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.