Sunday, June 28, 2015

School choice: A declaration of independence

Contrary to the historical mythology of the education establishment, Thomas Jefferson’s proposals for education bear no resemblance to the government school monopoly we know today, Greg Forster writes in the July issue of Perspective. Indeed, he says, "government control over the minds of the young would have been seen by the founding generation as intolerable tyranny. ... The road back to self-government and the principles of the Declaration runs through educational choice."

Norman mothers take a stand against bullying

The News on 6 has the story.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Choice is the real accountability

"We’re familiar enough with this principle of accountability in other contexts," Greg Forster writes in Perspective.
If a doctor or grocery store or restaurant gives you bad service, you hold it accountable by taking your business elsewhere. We do this because it respects the freedom and dignity of the customer—and also because it works. Schools are almost the only type of organization we don’t hold accountable in this way. 
The fact that school choice involves public dollars is no reason to shun this morally right and highly effective approach to accountability. We give people food stamps and then let them choose where to buy their food instead of running state-owned grocery stores and creating a federal grocery regulator. One of the best policy improvements in recent history was the change in housing subsidies from government-owned “housing projects,” which were consistently horrific, to what are called “Section 8 vouchers,” which subsidize housing but let people choose where to rent.

After same-sex 'marriage' ruling, Christians should bolt from government schools

"In the aftermath of the Obergefell decision by the Supreme Court," Douglas Wilson writes, "there are many steps we can take, and some of the first ones are steps we must take. Here is one that millions of parents could take in just a small number of weeks—they could pull their kids out of the government school system."

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Regulations or market solutions?

Following Nevada's passage of a near-universal education savings account (ESA) program, some analysts are arguing for strict accountability of the ESA program. As Jason Bedrick writes,
One wonk went so far as to recommend that the state “set a high bar for the quality of services offered by providers” and “eliminate providers who consistently fail to meet the mark.” Another claimed that “no one but the purest Friedmanites think that the magic hand of the market will automatically lead to better outcomes.” Of course, there’s nothing “magic” about the “invisible hand” of the market—it’s just a metaphor Adam Smith used to describe the process of spontaneous order, by which the voluntary actions of disparate individuals organically form a system that is the result of human action, but not human design. 
So how does the market “magically” provide quality? Imagine you’re looking for a new dishwasher. As an average consumer, you know nothing about the mechanics involved in making a dishwasher, so the dishwasher manufacturers and retailers have a great advantage over you. Fortunately for you, without any government mandate, numerous organizations took it upon themselves to help you overcome this information asymmetry and ensure product quality. Some, like Underwriters Laboratories, provide private certification for dishwashers that meet their standards. Others, like Consumer Reports, provide expert reviews of hundreds of dishwashers and rate them on five criteria. And still others, like Amazon, offer a platform for consumers to rate and provide feedback about dishwashers based on their personal experience. 
In these ways, the market spontaneously channels expert knowledge and user experience to provide would-be consumers with needed information. It’s a messy process but, as scholars from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University show in a recent paper, it works better than having a Ministry of Dishwasher Quality define what makes a “quality” dishwasher and force all manufacturers into compliance.
Read more here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'The first truly 21st-century education model'

"The emergence of education savings accounts may mark the beginning of the end for an ossified education-delivery system that is has changed little since the 19th century," Clint Bolick writes in The Wall Street Journal.
It begins an important shift of government from a monopoly provider of education into an enabler of education in whatever form or forum it most benefits the child. By reducing the need for bureaucracies and capital construction, education savings accounts can reverse the ever-growing costs of public education, even as the accounts provide resources for families to save for college. ... Most important, they hitch public policy to infinite technological possibilities, creating the first truly 21st-century education model wherein public funding follows the child.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Teachers should welcome ESAs

Thinking about the possibilities in Nevada, Michael Goldstein discusses an idea called "'Starbucks Schools,' where two teachers (most likely longtime friends) could open a mini-school for thirty ESA kids, using a campus of public and semi-public spaces like Starbucks franchises, the YMCA, libraries, and churches. Imagine a thousand such institutions (high schools in particular) serving thirty thousand Nevada kids, with two thousand teachers who've happily escaped the red tape of their former schools, and a few competing firms providing back-end payroll, accounting, and insurance."

'Oklahoma school budget claims don't match reality'

"K-12 education funds in Oklahoma (including local, state and federal tax dollars, as well as carryover) grew from $7.1 billion in the 2008 budget year to $8.4 billion in 2014," The Oklahoman points out today. "That’s an increase of $1.3 billion. Where has that money gone?"

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Muskogee high-school coach arrested for rape, exposing others to HIV

"A Muskogee high school cheerleading coach is in jail on charges of rape and exposing others to HIV," the News On 6 reports. The coach, a former "Mr. Gay Oklahoma City," is very involved with a teen transgender support group and met the 15-year-old victim there.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

State lawmaker: 'We must ask ourselves what is wrong'

Why do so many schools and parents "resist passing a third-grade reading test as a prerequisite for promotion?" asks state Rep. Doug Cox. "We must ask ourselves what is wrong with an educational system that allows students to progress, many with excellent grades, who then have trouble passing the eighth-grade reading level assessment required to get a driver’s license at age 16?"

Perpetuating child sexual abuse

In a letter to the editor published today in The Oklahoman, Raoul Carubelli of Oklahoma City takes note of "an alarming series of sexual abuse of students by their teachers. The fact that Oklahoma law doesn’t authorize revocation of child abusers’ teaching licenses is unconscionable and must be addressed at once. If following dismissal or resignation these criminals retain their teaching license and can continue their disgusting practices at other locations, we are perpetuating child sexual abuse."

'How to make the government pay for the perfect education for your kid'

"Imagine being able to create a tailored, made-to-order education for your child," Lindsey Burke writes.
Perhaps you know that the private school one neighborhood over has an excellent high school mathematics program. It allows students who don’t attend full time to take individual courses there, so your daughter takes an Algebra II class there three days a week. 
In the afternoons, she joins a group of students of various ages who gather as part of a tutoring co-op, and takes Advanced Spanish from one tutor and an economics course from another tutor on alternating days. Two nights a week, she takes an online English literature course offered by the local state university, for which she receives dual enrollment credit. And twice a week and once on the weekend, she participates in a fencing course offered at the local community college. 
Your daughter is getting a well-rounded, high-quality education that fits her learning pace and style. Sounds like a dream come true for K-12 education. But how do you pay for it?
Read the entire article here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

School choice marches on

The state's largest newspaper says today that 2015 is shaping up to be a good year for educational choice.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Environmentalists for school choice

Economist John Merrifield makes the connection between school choice and environmental impact, "not to mention the very fiscal and economic sustainability of central cities. Family flight to the suburbs has been a disaster; tax base loss, loss of business/jobs, and environmentally. The latter disaster arises from the blight of property abandonment and infrastructure decay, loss of open space to suburban sprawl, and increased driving which means more pollution."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Public school LGBT programs put kids at risk

"No matter what well-intentioned teachers and administrators believe," Walt Heyer writes, "LGBT acceptance programs designed by GLSEN and funded by the CDC are designed to encourage kids to question their gender identity and sexual orientation."

Oklahoma teacher says some of her colleagues are 'slackers who are just phoning it in'

"Are there teachers," one Oklahoma educator asks,
who manage not to clock a single minute during the summer? Sure. Are there teachers who follow the buses out of the parking lot? Sure. Are there teachers who read magazines during their conference period? Sure. In just about every profession, you’re going to find some slackers who are just phoning it in. All the more reason for properly reflecting the time obligations in our contracts. Some of those slacker teachers (don’t get mad…we all know they exist) will leave.
This is not the first time an educator has acknowledged that Oklahoma has some really bad teachers. But of course, if my accountant or my attorney or my physician is a slacker who is just phoning it in, I will eventually take my business elsewhere. All the more reason to bring education into the free enterprise systemso the best teachers can become rich and the slackers can find another line of work.

A major 'black mark'

"One of the major black marks of this year's legislative session," the state's largest newspaper editorializes today, "was the failure to authorize Education Savings Accounts for Oklahoma students."

Friday, June 5, 2015

'Oklahoma should do more to expose abusive teachers'

Excellent editorial today in The Oklahoman.

Let's use school choice to get tax cuts (and vice versa)

I’ve long argued that Oklahoma should phase out its personal income tax and replace it with nothing. Simply use some growth revenue each year to buy down the tax rate little by little over 15 years or so. And though I do believe we will see movement in that direction, progress to date has been slow.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to cut my own taxes.

“Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible,” Judge Learned Hand famously declared. “He is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury.”

An Oklahoma law enacted in 2011 allows businesses and individuals to donate to K-12 scholarship-granting organizations (full disclosure: I’m on the board of one such nonprofit, the Opportunity Scholarship Fund). Scholarship recipients get much-needed help paying private-school tuition costs, while donors get not merely federal and state tax deductions but also a 50 percent state tax credit.

So, for example, if an Oklahoma taxpayer in the 15 percent federal tax bracket donates $1,000 to a scholarship fund, his or her out-of-pocket cost could be less than $300.

That's good news—and it just got better. Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation this week locking in that tax credit at 75 percent for donors who make a two-year commitment.

In other words, rather than sending your money to the gaping maw at 23rd and Lincoln, you can redirect some of it to rescue kids who are trapped in bad schools.

A 2011 SoonerPoll found that nearly 9 in 10 Oklahoma voters think state government wastes “a lot” or “some” of the money we pay in taxes. (A full 51 percent said “a lot.”)

Remember, we’re talking about a state government that funds golf courses and rodeos.

A government that gives unemployment benefits to people who aren’t entitled to them.

A government that bribes mothers not to marry the fathers of their children.

A government that gives food stamps to people who promptly sell them on Craigslist and use the money to buy marijuana.

A government that annually takes thousands of normal children and makes lifelong illiterates out of them.

A government that pays six-figure salaries to more than 2,000 Oklahomans employed in the higher education system. (As another famed jurist said somewhere, taxes are the price we pay for ex-politicians to land cushy jobs in higher ed.)

It's all just adorable! No wonder people want their taxes to be as low as possible.

Now, of course, our fellow citizens who think their taxes are too low are free to inflate their tax liabilities (don’t claim dependents, don’t itemize, and so forth). If that’s not enough, Oklahoma law actually allows citizens to make voluntary gifts of cash to the state government. But for those Oklahomans who want to send the government less money rather than more money, they can use this school-choice law to cut their taxes.

In addition to using school choice for tax relief, we should also use tax relief to get more school choice.

Let’s enact individual tax credits. Allow Oklahoma parents to receive state income tax relief for private school tuition, online learning, tutoring, and other educational expenses. In Alabama, for example, the value of the refundable tax credit is the tuition cost or 80 percent of per-pupil funding, whichever is less.

At the very least, let's enact an income-tax deduction for individuals who pay private school tuition, as Scott Walker's Wisconsin has done.

More than 150,000 students nationwide are benefiting from educational tax credits. Oklahoma policymakers should do everything possible to boost that number. Rescuing a child from a bad school will completely alter the course of his or her life.

Friedman Foundation goes to bat for Oklahoma kids

Read Michael Carnuccio's column here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Video shows Tulsa teacher dragging elementary student

"Video shows a former Tulsa Public School teacher dragging a 7-year-old student through the hall," FOX 23 reports.
Now, the girl’s mother says that the school never contacted her about the incident. The mother says that when she saw the video of the way the teacher treated her daughter, she was shocked and brought to tears. 
“I was angry,” the mother said, “that I could send my child to school and this could happen to her without me knowing.” 
Video from the girl’s attorney shows former Jones Elementary teacher Summer Bass dragging the 7-year-old student to the administration office. Once there, Bass drops the student on the ground, and the dragging forced the girl’s pants to fall down to her knees. The student lay on the ground crying. 
The incident happened March 2014 after the mother says her daughter “shutdown and started crying.” The child’s mother is now suing Bass and Tulsa Public Schools. 
She says the school never contacted her, but she found out six days later through campus police. 
Her daughter told her that a teacher had dragged her and hit her head. The girl complained of blurred vision and headaches afterward. 
“I started to cry, because I couldn’t protect my child,” the mother said. “I mean, she went to school so many days without me even knowing.”

Hastert indictment points up sexual-abuse problem

Even as an Oklahoma teacher who had sex with a student continues to draw international headlines, Scott McKay writes that the indictment of Dennis Hastert "points to something obvious but seldom mentioned—that children are as or more likely to be sexually abused while in the care of the public education system than the Catholic Church, or any other religious institution, for that matter. That might not fit the mainstream media’s agenda to report upon, but it is statistically true."

Parents should be able to opt out

"The state teachers union may wind up regretting coming out big for parental choice in the recent 'opt-out' wars," Jason Bedrick writes in the New York Post, because the same principle dictates support for school choice.
This year, more than 200,000 Empire State students refused to take the state’s Common Core assessment exam, up from about 60,000 last year. In several districts, more than half the students opted out. 
Perhaps the loudest voice pushing the “opt-out” message has been New York’s largest teachers union. Declaring its support for “a parent’s right to choose,” the New York State United Teachers have actively encouraged parents to opt their children out of the state tests. 
NYSUT’s Web site even includes links to resources to help parents opt out if they “decide it is not in their children’s best interests.” ... 
Parents, too, have legitimate concerns—about over-testing, a narrowing curriculum, and the loss of local control over their children’s education. Frustrated at their diminished influence in the era of Common Core, parents are exercising one of the few tools they have left. 
Of course, if the union really believed its own opt-out rhetoric, they’d realize that parents should be able to opt out of their assigned district schools as well. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hollis school district accused of covering up teacher's sex with student

The Oklahoman's Jennifer Palmer has the story.

'But for the right school, you are Freddie Gray'

School-choice champion Derrell Bradford grew up in the same neighborhood as Freddie Gray. He writes:
[B]ut for the right school, and the shining fingertip of providence, you are Freddie Gray. In a world of infinite timetables for school improvement that are rarely if ever reached, choice is the most powerful way to create new worlds of possible for kids who are destined to have so little possible for themselves.