken by the students in the state with an interest in college. On this measure, Oklahoma ranks 38th of the 50 states (see page 11).
  • The costly result of this under-performance is that too many of Oklahoma’s college-bound students -- 40 percent -- must take remedial coursework when they arrive at college (see page 11).
  • Due to these weaknesses in student preparation, fewer than one-quarter (22.8 percent) of degree-seeking students in Oklahoma’s public colleges successfully graduate within four years. This places Oklahoma 40th in the nation (see page 12).
Public education's productivity collapse has been nothing short of staggering, Cato Institute scholar Andrew Coulson wrote in 2009 in Investor's Business Daily. "Once upon a time, America could afford to sustain a parasitic school monopoly, fecklessly throwing billions more dollars at it decade after decade despite its failure to improve. That time has passed. … The perpetuation of that monopoly puts our economic future at unacceptable risk."

Indeed, a 2009 report from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, found that America's "underutilization of human potential" imposes "the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession."

Hats off to the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative for sounding a much-needed alarm.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hofmeister supports database to track accused teachers

"Support is growing, including from state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, to create a database of teachers accused of misconduct with students," Janelle Stecklein reports.

Some context on teacher pay

OCPA research fellow Steve Anderson is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 30 years of experience in private practice. He spent two years as a budget analyst in the Oklahoma Office of State Finance and recently served as budget director for the State of Kansas. Recently in The Oklahoman, Anderson said that policymakers need to have a complete, accurate picture before making decisions about teacher compensation.

And in today's newspaper, The Oklahoman's editorial board provides some more helpful context. "Much is made of Oklahoma’s low ranking for average teacher pay," The Oklahoman points out. "Yet new data from the Internal Revenue Service suggest many people across Oklahoma would likely be glad to swap incomes with those teachers.
Oklahoma’s average teacher salary is $44,128. IRS data show that the average income in 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties is less than $44,000. In Marshall County, the average income is $43,534. The lowest average income recorded is in Adair County ($31,347). The highest average income was recorded in Grant County ($86,864). But that high number, nearly double the amount notched in Grant County in 2009, was tied mostly to oil-field work. Teachers work hard, but oil-field work is not exactly for slackers. And that work is prone to boom and bust cycles, as many are experiencing today. This doesn’t mean some teachers don’t deserve more. It just shows that many Oklahomans are in the same boat.

Friday, April 10, 2015

School choice and freedom of conscience

Great post by my colleague Trent England here.

Are homeschoolers prepared for college calculus?

Christian P. Wilkensa, Carol H. Wadea, Gerhard Sonnertb, and Philip M. Sadlerb find that, "compared with students who received other types of secondary schooling, students who homeschooled: (a) were demographically similar to their peers, (b) earned similar SAT Math scores, and (c) earned higher tertiary calculus grades."

My LNH conversation with attorney Bill Hickman

Yesterday on AM 1640 The Eagle, I discussed bullying, special-needs students, and the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program with education lawyer Bill Hickman. The conversation begins at the 55:00 mark here.

Be sure to tune in each weekday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 to hear my colleague Trent England. He has lots of interesting conversations with guests on a wide variety of issues (including school choice). You can listen online or on AM 1640 in this coverage area:

Freedom of conscience

Today in The Journal Record, Michael Carnuccio discusses what the owners of an Indiana pizzeria have in common with some special-needs students in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

'The coalition of the medicore'

OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos reminds us that "Oklahoma is the poster child for the problems of American public education."

Oklahoma dad says teacher preyed on his son

Courthouse News Service reports that "an Oklahoma school district covered up a female English teacher's repeated rapes of an eighth grader, the boy's father claims in court."

Former Tulsa teacher pleads guilty to lewd molestation

The News on 6 has the story.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Oklahoma’s education system: Another reminder that socialism doesn’t work

Socialism's finest: the Trabant 

[This article by economist Gary Wolfram appeared in the May 2001 issue of Perspective, published by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Dr. Wolfram (Ph.D., University of California Berkeley) is Munson Professor of Political Economy at Hillsdale College and a former member of the Michigan State Board of Education.]

In 1955 Milton Friedman wrote an article discussing the role of government in education, in which he made the salient point that there is a fundamental difference between arguing that government should provide education and that government should produce education. His position was that production of education through government schools could not be justified, even if there were reasons for government to subsidize education. This is where he introduced his proposal for providing vouchers for students to use for education that would be produced through the market system that produces most other goods and services.

Twenty-five years later, in 1980, he wrote that public schools were suffering from the malady of “an over-governed society.” In this article he pointed out the failures of K-12 education in the United States, and described the system as “an island of socialism in a free-market sea.” He argued that Dr. Max Gammon’s theory of bureaucratic displacement—that is, in a bureaucratic system increases in expenditure will be matched by falling production—“applies in full force to the effect of the increasing bureaucratization and centralization of the public school system in the United States.”

It is now more than 20 years later and we have allowed our education system to continue as a socialist system, when it has been obvious to us and the rest of the world that such a system is fundamentally flawed. The collapse of eastern European socialism was inevitable. It is only through consumer choice and a system where producers are rewarded for making efficient use of resources (and punished for making inefficient use of resources) that our standard of living will increase. The result of holding tight to the socialist model for production of education has been similar to the results the Soviets had with their production system—poor quality of product and shortages. The collapse of our educational system is just as inevitable as was the Soviet system.

Peter Brimelow has written of five classic symptoms of socialism: (1) politicized allocation of resources, (2) proliferating bureaucratic overhead, (3) chronic mismatching of supply and demand, (4) susceptibility to top-down panaceas, usually requiring more input, and (5) qualitative and quantitative collapse. The average reader will immediately be aware that this describes the state of K-12 education in Oklahoma and the rest of the United States as we enter the 21st century. Let’s take a closer look.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lankford urges Obama to support D.C. vouchers

[Guest post by Patrick B. McGuigan]

U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, is part of a bipartisan group chiding the Obama Administration for trying to kill a school choice program benefiting children in the nation’s capital.

Sen. James Lankford
Lankford has long supported choice. In an interview with this reporter, he said, “Congress has direct oversight over the District of Columbia. So as a Member of Congress, I can advocate for school choice in the area where I have direct impact.” Lankford, in his first term in the Senate after four highly effective years in the U.S. House, is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management—with jurisdiction over the District of Columbia.

“When it comes to our children,” Lankford believes, “the American people are eager to pursue policies that help kids thrive. Education is about kids, not political parties. School choice allows parents to get kids out of the small number of failing schools.”

A conservative statesman, Sen. Lankford seemed reluctant to assail his Republican friends at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Even though school choice is popular among Oklahoma voters, the GOP-controlled legislature failed this year to pass Education Savings Account legislation authored by state Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “Parents and local elected officials should create and manage education policy,” Lankford said, “not Washington.”

Well, yes. I am a commentator and a journalist, so let me register some reflections and criticisms about the latest Republican failure to defend and advance the stated Republican policy position.

Jolley's Senate Bill 609 would allow students to receive partial value for tax-financed education resources, in support of schooling at a place of parental (or guardian) choice. The idea, as with all school choice programs, is to have resources follow children, rather than institutions or bureaucracies.

After pulling his measure from the 2015 legislative calendar, Jolley said “education savings accounts would enable more Oklahoma parents to make that choice for their child by allowing them to use part of his or her state education funding to pursue the schooling that best suits a student's needs.

“Public schools would actually see an increase in per-pupil revenue as a result of this plan. Other states already offer this option for education, and I am convinced this would enhance our efforts to improve education levels in our state.”

To be sure, Jolley’s bill can be revisited during the 2016 legislative session. Still, the result is notable. For the second year in a row, school choice legislation was pulled from the calendar in a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, joined Lankford in pushing to retain the Opportunity Scholarship Program. In a missive to President Obama, the quartet detailed shared concerns over his decision. Their joint letter read:
We were disappointed to learn your budget proposal cut funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and terminated future funding for this life-changing program.
Public schools in the District of Columbia are some of the worst in the nation. The high school four-year graduation rate in the district is only 59 percent. Only half of the district’s public school children are proficient in reading. This track record is in spite of spending almost $30,000 per pupil.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program provides scholarships for children of low-income households in the district to attend schools that their families otherwise could never possibly afford. Because the enrollment wait list for D.C. Public Charter Schools totals more than 22,000 applicants, disadvantaged Washington students have limited options in the district’s public schools. For many Washington students, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is the only hope for an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.
The average household income for students receiving scholarships under the program is below $21,000—in a city with some of the highest costs of living in the nation. Two-thirds of these children come from families that receive food stamps and/or aid from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Ninety-seven percent of the children who benefit from this program are African American, Hispanic and/or Latino.
Despite the socioeconomic challenges facing these students, 90 percent of students who earn scholarships through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program graduate from high school, and almost all of those students go on to attend college. The program’s success and popularity among Washington families is reflected in the more than 3,600 applications received for the 2014-2015 school year. Simply stated, this program works.
We therefore urge you to support the full, continuous funding of a program that is proven to transform the lives of thousands of Washington children, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
The four senators together reflect the diversity of support for school choice in modern America.

Put one way, the group includes two while males (Lankford and Johnson), a black male (Scott), and a female Democrat (Feinstein).

Put another way, the group includes a Jew (Feinstein), a Southern Baptist (Lankford), a Lutheran (Johnson), and an Evangelical (Scott).

Put still another way, these four represent the future, a bipartisan answer to what many have called the most important civil rights issue of the 21st century—education for minorities, and for us all.

Which side of the argument over school choice will Oklahoma Republicans choose? An inclusive future, or a monopoly-driven past?

[Patrick McGuigan (M.A. in history, Oklahoma State University) is editor of CapitolBeatOK, publisher of The City Sentinel, and a history teacher at Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy, a public charter alternative school in Oklahoma City. On April 30 he will be inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.]

No reform allowed, just send money

"This week’s education rally may have provided an unintended lesson on how not to win friends and influence people," The Oklahoman editorialized today.
Participants lobbied for increased school funding. Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, has sought to earmark additional money to schools. So how did the assembled teachers and administrators respond when Denney addressed them? The Associated Press reported that Denney “drew boos and was heckled repeatedly after she mentioned charter schools in her speech.” In contrast, House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman of Del City was cheered as he urged participants to vote out politicians who fail to pass bills like Denney’s funding measure. So: A Democrat who criticizes lawmakers for failing to pass a Republican’s school-funding bill is treated like a hero, while the author of that funding bill is treated like a leper? Apparently, supporting a $600 million increase in school funding, as Denney has, isn’t enough for the union groups that dominated the rally. You must also oppose implementing any education change, no matter how slight, especially new approaches that generate dramatically improved results among low-income students, as charter schools have done.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Is $8,804 per pupil enough?

Let me say right up front that we don’t know how much money the government spends on education. "Nobody knows, not even the principal," as scholars Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli put it. "That’s how opaque our system is."

"Because of the various funding streams that feed the system," adds Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute, "discovering exactly how much taxpayers spend per student is more like deciphering a riddle than reading a balance sheet."

Public school finances "make Enron look like a model of transparency," says University of Arkansas education professor Robert Maranto. "Under our highly complex systems of school finance and resource allocations, policy-makers, educators, and taxpayers simply do not know what if any strategy drives particular spending decisions, or how costs and outcomes compare across programs. In public education we are all, quite literally, flying blind."

But for now let's go with per-pupil funding of $8,804, the latest number for Oklahoma provided by the National Education Association. Whether Oklahoma ranks 1st or 50th in education funding, it seems to me that $8,804 per pupil ought to be enough to deliver a quality education. It certainly seems to be enough in Oklahoma’s private schools, which charge roughly $4,500 on average at elementary schools and $6,900 for high school.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bill would allow OKC, Tulsa to sponsor charter schools

Senate Bill 68 by Sen. David Holt and Rep. Jason Nelson would give the cities of Oklahoma City and Tulsa the power to authorize charter schools, which could give a boost to urban revitalization efforts. Sen. Holt discusses the measure here
The bill passed the Oklahoma Senate by a margin of 35-8 and will be considered on Monday in the House Common Education Committee at 3:00. The members of the Committee and their email addresses are listed below.