Sunday, October 30, 2016

An expedition into life’s virtues, values

"On the fourth floor of the Downtown Oklahoma City Library lies Odyssey Leadership Academy which is home to 48 students from all over the metro area who have various educational backgrounds," the Edmond Sun reports.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Millennial ignorance disturbing

"A study has found that quite a few young Americans are open to Communism," Gene Veith writes. 
And one out of three believe that George W. Bush killed more people that Josef Stalin. ... Not to defend this monumental ignorance, but we need to realize that very few high schools are teaching history any more. Instead, they teach 'social studies.'"
Read the whole thing here.

School choice improves public schools

"School choice is the best-researched education issue, possibly the best-researched policy issue of any kind," Greg Forster writes for OCPA. "And guess what? Choice is actually the best-proven method—by far—of improving public schools. If you’re serious about helping public schools, you should be serious about school choice."

Oklahoma education spending continues to rise

Oklahoma education spending has gone nowhere but up, writes OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos, despite the shameless lies and rhetorical flimflam one hears from education bureaucrats and left-wing activists.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Liberal think-tank report ‘stretches the truth beyond the breaking point’

"One problem in the Oklahoma school funding debate is that many 'facts' touted by activists are not exactly as advertised," The Oklahoman notes today in a takedown of the annual CBPP report. Accountant Steve Anderson has explained why the CBPP report is extremely flawed. Indeed, the report "stretches the truth beyond the breaking point," as Oklahoma's Senate leader memorably put it.


  • The state's largest newspaper has more to say about "critics' claims that Oklahoma has cut school spending more than any other state based on a report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yet when that report examined total state funding for schools between 2008 and 2014, the center found that Oklahoma didn't land in the top 10 states ranked by percentage cuts. And the center used a methodology in which even increased funding could still be declared a 'cut' at times."
  • CBPP's 2017 report actually undermines many #OklaEd arguments.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The shame of Blaine comes sweeping down the plain

A "yes" vote on SQ 790 will get rid of it.

Mother sues Tulsa Public Schools after school reportedly failed to protect daughter after assault

FOX 23 has the story.

Means-testing ed choice programs is bad politics, bad policy

Jay Greene speaks in Oklahoma City on December 3, 2015.
One excellent idea being proposed in Oklahoma is for policymakers to do what eight other states have done: enact an individual tax credit or deduction for approved educational expenses (including private school tuition and homeschooling). Policymakers should embrace this idea.

But whichever new ed-choice program Oklahoma policymakers decide to enact next—whether it's an individual tax credit, or a scholarship for foster kids, or an education savings account, or whatever it may be—policymakers should resist the temptation to means-test the program. Means-testing would be bad politics and bad policy.

In 2014 and again in 2015, pollsters asked registered Oklahoma voters whether educational choice should be available to all families or should be means-tested. A Braun Research survey, for example, asked if ESAs should be available only to those in financial need; Oklahomans rejected that idea by a margin of 53 percent to 37 percent. But when asked if ESAs should be available to all families, Oklahomans overwhelmingly (58 percent to 32 percent) said yes.

A Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates survey asked Oklahomans if ESAs should be available only to low-income students. By a margin of 65 percent to 27 percent, the answer was no. [The results were similar among Republicans (67 percent to 24 percent) and Democrats (63 percent to 29 percent).]

In a recent article at Education Next (“Political Science for Ed Reform Dummies”), University of Arkansas professor Jay P. Greene reminds us that “a basic lesson about political reality is that more advantaged people tend to have more political power.”
Rather than lament this fact, reformers should try to use it to advance their goals. The old political adage that programs for the poor tend to be poor programs is all too true. Reformers have made horrible political mistakes in concentrating programs in disadvantaged areas, means-testing participants, and focusing on options that are mostly of interest to lower-income families. Not only do these programs tend to be less-well funded, overly regulated, and generally of lower quality, but they are always highly vulnerable to being weakened further or eliminated. 
To increase the odds of having better quality programs that are more generously funded and more reasonably regulated, reformers should be sure to include higher-income families as potential beneficiaries. And those wealthier families are more likely to be mobilized politically to protect and expand programs. If reformers should seek to organize concentrated interests of beneficiaries, it would really help if they did not exclude higher-income families that tend to have better resources, networks, and experience to participate more effectively in politics [emphasis added].
Professor Greene reiterated the point yesterday, explaining why charter-school expansion is likely to lose at the ballot box in Massachusetts on November 8.

Education researcher Matt Ladner also has some helpful insights. For example, he reminds us that public school eligibility is universal.
Imagine a district school official telling a student “Sorry Johnny, we would let you participate in our dual enrollment program, but your parents pay too many taxes so it disqualifies you.” How about, “We regret to inform you, Susanne, that your parents’ income has been too high to allow you to attend the University of Arkansas—which is reserved for low- and middle-income taxpayers.” How about, “economic diversity will not be tolerated in charter schools. We have learned about your father’s high income and you are hereby expelled!”
So, for example, if an Oklahoma billionaire could send his or her kids to get a $10,000-per-year education at a suburban public school, what’s so awful about a $1,000 tax credit if that parent decided to homeschool or choose a private school instead? What's so awful about a $5,000 voucher or ESA?

Why should a homeschooling Edmond heart surgeon be excluded from receiving a tax credit?

Why should a Tulsa oil-and-gas entrepreneur who sends his kids to Victory Christian School be excluded from getting a voucher or an ESA?

After all, as Dr. Ladner reminds us, they pay more taxes than most other people, both directly and indirectly by creating jobs and creating companies that also pay taxes. Since when do GOP politicians want to make enemies out of a key portion of their base?

If states like Indiana, Iowa, and Louisiana can enact tax credits with universal eligibility, there’s no reason Oklahoma cannot do the same. Heck, even purple Wisconsin and deep-blue Illinois have tax credits with universal eligibility.

The education establishment is going to fight school choice no matter what. They’re going to demagogue it as “school choice for the rich” no matter what. So there's no reason not to aim for the ideal policy. If it turns out that the sausage-making process demands compromise, a better route for the individual tax credit would be to keep the eligibility universal but use a graduated scale that gives a larger tax credit for lower-income kids. A better route for the ESA would be to limit it geographically rather than by income.

As Dr. Ladner puts it, “I think we have our hands full fighting the union bosses, superintendents, etc. without going out of our way to make enemies out of high-income people in a way no other education option would even seriously entertain.”


  • If the Massachusetts charter school ballot question fails (which it did), Robert Pondiscio writes, "don't point angry fingers at selfish Massachusetts voters: Blame falls equally upon a movement that has long been a bit too enamored of its own civil-rights-movement-of-our-time rhetoric to worry much about building a constituency among the middle class."
  • AEI scholar Katharine Stevens has an interesting observation about why the folks promoting early-childhood development (prenatal through age 3) for disadvantaged people hitched their wagon to the universal pre-K star. "I think there may be a political calculation," she says. "If you’re promoting something universal, you will stand a much better chance of getting public support. ... Disadvantaged mothers and infants do not have huge interest groups or lobbying organizations."
  • "Universal choice should be the long-term goal," Greg Forster writes. "The Louisiana debacle and other experiences from the past 20 years point to the value of making school choice programs more widely and easily accessible. Programs created with strict limits on which students they can serve and how they can serve those students struggle, educationally and politically. Programs that create more freedom for more parents create more benefits for schools and students, and have a larger political base upon which they can draw to defend the program against invidious attacks of special interests. The whole logic of school choice—that it puts parents in charge, that it creates opportunities for schools to try diverse approaches and invent the education of the 21st century—points to the value of universal choice. As long as we’re only putting some parents sort of in charge, school choice programs will be limited in what they can accomplish. Only putting all parents really in charge holds out the promise of more dramatic improvements, which has always been latent in the idea of school choice but has not yet been unleashed in a universal and unfettered school choice policy."
  • In an October 24, 2019, meeting in Tampa with a group of Oklahoma policymakers, Patricia Levesque, chief executive officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, lauded Oklahoma's tax-credit scholarship program for its expansive student eligibility. Including the middle class in the program is wise, she said: Oklahoma has a base of political support on which to build.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Nearly 4 in 10 Oklahoma teachers would choose private or home education for their own children

When asked what’s the best educational choice for their own children, one might expect near unanimity from teachers that a traditional public school is best. Not only for reasons of loyalty to one’s employer (Thunder employees don’t cheer for the Warriors), but because teachers are in the schools every day and have firsthand knowledge of school quality and safety. So it’s surprising—and perhaps somewhat telling—that nearly 4 in 10 teachers would choose a private school or homeschooling for their own children, according to a new SoonerPoll survey.

Oklahoma lawmakers should do what eight other states have done: enact an individual tax credit or deduction for approved educational expenses (including private school tuition and homeschooling). This would empower teachers—and indeed all Oklahoma parents—to make the best educational choice for their own children.

[UPDATE: Proposed legislation creating an individual tax credit cleared one legislative hurdle in 2019.]

Friday, October 21, 2016

For pre-K choices

When it comes to early childhood education, OCPA president Jonathan Small writes today in The Journal Record, policymakers shouldn’t put their finger on the scale by favoring government options over nongovernment options.

No more stereotypes about schools

After spending time at private schools in Oklahoma which cater to homeless children and special-needs children, OCPA’s Trent England says it’s time to dispense with the stereotypes about private schools.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Classroom predator suspended with pay

"A taxpayer-funded school district in Oklahoma is still generously paying a salary to a high school cheerleading coach who was arrested for allegedly engaging in a festival of touching with a 14-year-old male teen," The Daily Caller reports.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Keeping Oklahoma children safe

Commenting on a recent interim study by state Sen. Kyle Loveless, the state's largest newspaper says Oklahoma needs to strengthen its reporting requirements about predators in the classroom. Meanwhile, Trent England wonders why some superintendents aren't getting fired and possibly even facing legal liability.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Oklahomans want educational choices

Survey data show that Oklahomans favor educational choice, I write today in the Enid News & Eagle.
Today, one in seven students in Oklahoma’s public school system is eligible for a private-school voucher. Four out of five Oklahoma families with children are eligible for a tax-credit scholarship, according to the organization EdChoice. And I expect school choice to continue to advance. 
One reason is the Sexual Revolution’s continued assault on Oklahoma values. “The Obama administration is bullying the nation’s public schools into allowing students who claim they are transgender to use the bathroom and locker room facilities of the opposite sex,” Greg Forster recently pointed out in an article (“Commode Core Shows Why We Need School Choice”) in Perspective, a magazine I edit. 
And it’s not just the bogeyman feds. As my colleague Trent England has been discussing on The Trent England Show, the Oklahoma Library Association is pushing transgender propaganda at 10-year-old students in schools all across Oklahoma. 
Tulsa Public Schools is so keen on the idea of calling a little boy a girl that teachers are being trained on “gender nonconformity” issues, including which bathrooms transgender children are allowed to use. No real surprise there; in June district officials in Tulsa flew a “Gay Pride” flag outside the TPS headquarters. 
For its part, the Oklahoma PTA announced in July that the national PTA and its constituent associations will now be advocating for legislation creating a new protected class for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning” persons. 
Parents, not government officials, have the moral right and the responsibility to determine a child’s path. The government—especially a government hostile to their values—should not penalize parents financially for raising their children in accordance with their consciences.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Predators in the classroom

We still aren't doing enough to combat the problem, Michael Tortorello writes this weekend in The Wall Street Journal.

You may recall that earlier this year USA Today gave Oklahoma an "F" for its teacher background check system.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Challenging the conventional wisdom on teacher certification

Teacher certification isn't all it's cracked up to be, economist Byron Schlomach writes in a new report ("The Need to Review and Reform Occupational Licensing in Oklahoma"). 

"Many studies of teacher certification/licensing have been done that show little to no support for the notion that teacher certification/ licensing regimes improve student outcomes over having teachers that are simply well-acquainted with the subject matter that they teach," he writes.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Helping families with private scholarship funds

Terrific letter to the editor today in The Oklahoman from Charlie Daniels, my fellow board member at the Opportunity Scholarship Fund:
We're constantly assailed by bad news in Oklahoma. How about some good news for a change? The liberty-loving Cato Institute measures freedom in all 50 states, and it rates Oklahoma second best in the nation! What got us this high rank? A lot of reforms, including education reforms such as the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarships for disabled kids and a “tax benefit for contributions to private scholarship funds.”
Those “private scholarship funds” are called “Scholarship Granting Organizations” here. They help level the playing field for lower income parents who want to be able to choose a private school for their children. There are two main SGOs in Oklahoma City: the Catholic Schools Opportunity Fund, providing scholarships to Catholic schools, and the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, for most non-Catholic private schools. Both SGOs are already helping a number of local families.
Not only do low-income parents benefit from the SGOs, so do donors. Most donors get 50 percent credits against state income tax. A promise to make the same contribution for two years ups that credit even more. The benefits are eye-popping. A $1,000 donation made directly to a school costs the average taxpayer about $700, net of taxes. If that same $1,000 contribution goes to an SGO, the net cost shrinks to about $200.
Parents or donors wanting more information can contact their local Catholic school or non-Catholic private school. These SGOs are part of the reason Cato ranks Oklahoma high on freedom, and they deserve our warm support.