Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The evidence on school choice: A real 'reality check'

[Guest post by Greg Forster]

A blog called Oklahoma Education Reality Check has posted an intemperate and inaccurate attack on my report summarizing the empirical research on school choice. My review finds a very strong consensus in favor of school choice among the empirical studies. For those interested, here’s a review of OERC’s misrepresentations and miscellaneous fallacies.

For the record, my report surveyed the research on school choice and found:
  • Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.
  • Twenty-three empirical studies (including all methods) 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.
  • Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.
  • Eight empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven find that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One finds no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation.
  • Seven empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on civic values and practices such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of these, five find that school choice improves civic values and practices. Two find no visible impact from school choice. No empirical study has found that school choice has a negative impact on civic values and practices.
The most damning charge in their post is that I “cherry pick” the evidence, leaving out studies I don’t like. That would indeed be grievous, if it were true. They back up this charge by saying that I did not include in my review the official study of the D.C. voucher program, headed by Pat Wolf.

The accusation is clear, emphatic, and misspelled: “Patrick Wolfe’s official (and dismal) report (Wolfe et al 2010) on the program in Washington D.C. is not cited, a serious omission.”

Unfortunately, the charge is also false. I cite Wolf’s 2010 report on pages 8, 29, and 31. Oops!

OERC claims Wolf’s report (excuse me, “Wolfe’s” report) is “dismal” for the voucher program, crowing that “Wolfe” found negatively for the program even though he supports vouchers. But while Wolf found no change in test scores, he also found the following:
The Program significantly improved students' chances of graduating from high school, according to parent reports. Overall, 82 percent of students offered scholarships received a high school diploma, compared to 70 percent of those who applied but were not offered scholarships. This graduation rate improvement also held for the subgroup of OSP students who came from "schools in need of improvement."
So the study they characterize as “dismal” actually found that the program dramatically reduces high school dropout rates without any corresponding reduction in standards of academic achievement.

Oops again!

Here’s a point-by-point review of other problems in the post:

“Empirical evidence by definition would indicate that an idea has gained acceptance in the scientific community. There is no such broad acceptance.”

Not at all—empirical evidence is empirical evidence regardless of whether the scientific community agrees or disagrees about how it is interpreted. The evidence is empirical regardless of whether the studies run 95/5 one way or split 50/50. However, in this case the studies do produce a clear pattern in favor of school choice, as my report showed. Of course, you can find plenty of scientists who don’t support school choice, but—as the OERC post itself emphasizes in its comments about “Wolfe”—the personal opinions of the researcher are irrelevant to what the data show.

“The Friedman Foundation, while named after and founded by a Nobel Laureate economist, has become an apologist for school choice.”

Who wants to tell them?

“As such, the Friedman Foundation is no longer a valid source for unbiased information on school choice.”

So when “Wolfe” endorses school choice and produces a study that is (supposedly) negative, his support for vouchers is irrelevant to his scholarship. It proves he is, in OERC’s own words, “objective.” But when the Friedman Foundation endorses school choice, that somehow undermines my scholarly credentials. 

This game is fun! Can anyone play? The author of the OERC post is against school choice, so that person is clearly not a reliable source of information about the research on school choice, and no one should believe anything they say.

By this standard, studies that find smoking causes cancer are illegitimate because they’re all conducted by people who think smoking causes cancer.

That having been said, it is also true that most of the research on school choice is not funded or conducted by the kind of advocates who are (selectively) deplored by OERC. The post even quotes a passage from my report in which I point out that fact, but does not address the point. I wonder why.

The post lavishes a great deal of loving attention on a single 2010 study, of inferior methodological quality, that found against school choice, and then says “There is no empirical evidence. Please stop.”

One study versus the whole body of other evidence leads you to say “there is no empirical evidence”? Please stop, indeed.

“This is important, because the data in the meta study was mostly older than 2010.”

Yes, we regret to inform you that most of human history did occur before 2010.

However, if my report were to exclude all studies from before 2010, guess what it would find? An even stronger consensus of the research in favor of school choice. Just look at the charts in the report, which list all the studies by date and indicate their findings.

“Forster includes an analysis of the financial impact on ‘taxpayers.’ The issue is not the financial impact on taxpayers. The issue is the draining of financial resources from public schools. One could argue for or against this idea, but a careful reading of Forster reveals that his study has nothing to say about this.”

Wrong; “a careful reading” would have revealed that I discuss this issue on p. 3-4 and again on p. 15-16. Among other things, I write:
When a student leaves a public school using a choice program, the school loses all the costs associated with educating that student but not all the funding. As has been noted already, almost all federal and local education spending does not vary with enrollment, so those funds stay when students leave. This means public schools are left with more money to serve the students who remain. This is one possible explanation for the positive impact choice has on public school outcomes.

A recent empirical study on schools nationwide supports these findings. Benjamin Scafidi examined school finances in every state and found that out of a total of $12,450 spent per student in 2008-09, 64 percent ($7,967) was made up of variable costs that change with the number of students enrolled. This means school choice programs would produce significant financial windfalls for local schools as long as they redirected less than that amount per student.
An extra $7,967 per student is a lot of money, but it can’t buy OERC a decent argument.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Moore teacher facing felony sex charge with student

News 9 has the story.

OCPA president says outdated models aren't working

Jonathan Small
"Over the last 30 years there has been a recognition in Oklahoma and nationally that it's too difficult for one central entity or person to try and determine what structure will work best for all kids," OCPA president Jonathan Small tells The Oklahoman.
"A number of developed countries have shifted to a full voucher model and numerous states have education savings accounts. I do think a lot of the mandates had good intentions, but the problem was they were trying to make an old model work that has no chance of working in this new era that we are in." 
Small believes teachers would also find higher pay and increased flexibility by updating benefit structures and moving more existing funds away from non-classroom sources to teachers.

"There are some key special interest groups that benefit from the status quo," Small said. "In particular the superintendents association and the teachers union, those organizations have financial models that works best under the old system."

‘The impact it's had on my daughter is amazing'

Monday, March 28, 2016

Are profitable corporations making 'big money' with vouchers?

The web site Oklahoma Education Journal recently posted a video ("Profitship! Cashing In On Public Schools") which warned that public education must not "let corporations take over with charter schools and vouchers."

This argument is not new in the #OklaEd community. Public education activist Angela Clark Little once said of voucher programs: "What they are about is making money ... lots of it. Big money ... and legislators collaborating with big business."

But is that true? According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, there are 51 schools participating in Oklahoma's voucher program. They are:
  1. All Saints Catholic School
  2. Bishop John Carroll School
  3. Bishop Kelley Catholic School
  4. Bishop McGuiness Catholic High School
  5. Corn Bible Academy
  6. The Catholic School of St. Eugene
  7. Destiny Christian School
  8. Emmanuel Christian School
  9. Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy
  10. Good Shepherd Lutheran School and Child Development Center
  11. Happy Hands Education Center
  12. Holy Family Cathedral School
  13. Holy Trinity Catholic School
  14. Holy Trinity Christian School
  15. Immanuel Lutheran Christian Academy
  16. Ketchum Adventist Academy
  17. Lakewood Christian School
  18. Life Christian Academy
  19. Marquette Catholic School
  20. Messiah Lutheran School
  21. Metro Christian Academy
  22. Mission Academy High School
  23. Monte Cassino Catholic School
  24. Mount Saint Mary Catholic High School
  25. Oak Hall Episcopal School
  26. Oklahoma Bible Academy
  27. Oklahoma Christian Academy
  28. Oklahoma Christian School
  29. Paths to Independence
  30. Rosary School
  31. Sacred Heart Catholic School
  32. Saint Catherine Catholic School
  33. Saint Paul's Lutheran Church and School
  34. Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School (Kingfisher)
  35. Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School (Tulsa)
  36. Special Care, Inc.
  37. St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School
  38. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School
  39. St. James the Greater Catholic Church and School
  40. St. John's Episcopal School
  41. St. John Nepomuk
  42. St. Joseph Catholic School (Enid)
  43. St. Joseph Catholic School (Muskogee)
  44. St. Mary Catholic School (Guthrie)
  45. St. Mary’s Catholic School (Lawton)
  46. St. Pius X Catholic School
  47. Summit Christian Academy
  48. Town and Country School
  49. Trinity School
  50. Undercroft Montessori School
  51. Victory Christian School
So regarding vouchers, what are the names of the profitable corporations which are taking over? What are the names of the big businesses making big money?

Let my people go: State school board member touts school choice

"Keeping children in a failing school is no acceptable option," writes Daniel Keating, a member of the state Board of Education. "Give them their money and let them go."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

America lags on educational freedom

On his "Thoughtful Patriot" radio program, OCPA's Trent England recently talked with Boston University education professor Charles Glenn about the freedom many European parents have to use public funds to choose religious schools for their children.

More crime at Horace Mann Elementary School

KFOR has the story.

Oh, Horace, where did it all go wrong?

State takes control of embattled district

"More bad news surfaced this week for Grant-Goodland Public Schools," The Oklahoman reports, "where $200,000 went missing, the administration building was raided by federal investigators and the superintendent was suspended."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Are Edmond schools assigning smut?

"Public schools are slipping kids text porn and treating parents like crazy people," Jenni White writes at The Federalist ("Parents Shouldn’t Let Schools Force Kids To Read Smut"). She gives the example of Edmond mother Kim Heinecke:
After her son, a public school sophomore, was assigned the books “The Kite Runner” and “The Glass Castle” as required reading for English II and Pre-AP English II, Heinecke went to the principal and asked for a conference. 
“He talked to the teachers [prior to the meeting] and the English teacher’s response to him was that it was an award-winning book and kids hear this kind of thing all the time. I felt as though I didn’t have a right to tell them I didn’t want my kid to read it. They made me feel stupid,” Heinecke said. 
She then wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Edmond Public Schools and to the Edmond School Board, detailing her concerns about the books, along with excerpts such as these: 
I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma [grandmother] kneeling on the floor in front of Brian [9-year-old grandson], grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself and telling Brian to hold still, goddammit. Brian, his cheeks wet with tears, was holding his hands protectively between his legs. ‘Erma, you leave him alone!’ I shouted. Erma, still on her knees, twisted around and glared at me, ‘Why, you little bitch!’ she said. (page 146, “The Glass Castle”) 
My mind flashed to that winter day six years ago. Me, peering around the corner in the alley. Kamal and Wali holding Hassan down. Assef’s buttock muscles clenching and unclenching, his hips thrusting back and forth. (page 116, “The Kite Runner”) 
She also made as many parents aware of the situation as she could, even creating a form letter they could send to the superintendent and board on their behalf, but found few parents would use it. 
“They didn’t want to make waves because they didn’t want their kids to be singled out,” Heinecke said. “Parents didn’t know what was in the book, but once they knew, they assumed if a teacher was putting their signature on it, the teacher knew best, instead of saying it’s my kid, it’s my choice. Making waves with teachers is intimidating.”

'Child abuse'

"Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse," according to a new statement from the American College of Pediatricians. "Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents ..."

Based on the number of likes, shares, and comments here, my guess is that most Oklahomans agree.

Teaching tolerance?

Krissie Allen on when school "tolerance" stifles the Christian conscience.

Principles and policies for better education

OCPA trustee Mike O'Neal is also affiliated with an organization called the New Horizon Council. Dr. O'Neal has written an excellent piece outlining the principles and policies that will help get education back on track. I urge you to read it here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Preston Doerflinger speaks the truth on ESAs

"'Finance secretary backs away from criticism of GOP colleagues' (News, March 15) focused on supposed blowback to Preston Doerflinger's sharp criticism of lawmakers who refused to support legislation authorizing education savings accounts," Renee Porter writes in an excellent letter to the editor published today in The Oklahoman.
As the leader of a parent group supporting ESAs, I want to thank Doerflinger for speaking the truth and giving a voice to the majority of Oklahomans who polls show support these policies. 
Some of the parents I work with have children with special needs who are being left behind by their local public schools. Others want their child to have an education with a faith-based component but don't have the means to provide one. Some even fear for their child's safety at their current school and are desperately seeking alternatives. 
The current educational bureaucracy has taken away the power these parents should have to improve or even control their child's education and given it instead to government officials. Rather than challenge this failing status quo, state senators and representatives refused to even vote on the ESA measures that could have empowered parents and helped children. 
I'm disappointed and frustrated with our legislators, and saddened for parents and children the current system is failing. To those lawmakers and officials who have had the courage to do the same, including Doerflinger, I offer my sincerest thanks on behalf of the many families who would benefit from these much-needed reforms.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Nine years ago, The Oklahoman asked me for a column on what I thought education in Oklahoma would look like in 25 years. My answer: "I don't know. The God of history—'Divine Providence,' in the words of the signers of the Declaration—stands outside of history and directs it without consulting me." But with that caveat in place, I did suggest that there's good reason to believe that Oklahoma would increasingly embrace parental choice in education.

That prediction looks pretty good so far (we have enacted vouchers and tax credits, for example), and I thought of it today when I read Andrew Spiropoulos's column in The Journal Record. "While it is disappointing that education savings account legislation is unlikely to be passed this session," he wrote, "this year’s effort proved why its enactment is inevitable." And though I will stop short of "inevitable" (see paragraph above), I do share Spiropoulos's optimism.

It's frustrating when ESAs aren't brought to the floor because they don't have the votes. But it's even more frustrating when ESAs aren't brought to the floor because they do have the votes. (I think we saw both this year.) Happily, I do believe the floor action will eventually come. And given what we know about parents' wishes, I do not believe the education establishment's rearguard action to protect its monopoly can hold year after year.

So is parental choice inevitable? I won't say that. But I am more confident today than I was nine years ago that it will continue to advance.

Teachers need choice, too

"Creating more educational choice options for parents and students," writes Kimberly Sawatka, "also means teachers have more options to maximize their expertise and creativity and pursue their passion for teaching."

In a down budget year, ESAs can help

Some state lawmakers declined to support Education Savings Accounts this year on the grounds that the state couldn't afford them. But as The Oklahoman noted yesterday ("Conservative policy takes a hit with Oklahoma ESA decision"), "the math of ESAs blows that claim out of the water."
ESAs would provide parents around $3,500 to $4,000 per child. Based on state data reported to the federal government, Ben Scafidi, a professor at Kennesaw State University, notes Oklahoma spent about $8,716 per student in 2009. 
This means ESAs would allow the state to provide the same or better quality education to a student for $4,000 to $5,000 less than what officials would otherwise spend, while freeing up the remainder for other students. Note to Republicans: In a down budget year, that's a good thing. 
According to a Department of Education estimate, perhaps $14.6 million might go to ESAs next year. None of that money is diverted from education; it's only shifted from one school to another. Yet some lawmakers still said $14.6 million is an unaffordable “cost” to schools. But then an overwhelming majority of House members supported a bill mandating new Medicaid spending on autism therapy at an additional cost of $22 million. 
In a year of budget shortfall, that $22 million for Medicaid is money that won't go to education. So lawmakers who claimed they couldn't “afford” to provide a quality education to students for $4,000 per student less at a phantom “cost” of $14.6 million somehow saw no problem with truly diverting up to $22 million from education. Republicans wound up choosing to prioritize inefficient education spending over efficient spending in the name of protecting school funds they were simultaneously voting to divert elsewhere, while abandoning their longtime supporters to cater to a minority of voters who are hostile to Republicans.
According to a fiscal analysis performed by the Friedman Foundation, the state of Oklahoma will save $267,000 for every $1 million it spends on an ESA program. Click here to see how.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Setting the record straight on ESAs and accountability

Dr. Donnie Peal
[Guest post by Donnie Peal, executive director of the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission]

One of the most exciting proposals of this legislation session has centered around Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs.

ESAs give every qualified parent control over a portion of the tax dollars that are assigned for their child’s education. That money can be used to support private school tuition, tutoring, online learning and a variety of other customizable options.

Two of the most widely used arguments by opponents of ESAs are: 1) they offer no accountability on how dollars are spent, and 2) they will be used mainly by wealthy parents sending their children to wealthy schools.

Those arguments are wrong.

First, to address accountability: It is quite clear in the legislation being proposed this year that ESA money can only be used for legitimate educational expenses like private school tuition, tutoring fees, or the costs associated with enrolling in a virtual class.

The money cannot be used on field trips, or spent on computers, or used to pay the “salary” of a parent homeschooling their children. The specter of a negligent parent cashing in on ESA dollars is a scare tactic, not a plausible outcome.

Furthermore, ESAs would only be available to support accredited private schools. As the executive director of the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission, I am intimately familiar with the rigor and the quality of accreditation standards and processes approved to accredit private schools in Oklahoma. Those standards and processes are required by law to be equivalent to state accreditation standards for public schools. In fact, the rigor of the accreditation process and the requirements of the standards used by associations approved to accredit private schools in the state often exceed that of state public school accreditation.

Accredited private schools in the state consistently compare very favorably with Oklahoma’s best public schools in their academic offerings and quality, usually having lower teacher/student ratios and sometimes being far superior in the attention they can pay to children with special needs. In addition, accredited private schools are required to maintain compliance with requirements related to foundational school operations and practices such as nondiscrimination with regard to race and ethnic origin, financial management and accountability, student health and safety, etc., just as public schools are. 

ESAs, therefore, would have significant government oversight and accountability attached to them on multiple regulatory levels. Furthermore, ESA’s would be consistent with and supportive of the ultimate accountability mechanism – the ability of parents to move their children and tuition dollars elsewhere.

The second argument widely used by ESA opponents regards the economic makeup of private schools. One of the important facts that has gotten lost somewhere in this debate is that many private schools are as economically and racially diverse as public schools.

For example, Sacred Heart Catholic School in Oklahoma City has a student body that is 93 percent Hispanic and an overall 79 percent student eligibility for free-and-reduced-priced lunch. The vast majority of its students are able to go there because of scholarships offered through Sacred Heart Church. ESAs would support that school and help provide more children in south Oklahoma City with a great education.

Another example is Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City. This school is a school for homeless children. The staff there are taking children in otherwise hopeless situations from those desperate circumstances, offering them a quality education and teaching them that they have a bright future. ESAs would allow them to bestow that bright future on more children who are currently falling through the cracks.

In fact, the data supports the fact that private schools in the state serve families from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. While data is not available for all private schools in the state, reporting for 95 of the 131 private schools in Oklahoma accredited by approved private school accrediting associations for the 2014-15 school year showed that 24 percent of those schools provided some amount of need-based financial aid to students attending those schools. In addition, data reported for 87 of those schools revealed that they provided over $2.2 million in financial aid to students attending those schools.

Finally, ESAs shift power away from institutions to parents, and shift the focus of education funding from individual schools to individual children. For some, that will admittedly be a radical notion. But isn’t that what education is supposed to be about – the students? Parents have the responsibility to ensure their child receives a quality education, and, for the most part, have a basic understanding of whether or not a particular school, whether public or private, is best meeting their child’s educational needs. In addition, as indicated consistently through polling data that shows strong support among parents for expanded school choice opportunities, parents have a strong desire to choose the education for their child that best meets his or her needs. Those school choice opportunities are widely available, and receive government support and funding, at the post-secondary level and, to a certain extent, at the early childhood level. 

Sadly, however, school choice opportunities are few and far between at the K-12th grade level. Many parents, unfortunately, find themselves unable to ensure that their child attends a school providing a quality education that best meets his/her individual needs.

ESAs are an important step in providing opportunities that will help empower parents to make educational choices that are best for their child. While the debate continues about ESA authorization in Oklahoma, I feel very strongly that proponents on both sides of the issue must keep the focus on what is best for the children of Oklahoma. Certainly, the debate will be considerably more productive if we can agree to drop misleading arguments about accountability and class.

GOP capitulation on ESAs is bad policy, bad politics

"Having succeeded enough to win elections, one would assume Oklahoma state lawmakers at least have decent political judgment," The Oklahoman notes today ("Conservative policy takes a hit with Oklahoma ESA decision"). "But their recent job performance provides ample evidence to the contrary."
Last week's Republican capitulation on education savings accounts is exhibit A. With an ESA, parents are given a share of the per-pupil funding the state already allocates to educate their child for uses that include private school. It's a classically conservative, free-market idea whose benefit would be greatest for children currently trapped in Oklahoma's worst schools, particularly low-income children. Officials at a private school serving homeless children have said ESAs would allow them to help many more needy youth. 
SoonerPoll found 56.3 percent of likely voting Oklahomans support ESAs; only 26.8 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, 63 percent support ESAs, as do 45 percent of Democrats. Those findings are in line with numerous polls conducted on the issue. 
So supporting ESAs could help Republicans win primary races and attract support from a sizable number of Democrats in a general election. ESA opponents are a distinct minority substantially composed of people who never vote Republican and never will (such as the most rabid teacher union members and their allies). 
Yet last week, Republican lawmakers sided with the 26.8 percent and poked a finger in the eye of the strong majority.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gov. Mary Fallin says one size doesn't fit all

Hats off to Gov. Fallin for calling for Education Savings Accounts.

The fiscal impact of an Oklahoma ESA program

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger recently noted that state school superintendent Joy Hofmeister is a Democrat in Republican clothing (something I have pointed out here and here). He especially took issue with her fiscal impact statement on Education Savings Accounts. Fortunately, the Friedman Foundation provides an accurate fiscal note here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Your #OklaEd tax dollars at work

Tahlequah superintendent Lisa Presley apparently thinks the following is an appropriate use of school time and resources:
From: Diane Adamson
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2016 9:12 AM
To: Marissa McCoy; Susan VanZant; Lacie Davenport; Jaycie Smith; Cory Slagle; Paula Sloan; Matt Cloud
Subject: FW: Oklahoma Senate and House Email list
Below is the email list(s) for the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives. Ms Presley asked that I send this information to you and for you to forward to your faculty and staff. The ESA/Vouchers bills are scheduled to be heard on both floors for a vote today and need to send emails to our legislators to ask them to VOTE NO on HB2949 and SB609
Oklahoma House of Representatives –

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Oklahoma Senate –

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Copan teacher charged with embezzlement

The News on 6 has the story.

Enid pastor supports ESAs

"The church has always affirmed the role of parents as the primary educators of their children," writes Wade Burleson, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid.
The responsibility begins at home to raise children in a Christ-centered environment and encourage a strong educational foundation. Giving parents choices to tailor their children’s educational experience is the single most effective way of ensuring those children can make the most of their instruction, which is why supporting legislation creating Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, is crucial.

School-choice voucher: A 'get out of jail' card?

A new study finds that leaving the monopoly school system and persistently attending 
a private school through a voucher program can decrease subsequent criminal activity.

We already know that private-school choice policies enable some children to avoid jails. Now a new report tells us that those policies help grown-ups, too.

"In this report we examine crime rates for young adults who experienced Milwaukee's citywide voucher program as high school students and a comparable group of their peers who had been public school students," Corey DeAngelis and Patrick J. Wolf write.
Using unique data collected as part of a longitudinal evaluation of the program, we consider criminal activity by youth initially exposed to voucher schools and those in public schools at the same time. We also consider subsequent criminal activity by the students that stayed in the voucher program through 12th grade compared to those who were in public schools for the same period. We show that the mere exposure to private schooling through a voucher is associated with lower rates of criminal activity but the relationship is not robust to different analytic samples or measures of crime. We find a more consistent statistically significant negative relationship between students that stayed in the voucher program through 12th grade and criminal activity (meaning persistent voucher students commit fewer crimes). These results are apparent when controlling for a robust set of student demographics, test scores, and parental characteristics. We conclude that merely being exposed to private schooling for a short time through a voucher program may not have a significant impact on criminal activity, though persistently attending a private school through a voucher program can decrease subsequent criminal activity, especially for males.  

Moore teacher accused of inappropriate relationship with student

News 9 has the story.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tahlequah's alarming non-teaching staffing surge

Here's a slide from a PowerPoint presentation being seen by 1,100-plus students in the school cafeteria in Tahlequah:

But is it really that simple? Can we say flatly that "budget cuts from the State Legislature" are to blame?

According to data that the Oklahoma State Department of Education reports to the U.S. Department of Education, Tahlequah has seen a 5 percent growth in students, and a 7 percent growth in teachers, over the last two decades. Yet the growth in non-teaching staff has been an almost inexplicable 91 percent.

I think it's safe to say that if Tahlequah had increased non-teaching staff at the same rate as its increase in students, the district could easily afford to provide drivers education classes this summer.

As I never tire of repeating, it's all about priorities.

States seek to stymie hiring suspected sex-predator teachers

The Associated Press has the story.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fight in Putnam City bathroom caught on tape

KOCO reports that "one parent, who did not want to be identified, told KOCO that this is not an isolated incident."
"These kids are organizing these fights, and it’s happening every day," she said. She said it has gotten to the point where her son is afraid to go to school. "To know that your kid is nervous because he’s going to have some kids jump on him is a really horrible feeling," she said.

ESAs are a win for families, taxpayers, and teachers

ESAs "squarely meet the only meaningful objective of our K-12 public education system — to provide a solid education for each individual student in the school that best fits that student’s unique circumstances," Bob Sullivan writes in the Tulsa World.

Fresh ideas for the ESA debate

[Guest post by Ben Harris]

The current ESA debate could benefit from a fresh approach. Modifications to the current ESA legislation could allow passage with a clear majority, and would definitely smoke out some of the intellectually dishonest arguments being made.

Both sides should buy into these compromises because neither side can achieve their ultimate objectives without some cooperation from the other side, given both the makeup of the legislature and public opinion. Opponents will never be able to get a material increase in resources for education because many choice advocates feel as though the money is wasted without the force of competition to ensure quality and efficiency. The choice advocates will continue to get thwarted because those in the education establishment believe resources are the problem and that ESA’s would simply make it worse.

I say give both sides what they want. Perhaps gratification is delayed due to the state budget crisis, but mutual goals could be achieved over time with a piece of legislation that could pass now.

Here are the basic revisions that should be put into the ESA legislation:

(1) The percentage of the state per pupil funding that determines the amount of the ESA is always a point of controversy, and although most choice advocates want the ESA to equal 100 percent of the per pupil amount, any percentage would potentially expand choices for students. Using this year as a baseline, the annual percentage increase in the statewide average per pupil expenditure shall be equal to the percentage of the total statewide per pupil expenditure that the state will pay into an ESA. In other words, ESA’s will become a lever to push more resources into education. When the state doubles the statewide average per pupil expenditure Oklahoma will have an ESA equal to 100 percent of the per student amount received by public schools, and as a result a truly competitive education marketplace will exist to deliver quality and efficiency. If history is any indicator this would mean that we would likely have a partial ESA within the next three years and eventually have a 100 percent ESA.

(2) A legitimate criticism from ESA opponents is that we are giving public money to schools that do not have any public accountability requirements on them. The debate has centered on trying to put public school mandates on the private schools that accept the ESA. This would deter many, if not most, private schools from wanting to accept an ESA at all, as they will want no part of the mind-boggling level of overregulation that adds little value and lots of costs to the pursuit of academic achievement. So why not go the other way? Both sides largely agree that public education has way too many regulations, so why not use ESA's as a lever to reduce mandates in public schools? Any public school district that has a single student leave their school to attend a private school using an ESA triggers the option that the public school's board may vote to exempt themselves from all state regulations and be under the same regulatory framework that their "competition" is under. In other words, allow public schools to put themselves on a level playing field with their competition if they choose to do so locally, instead of trying to regulate another sector of education under a system of mandates that by all accounts is broken.

These changes in the bill would definitely change the whole debate, and may result in passage. The faster we are able to increase resources as a state for education, the faster we have a fully funded ESA that is significant enough to attend nearly any school in the state, private or public. This would create real competition and all the benefits to the consumer that it produces. This aligns incentives for all sides of the debate, and will finally allow policymakers to determine the true cost of a quality education as determined by the free market, not the politics of the budget process.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Obergefell and school choice

"In Obergefell’s aftermath, it is possible that the government will ask religious institutions to choose between retaining their non-profit tax status and retaining their beliefs," Nathan Swanson writes ("Collateral Damage: Same-Sex Marriage, Private Religious Schools, and Parental Rights"). 
But the “collateral damage” will not stop at their sanctuary doors. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques also operate schools, and they will be the next targets. ... State and federal legislators should push for legislation that prevents the government from requiring schools to adopt sexual orientation nondiscrimination policies in order to be eligible for voucher, tax credit/deductions, or educational savings account programs.

Former Oklahoma high school coach arrested for inappropriate relationship with student

KFOR has the story.

Geary teacher under investigation

KOCO has the story.

A tax-credit scholarship changed her life

Justice Scalia and school choice

"Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13 after a lifetime spent defending the rule of law," Trent England writes today in the Enid News & Eagle. "Three days later, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a school choice program is a fitting monument to the late Justice." Read the entire column here.

Debating the impact of regulations on school choice

Jason Bedrick's latest post is here, and Greg Forster has some helpful insights here.

OKC school district investigates misconduct allegation involving PTO

The Oklahoman has the story.