Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Federal vouchers present hazards

"Mr. Trump has proposed a $20 billion federal voucher program that students could use to attend public or private schools," Jason L. Riley writes today in The Wall Street Journal ("Why Trump’s Education Pick Scares Unions").
But this idea presents similar hazards. Federal dollars will bring federal regulations, and reform-minded individuals like Betsy DeVos won’t forever be in charge of implementing them. Better to let the states lead on school choice. Now that Republicans control 33 governorships and both legislative chambers in 32 states, what’s stopping them?

Federal-voucher opponents are right (for the wrong reasons)

"A federal voucher program poses a danger to school choice efforts nationwide," Jason Bedrick writes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Glad we got that cleared up

Calling a little girl a boy, pushing transgender propaganda at 10-year-olds, and flying the rainbow flag outside the school district headquarters. Those things are perfectly fine.

But exposing students to "1950’s-era gender expectations"? That is forbidden and requires an apology.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Classical conflict

"Will classical public charter schools lure Christian parents away from schools that acknowledge Christ as the center of all things?" Leigh Jones tackles that question in an excellent article in WORLD magazine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Preschool may not just be a waste of money

It might also do harm, Jason Richwine writes.

Oklahoma districts report success with four-day school weeks

"I met with my staff last week and they said they're further along in their curriculum than they've ever been," News9 quotes one principal as saying. "They're seeing students with better morale. They're excited to be there. Our attendance is up."

And in The Ada News, a Vanoss principal also says the four-day school week is a multi-faceted success.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Educator-lawmakers already common in Oklahoma

"Those who insist education is being neglected by the Legislature are implicitly suggesting longtime school officials are directly responsible," The Oklahoman points out in an excellent editorial.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tax-credit scholarships save money

A new study is here, and a terrific Wall Street Journal editorial is here.

Key observation from the study: "School choice critics often argue that school choice siphons resources from public schools. But their logic paints school funding as a ratcheting wrench that works only one way ..."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Defeating 'status-quo defenders'

Indiana businessman Fred Klipsch "worked with many of his peers to drive policy development and political action to defeat status-quo defenders," Fred Morgan, president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, reminds us in a recent column. It's time for some Oklahoma business leaders to do likewise.

Princeton professor understood that public schools would be the engine of atheism

Insightful post from Zachary Garris here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Child allegedly choked and left unconscious at Holdenville middle school

"A child was allegedly choked and left unconscious at school, and parents say they want the bullying to stop," KFOR reports.

How to run the government-school monopoly better

Oklahoma policymakers should take a hard look at school board elections, building-level autonomy, principal training, transparency measures, and other public-school governance reforms, Greg Forster writes in Perspective.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Teacher pay, yes, but 'the public wants real reform as well'

"As we've noted before, education is an issue that clearly deserves lawmakers' attention," The Oklahoman editorialized today.
Teacher pay is part of that conversation, but only one part. The public wants real reform as well. It's time to reduce administrative bloat. It's time to direct more money to the classroom. It's time to hold local districts responsible for mismanagement, such as over-testing that is almost entirely a product of local administrators and school boards, not state mandates. It's time to increase school choice and give parents more options, understanding that the closest school isn't automatically the best fit for every single child.

Pugh, Newberry question across-the-board pay raises

State Senator-elect Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) was recently quoted in the Edmond Sun as saying: "If you have got a teacher who has been teaching 20 years and they have a Ph.D. and a teacher who has been teaching two years—why should they get the same pay raise? ... Maybe the 20-year veteran deserves a $10,000 pay raise and the two-year teacher should get $2,000."

In the Sand Springs Leader, state Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) also questioned the wisdom of giving the same pay raise to low-performing teachers as to high-performing teachers. "That might not be the best way to ensure dollars to the teachers. They should be rewarded based on ability," he said.

UPDATE:  "[W]hen the Legislature convenes in February, it must find a way to invest more money in our teachers," Andrew Spiropoulos writes in The Journal Record. "But only lazy opportunists will settle for a plan that consists only of an across-the-board salary increase designed to look good in a press release." Spiropoulos has some specific pay-raise ideas here.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vindictive-resentment watch

"The most vindictive resentment," Isabel Paterson understood more than 70 years ago, "may be expected from the pedagogic profession for any suggestion that they should be dislodged from their dictatorial position."

Vouchers shift the balance of power to
consumers—who can vote with their feet.
That resentment was on full display this week. FOX 23 reported on an Owasso High School teacher who was disgusted with Tuesday's election results, especially with the fact that Oklahomans elected people to office who favor school vouchers. This teacher told his students that Oklahomans have elected “uninformed, ignorant, racist pieces of [bleep].”

It's not the only time we've seen some rather startling language from Oklahoma educators who either weren't coping well with the election results or who resent educational reform.

English teacher Jennifer Williams, who is tired of "f*ing platitudes," says "people are generally such selfish assholes that they rarely surprise me." And after the election of Mr. Trump, she is especially critical of white people: "White people are the deliberately blind, ignorant, deaf, tunnel-visioned voters. ... Actually, it's been awhile since I was offended by anyone other than white people. ... I'm so incensed by white women I could actually do harm. ... Jesus, White women. If you're really wanting equality, it ain't comin' from your White men. Why do we need to completely sh*t on women of other races? Do you realize how stupid you are? ... [W]e are such competitive and power-grubbing bitches ... Why can't White men release their death grip on their power and the government and the nation? ... Whites are sucking the life from America, denying our country any possible chance at greatness. No one and nothing can ever be great if you've stolen, murdered, pillaged, and raped to achieve power."

For his part, Tulsa Union teacher Dallas Koehn hasn't been bashful about using words like "sh*tting on people," "a**hole," a "clusterf*ck," "shut the $%#& up," and "kiss my big fat angry blogging a**, you sick twisted lying $#%&ers."

Music teacher (and minister's wife) Mindy Dennison has instructed certain school-choice proponents to kiss her a**.

Tulsa teacher Cory Williams has no patience for state lawmakers who "can't seem to find their ass with both hands without taking money from education and giving it to oil companies." 

Mid-Del superintendent Rick Cobb, no fan of the state's A-F grading system, says "A-F that is right!"

Sand Springs administrator Rob Miller says "when I stumble upon a big steaming pile of festering crap I tend to say, 'Hey look, there’s a pile of sh*t.'"

Retired teacher Claudia Swisher, apparently believing hostility to be the best fundraising posture, instructs policymakers: "Fund us. Support us. Or STF (flip) U."

As we approach 2017, the taxpaying parents of 100,000 Oklahoma students, despite being compelled to pay for public education, have in effect said to public school officials: "Your product is sufficiently unattractive to us that you can't even give it away." Moreover, Oklahoma has enacted a private-school voucher program and a tax-credit scholarship program. And as we move ever closer to Rod Paige's vision of universal school choice—by expanding our current programs, enacting ESAs, providing for individual tax credits, and more—I suspect the vindictive resentment will grow.

What's especially disappointing is the hostility from some Oklahoma educators toward parents who want a faith-based education for their children. Rob Miller, for example, says: "If you are a parent who wants to use the Bible as your child’s Biology text, ESAs are for you." The online Oklahoma Education Journal posted a video with a similarly uninformed and uncharitable portrayal of Christ-centered education. The viewer will notice the unflattering setting and the mockery of "God’s Li’l Voucher School, Inc." which delivers "cutting-edge religious creation-science."

Happily, the vast majority of Oklahoma educators would never resort to vapid caricatures of private schools. (Indeed, 4 in 10 Oklahoma teachers would choose private or home education for their own children.) The vast majority of Oklahoma teachers would never refer to elected officials as "racist pieces of [bleep]." And that's good. Because parents want exemplary role models for their children, understanding full well that "a student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher."

[This post has been updated to include colorful new quotes from Oklahoma educators.]

Friday, November 11, 2016

Teacher caucus shortage

Researchers say there is no teacher shortage in Oklahoma. But the same cannot be said regarding the much-ballyhooed teacher caucus.

Sand Springs administrator Rob Miller, shocked and disappointed at Tuesday's election results, says "there is very little positive spin anyone can offer about the outcome of many House and Senate races, not to mention the demoralizing defeat of State Question 779 ..." Purcell superintendent Jason Midkiff was similarly disappointed by "the small group of Education Candidates to win." Retired teacher Claudia Swisher said they were "much smaller numbers than we’d hoped." Tulsa Union teacher Dallas Koehn was pleased by "the handful of winning edu-slators" on Tuesday. "But dozens of others went down in flames," he says. "Not even close in most cases."

There’s trouble bruin on campus


"A disturbing social media video of several fights involving current and former Bartlesville High School and Bruin Academy students surfaced Tuesday night, causing concern among parents, students, and school administrators," the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise reports.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Profane Owasso teacher doesn't like vouchers


FOX 23 reports on an Owasso High School teacher who was disgusted with Tuesday's election results, especially with the fact that Oklahomans would elect people to office who favor school vouchers. "Ridiculous," he said.

The teacher was unhappy that Oklahomans would "elect uninformed, ignorant, racist pieces of [bleep]."

Educator blissfully untroubled by mass educational failure

After SQ 779 went down in flames Tuesday night, a teacher at Ada High School tweeted the following:



Well, yes. However, an obvious question presents itself:



I'm not sure what sort of reply I was then expecting from this teacher. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect something along the lines of: "Good point. We have spent untold millions of dollars yet too often have failed at our most basic task—teaching a child to read. We have damaged countless lives, many of them unalterably. I hope parents and taxpayers can forgive us and give us another chance."

Alas, that's not what he said. Incredibly, this was his reply:


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

More momentum for Oklahoma ed choice

Three developments in the last week will add to the momentum for educational choice in Oklahoma.

First, additional choice supporters were elected to the state legislature last night. Read about each of them here. Of special note is the re-election of Dan Newberry, the Senate author of the state's most expansive private-school choice program. Newberry dispatched the retired education bureaucrat (and vocal ed-choice foe) Lloyd Snow.

In this year's legislative races, the Oklahoma Federation for Children Action Fund spent more than $210,000. This is sometimes referred to as "dark money," a scary-sounding phrase used (usually by people who disagree with the donors' electoral preferences) to describe healthy and important First Amendment activities. The phrase "dark money" is especially beloved of liberal journalists and members of Oklahoma's public education community, though I suspect enthusiasm for its usage has dampened of late. Which brings us to the second key development: Ed-choice foes Joy Hofmeister, Fount Holland, and a pair of former CCOSA and OEA officials were charged last week with felony counts. The indispensable Michael Bates has a summary here

If you ever needed confirmation of Preston Doerflinger's observation that Hofmeister is a Democrat in Republican clothing (something I have long pointed out—here and here, for example), look no further than this affidavit. And don't miss this gem from GOP campaign consultant (and ed-choice foe) Fount Holland: "A little savvy would make OEA unstoppable. The question is are they for us, and can they be quiet and stomach our right wing rhetoric long enough to get what they really want; a pro education environment for our state." That quote perfectly encapsulates why Oklahoma's GOP supermajorities (75 to 26 in the House; 42 to 6 in the Senate) are not unalloyed good news.

Third, ed-choice supporters Donald Trump and Mike Pence were victorious last night. You may recall that Mr. Trump, noting that the existence of a public school monopoly should "set off antitrust alarm bells," is on record saying parents deserve more choices. "Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships," he said. "I call it competition—the American way."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (center) is pictured in his office on November 16, 2015,
with several Oklahomans who were on a school-reform fact-finding trip to Indiana.  

Vice President-elect Pence also supports school choice, including vouchers and tax credits. "Let’s open more doors of opportunity to more Hoosier families by lifting the cap on the dollar amount that choice schools receive for students and raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program," the Indiana governor said in last year's State of the State address. In a meeting in his office on November 16, 2015, Gov. Pence discussed education reform with several Oklahomans who were on a fact-finding trip to Indianapolis sponsored by the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Gov. Pence spoke openly about school choice, including education savings accounts. (Contrary to the claims of ed-choice foe Jadine Nollan, a state representative who says Gov. Pence advised Oklahoma lawmakers not to enact ESAs in a difficult budget year, what he actually said—as I and several others who were in the meeting can attest—is simply that it's more difficult to do it in a down budget year.)

In any case, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the education establishment's rearguard action to protect its monopoly cannot hold year after year. Oklahoma's political leaders, rather than continuing to penalize parents financially for raising their children in accordance with their consciences, will eventually enact and expand policies—vouchers, tax credits, ESAs, and more—which secure parental rights. As Oklahoma's GOP-controlled government considers education funding and teacher pay raises in 2017, let's hope they insist that the price for more funding is increased parental choice.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Private sector must help drive ed reform in Oklahoma

In a series of recent meetings in Oklahoma, Indiana business titan Fred Klipsch made it clear that business leaders must get involved.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Oklahomans’ support for school choice is becoming difficult to deny



For those of you keeping score at home, here is the recent survey research that has shown strong support for various forms of private-school choice among Oklahomans:
  • Braun Research survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2014
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma GOP primary voters), July 2014
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates survey (registered Oklahoma voters), December 2015
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2016 
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), July 2016

And here is the survey research showing that Oklahomans oppose school vouchers (the survey didn't ask about tax-credit scholarships or ESAs):
  • Public Opinion Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2015 

In other words, the Public Opinion Strategies poll—conducted by the pollster for Fount Holland and CCOSA and heavily publicized by Oklahoma's education establishment—is very much an outlier. Anyone refusing to acknowledge that fact is simply not being intellectually honest. Moreover, as the state's largest newspaper editorialized, "there's good reason to question the validity of the Public Opinion Strategies poll. As Bill Shapard, founder of SoonerPoll has noted, to believe the POS poll one must also believe Oklahomans are more liberal than residents of heavily Democratic states. That's because polling has found nearly seven out of 10 voters in New Jersey and two out of three voters in New York support school vouchers. In neighboring Arkansas, six out of 10 voters support school vouchers, while in Kansas 57 percent of voters support the proposal and in Texas 66 percent support creating an ESA-style program. Shapard wrote that it is 'a very hard sell to say that Oklahomans, in such a red state that's demographically similar to the surrounding states of Texas, Kansas, or Arkansas, would be so contrary to all of these polls.'"

Like the film critic Pauline Kael, who couldn't understand how Nixon beat McGovern (given that everyone she knew had voted for McGovern), many in the public education community’s epistemic bubble simply cannot come to terms with the reality that most Oklahomans favor educational choice. It must be nothing short of bewildering for them that popular elected officials such as James Lankford, Mary Fallin, Todd Lamb, Scott Pruitt, and others—principled leaders, to be sure, but leaders who aren’t in the habit of being unaware or defiant of public opinion—are such strong proponents of school choice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

School districts accused of squandering millions on bond fees

Midwest City-Del City Public Schools, Norman Public Schools, and other school districts are squandering Oklahoma taxpayers' hard-earned dollars every year by paying exorbitant fees for financial advisers, bond counsel, and underwriters, The Oklahoman reports.

Education choice will help revitalize OKC


Excellent op-ed today by real-estate professor Bart Danielsen and former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nontraditional Oklahoma teachers no cause for concern

Excellent editorial from the state's largest newspaper today.

Does Oklahoma have a teacher shortage ---- or a surplus?


"Overall, there is no teacher shortage," researchers at the 1889 Institute conclude in a new report. "In fact, there may be a surplus."