Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Oklahoman says ESAs beneficial

"Another way to improve education for many Oklahomans, even in a tough budget year, would be to pass Education Savings Accounts," the state's largest newspaper editorializes today.
With an ESA, parents would be able to take a portion of the per-pupil funding already allocated for their children and use it for private school tuition if a child's needs are not being met at a geographically assigned public school. While most families would still opt for their local public school, one size does not fit all, and there are many instances where a child who struggled in one environment thrives in another. ESAs can ensure more students get a quality education without increased funding in a tough budget year. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Attraction to Sanders shows education failure

"The enthusiasm of our youth for the candidacy of Bernie Sanders," writes University of Oklahoma professor David Deming, "is a symptom of our failure to educate them, not only in history, government and economics, but also basic morality."

Teachers embrace National School Choice Week

Good article by Gary Beckner.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Choctaw teacher arrested, accused of sexual relationship with student

News 9 has the story.

OKC school bus driver arrested on assault complaint after altercation with student

KOCO has the story.

Lankford: Focus on children, not schools

"As many Americans recognized National School Choice Week this week," U.S. Sen. James Lankford writes today in the Tulsa World, "I believe the argument about school choice is not about the future of our schools, it is about the future of our children."
School leaders might argue to keep more money and control so they can make education improvements, but children in the school do not have time for hoped-for future improvements, they need help today. Why would we ever tell a parent to sacrifice their child’s future so we can protect a school today? 
Our state will face a lot of tough decisions in the coming days, including education. I have the highest confidence that state legislators and Oklahomans will step up to the plate and make good decisions with their recaptured education authority. Practical quality education is possible and expected. 
Oklahomans want a great future for their kids that will begin with empowered parents and expanded educational opportunities for every child, no matter where they live. In 2016, our state has an opportunity to lead and prove to all of America that strong families and a great education provide the best future for our kids.

Cruz introduces ESA legislation

Even as several Oklahoma state lawmakers are working to create an education savings account (ESA) program for Oklahoma students, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has introduced legislation to create an ESA program for students in Washington, D.C.

Lankford recognizes National School Choice Week

"Parents should have all the tools necessary to ensure their child will receive the best education, no matter economic status or home address," says Sen. James Lankford. "Kids can’t wait for schools to improve. Their educational opportunity is now. Oklahomans want a great education for their families, and I am proud to sponsor the ‘National School Choice Week’ resolution as a reminder that we need to continue to work toward educational goals that allow more flexibility for parents to make the decisions that are best suited for their kids."

OSU prof: Oklahoma education problems 'not due to underfunding'

Oklahoma State University entrepreneurship professor Vance Fried says in a new paper that Oklahoma’s public education problems "are not due to underfunding. Since 1972, per pupil spending has almost doubled in real terms with no improvement in academic outcomes." 

Today in The Journal Record, OCPA president Jonathan Small lauds Fried's analysis and says it’s time to empower parents with education savings accounts (ESAs).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

School choice could improve life for teachers

Mary Clare Reim explains how.

ESAs could be a game-changer for Oklahoma parents

Here's Vicki Alger in the Edmond Sun.

'Superintendent Hofmeister supports school choice'

This according to a representative for Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who told KTEN: "Superintendent Hofmeister supports school choice. But her commitment to school choice also means working to make the neighborhood school, the school of choice for parents."

This is a reasonable, balanced approach, and perfectly consistent with what Superintendent Hofmeister has been saying since she took office.

No, school choice doesn't hurt those who don't choose

That's just a talking point used to fight it, Bob Bowdon explains.

Monday, January 25, 2016

School choice for rural students

Michael McShane says course access programs offer rural students a better education while preserving small-town school communities.

Movement aims to educate parents about school choice options

"For too long, education debates have primarily involved politicians and school employees," The Oklahoman notes today. "The needs of those schools are supposed to serve—students and their families—are often overlooked. Thanks to groups like ChoiceMatters, that dynamic may change this year."

'I am often amazed how few people even know that Wagoner has a private school'

Nice column from a parent here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Former Oklahoma teacher arrested for rape, indecent exposure

KSCB has the story.

Another reminder that school-choice policy matters

"In news that should encourage those who care about education, and especially about giving a quality education to the poorest among us, Oklahoma City could soon be home to a Cristo Rey high school," The Oklahoman notes today.
Cristo Rey schools provide a private, Catholic, college-preparatory education to inner-city students who would normally never get to attend private school. In Cristo Rey's unique model, students attend classes four days a week, and work a job the fifth day. Wages earned go toward the student's tuition and cover up to 70 percent of the cost; the remainder comes from the student's family (with rates based on income) and private fundraising. ... 
Oklahoma City was chosen as a Cristo Rey site, in part, because the state offers a sizable tax credit to organizations that provide scholarships to low-income students and because enactment of education savings accounts is under consideration. Just another reminder that good policy can translate into increased opportunity for all Oklahomans.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The dangers of a high-regulation approach to school choice


Test scores are not strong indicators of school quality, Dr. Jay Greene said recently at OCPA, sounding for all the world like an #OklaEd blogger. Even when they’re value-added measures, they are surprisingly weakly connected to successful outcomes in later life. After all, test scores only partially capture the many things schools do (such as teach other subjects and untested material, impart values, and so on).

Click here for the video, PowerPoint, and more from Dr. Greene's presentation.

Cristo Rey could be coming to OKC

KFOR has the story.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oklahoma's Blaine provision inconsistent with U.S. Constitution

"Today’s Blaine defenders use the antiquated amendments to thwart efforts to establish school choice options for students, typically cloaking their defense of the provisions in rhetoric of separation of church and state," Lindsey Burke and Jarrett Stepman write in the Journal of School Choice ("Breaking Down Blaine Amendments’ Indefensible Barrier to Education Choice").
Yet the genesis of Blaine amendments does not stem from a correct understanding of the First Amendment; on the contrary, the amendments are inconsistent with a proper understanding of the Establishment Clause. “As a legal matter,” the Institute for Justice notes, “the federal Constitution prohibits states from preferring non-religious schools over religious schools” (Komer, 2013, para. 5). Importantly, the logic of the Blaine defenders has been overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of allowing public money to go to private religious schools via parents’ choices in a 5–4 majority opinion.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

'Republicans need to reassess'

So says the state's largest newspaper today:
This week Democrats showed signs of life and Republicans learned you don't get an automatic win in Oklahoma just because you have an “R” by your name on a ballot. J.J. Dossett, a Democrat, easily beat Republican candidate David McLain in a special election for the heavily Republican state Senate District 34 seat. Admittedly, Dossett downplayed his party affiliation. But McLain's message often focused on federal issues rather than addressing state needs. A typical McClain endorsement argued he would “stand up to the Obama administration's attempts to undermine our values.” It seems Obama-bashing alone no longer guarantees a Republican victory. So we suggest Republicans start focusing on conservative policies that will provide meaningful benefit to Oklahomans, such as school choice. It's popular with Republican voters, but also with many Democrats. Vowing to empower parents and improve students' education isn't just good policy. It can also be good politics.

One-size-fits-all doesn’t work in education

That's why some political leaders are proposing Education Savings Accounts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fallin says Oklahoma is committed to empowering parents to make educational choices

For the fifth year in a row, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has recognized National School Choice Week by proclaiming January 24-30 to be School Choice Week in Oklahoma. Her official proclamation is here. "All students should have access to educational opportunities that adequately prepare them for successful lives," Fallin says.

"Oklahoma has a multitude of high-quality educational institutions including public, private, charter, virtual, career technology, tribal, religious, home, and other schools from which our students can benefit," she correctly points out. "Oklahoma is committed to continually improving the quality of educational opportunities and empowering parents and students to make scholastic selections that best fit their needs and academic goals."

Oklahoma remediation rates troubling

"Countless students are passing high school courses (often with good grades), passing state end-of-instruction exams, and receiving a high school diploma," The Oklahoman notes today, "without receiving a quality high school education."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Underfunded-schools watch

Schools can't afford copy paper? Teachers have to purchase school supplies? I have no doubt these anecdotes are true. But I would also suggest that oftentimes it's a case of misplaced priorities:

OEA membership decline continues

Mike Antonucci is out with the "total membership figures, total revenues, surplus or deficit status, and net assets for all National Education Association state affiliates for 2013-14."

OEA's total membership is 21,291, a decline of 1,016 from the previous year.

OEA's total revenue is $6,537,151, a decline of $158,943 from the previous year.

Read the whole thing here.

Tulsa Public Schools staff jet to Vegas, New Orleans, DC

"Tulsa school personnel clearly do a lot of traveling on the taxpayer dime," Steve Gunn reports, "most of which, we assume, is for professional development."
In 2014-15 the district had a total of 734 transactions for hotels around the nation, totaling $327,812. It also had 495 transactions with various airlines, totaling $219,508. ... 
The district’s travel ledger reads like the itinerary of a very extended wealthy family with lots of time on its hands.  
The district recorded 62 transactions at the Gaylord in Nashville, ringing up a tab of $22,803. There were 18 transactions at the Doubletree in New York for a total of $19,925.  There were 33 charges at the Marriott in Tucson totaling $17,657. 
And those were just some of the big ones.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Some teacher pay raises make sense

Today in The Journal Record, OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos recommends "pay raises for entry-level, specialty, and high-performing teachers."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Oklahoma's Blaine interpretation clashes with U.S. Constitution

"One provision of Oklahoma's constitution, interpreted liberally, is curtailing Oklahomans' rights under the federal Constitution," The Oklahoman editorializes today.

The folly of overregulating school choice

Jason Bedrick discusses it over at Education Next, while Lindsey Burke and Jonathan Butcher weigh in over at National Review Online.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Mickey-Mouse attempt to kill the Henry Scholarship program

Photo credit: Nicescene / Shutterstock.com

"In June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a successful voucher program in Douglas County, invoking a provision of the state constitution that harks back to an era of widespread prejudice against Catholics," Joshua Dunn writes in the Winter 2016 issue of Education Next. It's a constitutional provision similar to the one that some Oklahomans are using in an attempt to kill the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for Children with Disabilities.

"But because of the court’s reliance on this discriminatory provision," Dunn continues, "its decision could well be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court—clearing the way for voucher programs across the country."
When the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that school vouchers did not violate the federal Constitution, Robert Chanin, the chief counsel for the National Education Association, promised to bring the battle to the state courts. School choice opponents, he said, would rely not on “lofty” First Amendment principles, but on what he termed “Mickey Mouse provisions” contained in state constitutions. Colorado’s supreme court used one such provision, the state Blaine Amendment, to kill the Colorado voucher program in Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District this June. 
Blaine Amendments, which prohibit public funding of religious schools, were added to some three dozen state constitutions beginning in the late 1800s, sparked by pervasive anti-Catholic sentiment. Colorado’s amendment forbids “any appropriation” to support “any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school…controlled by any church or sectarian denomination.”

Monday, January 4, 2016

Many high-school graduates not prepared for college

"When it comes to college readiness, Oklahoma is a laggard," Nate Robson reports.
In 2013, about 39 percent of incoming freshmen at state colleges and universities were required to pass at least one remedial course, usually in math, before taking courses in their major, according to the state Regents for Higher Education. That was the highest rate in the country, which had an overall rate of 32 percent.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Here's hoping for ESAs in 2016

The state's largest newspaper made its customary New Year's wish list today. One of the items on the list: Education Savings Accounts.
Status-quo forces in education often claim Oklahoma students' academic performance will never improve unless huge spending increases are provided. Yet if parents were given the ability to use their child's per-pupil allotment, as would be the case with Education Savings Accounts, those officials may be shocked by how quickly improvement occurs. ESAs would allow parents to use a portion of the tax money already dedicated to their child's education to spend on tutoring, online learning, or private school tuition. It's time Oklahoma lawmakers provide beneficiaries the same flexibility with education funds that they are provided for other government programs, such as food stamps. One size does not fit all students, and it makes no sense to act as though children will receive a better education if they're assigned a school based on geographic proximity to one's house rather than based on a child's individual needs and parental involvement.