Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New studies show a consistent result

Private-school choice works, Jonathan Butcher writes.

‘The bullying is too much’

In a recent column in the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise ("Mutual Girls Club aims to empower change"), Bartlesville resident Brecca Croskey-Nwaukwa writes:
As I walk into the cafeteria, and wait for the group of girls to come in for lunch, kids are shoving and pushing around each other. I overhear kids saying mean things about other kids, commenting on their shoes or clothes. Meanwhile, in the lunch line, others are exerting their social rank by pushing in front of other students already in line. It is a frenzy of the “cool” separating themselves from the “uncool.” Some kids just sit alone, while others clamor to be a part of where they are accepted. It is amazing the stress and tension that is involved for them to just find a table to sit down for lunch. One girl says, “No, we can’t sit at that table ... those girls pick on me.” Another girl states, “Yeah, only popular kids get to sit there.” I nod and move on, waiting for them to pick a place to sit.

When we finally sit down, I ask the girls how their day is going. Then I ask them what kinds of issues they want to discuss during our sessions. What I heard next there are no words for. Half of them say coming to school is so stressful because they are not accepted. Half of them admit to wishing they were in an alternative school program because the pressure of measuring up and the bullying is too much.

It is very disheartening. In an era where social media is all the rage, the atmosphere of school has changed tremendously. Kids are more concerned with how others view them and they are under constant pressure to keep up with the ever-changing trends. Teenagers are facing social issues and circumstances which are new, sometimes scary, and expressed more openly. Because of this bullying is at an all-time high, resulting in stories about kids with severe depression to kids getting into self-harm. The saddest part is that this is not only at middle school age, this is happening in the lower grades as well. This pressure of acceptance and being accepted takes the focus off what the school experience is supposed to be all about and Mutual saw an opportunity to present a fresh perspective and create a new attitude toward the atmosphere of school.

At the beginning of the program we ask the girls to honestly state what they feel about themselves. We have heard everything from, “I hate myself” to “I am worthless and no one likes me.” 
Hats off to the Mutual Girls Club for doing something to address the problem. Mutual's summer camp sounds like a terrific program. But I would suggest that more needs to be done.

Monday, June 26, 2017

OKC school district investigates employee misconduct allegations

"Oklahoma City Public Schools recently investigated allegations of misconduct by nearly two dozen employees, including teachers and administrators," The Oklahoman reports.
The allegations include mental or physical abuse of a student, inappropriate conduct, assault and battery, insubordination and sexual harassment. Of the 18 investigations initiated, continued or completed by the district between May 5 and June 5, law enforcement was notified on 12 occasions, officials said.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Does school choice expand the welfare state?

It's unlikely that state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was sincere in her concern about ESAs expanding government. But in any case, as Greg Forster explains,
a well-designed school choice program won’t cost money, but merely redirect existing levels of spending. Most choice programs actually save money for state budgets, even as they improve educational outcomes. Parents making choices for their own children are more efficient and more effective than the bloated bureaucracy that controls spending decisions under the government school monopoly. A state in fiscal trouble has more reason, not less, to enact universal school choice pronto.
Read the whole thing here.

Ex-superintendent of Grant-Goodland Public Schools indicted

"The former superintendent of the now annexed Grant-Goodland Public Schools has been indicted in federal court," Kyle Schwab reports in The Oklahoman. "Buck Leon Hammers, 54, is accused of stealing more than $50,000 from the district through a fraudulent check scheme. The alleged financial misconduct and other issues led to the annexation of the district to Hugo Public Schools last June."

Friday, June 23, 2017

OEA membership decline continues


Education reporter Mike Antonucci is out with the latest numbers, reported in the NEA Secretary-Treasurer/Independent Auditors 2017 Financial Reports, showing the total and active membership for each state affiliate of the National Education Association.

OEA, now with 17,495 active members, lost more than five percent of its active members last year—and has lost nearly 20 percent over the last five years.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Edupreneur Academy announces first workshop in Oklahoma City

The Edupreneur Academy will host a one-day workshop in Oklahoma City on July 12 for school leaders interested in education innovation and entrepreneurship. The workshop is designed for aspiring, new, and experienced school leaders and will provide step-by-step guidance and networking opportunities. For more information and to register, click here.

Oklahoma teacher: Avoid male and female pronouns

Aaron Baker is an 8th-grade history teacher in the Mid-Del school district and a blogger who promotes “radical social justice in Oklahoma public schools.” (See my earlier post titled "Oklahoma teacher says some opinions 'should not be allowed to be heard.'")

In a new blog post (“Best Practices for Inclusive Classroom Language”), Mr. Baker says that “if a teacher’s words are not inclusive, students will not feel safe.” Thus, he offers some advice to his fellow educators, including the following.
  • “Avoid saying ‘he’ or ‘she.’ … [T]he safest way for educators to be inclusive of all gender identities is to all together drop the male and female pronouns for students.”
  • “Avoid saying ‘mom and dad.’” Mr. Baker says the traditional family structure “is just one of many family options.”
  • “Avoid saying ‘guys.’ … Instead, say something like ‘people.’”
  • “Avoid saying ‘boys and girls’ or ‘ladies and gentlemen.’ … The problem is that these phrases are binary and automatically exclude any students who don’t fit into these two defined categories. Instead, say something like ‘students of all genders’ or ‘students and scholars.’”
Read the whole thing here.

You say that as if it’s a bad thing

"The energy industry is turning school kids into climate change skeptics," Eric Pianin frets in The Fiscal Times.

Monday, June 19, 2017

More trouble in Tishomingo

"Tishomingo High School is hiring two new basketball coaches after a school board member confirmed last season's coaches were fired for using a school bus to go buy alcohol," KXII reports. And it's not the first time Tishomingo has been in the news lately.
Another school scandal rocked Tishomingo at the beginning of the school year. Cheer coach and wife to the superintendent, Shelley Duncan, was arrested—accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old boy. 
[Tishomingo basketball player Kyle] Miller says it's tough being a Tishomingo student. "Anywhere we go we have kids asking us about what's going on with Mrs. Duncan, what's going on with the coaches, just anywhere we go it's always something else," Miller said.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

OCPA praises DeVos, emphasizes federalism

Earlier this month, OCPA joined The Heritage Foundation, ALEC, and 10 other organizations in sending a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praising her commitment to educational choice and emphasizing the need to remain true to the tenets of federalism.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Democrat legislator introduces bill that would give tax break to homeschool parents

"Assemblywoman Angela McKnight has proposed legislation that would cut the costs of books and other materials for parents who homeschool their children," Lorenzo Gazzola reports for The Jersey Journal.
The proposed bill would let taxpayers with incomes of up to $150,000 claim a tax credit for their out-of-pocket expenses for homeschooling their children. Taxpayers would be eligible for a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child, and a maximum total of $3,000 per taxable year. 
"Regardless of where or how they are educated, all students in New Jersey deserve access to resources that will support their development and prepare them to compete in the global economy," McKnight, D-Jersey City, said in a statement.

Transgender teachers talk about their experiences at school

Public Radio Tulsa has the story.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Oklahoma teacher says some opinions ‘should not be allowed to be heard’

Aaron Baker is an 8th-grade history teacher in the Mid-Del school district and a blogger who promotes "radical social justice in Oklahoma public schools." He is a principled thinker and a clear writer. And when he says "radical," he's not kidding:


Mr. Baker is not a fan of educational choice policies—even going so far as to encourage agitators to "disrupt" a school choice summit earlier this year at Oklahoma City Community College:


In a recent blog post, Mr. Baker argued that in districts like his with inclusive nondiscrimination policies, "LGBTQ issues are non-debatable in classrooms" and certain opinions "should not be allowed to be heard." Now that's interesting. How might that play out?

Let’s say a teacher is leading a robust, healthy discussion of LGBTQ issues and a dozen or so students express views consistent with an essentially tolerant, affirming, live-and-let-live ethos. But then one plucky 8th-grader raises her hand and submits the following view for consideration:
I believe that every single one of the 7.5 billion persons on this earth is a precious human being made in the image of God—and thus possesses inherent dignity and worth. All people are worthy of respect, and no one should be subjected to ridicule or bullying. Nevertheless, sometimes there are hard truths which need to be told. All of us—heterosexual and homosexual alike—are sinners. Whether our sexual brokenness manifests itself in heterosexual perversion or in homosexual deviancy, these evil acts are a serious affront to a holy God. Rather than just shrugging my shoulders, I actually have enough compassion for people to tell them the truth. (As Seinfeld character Elaine Benes famously said to her boyfriend, "You should be trying to save me! … If you think I’m going to hell, you should care that I’m going to hell!") So in a spirit of genuine love and compassion, I would say to anyone who is in bondage to same-sex intimacy and who has chosen to embrace an LGBTQ lifestyle: I hurt with you over your ­­­sexual brokenness and your sadness and your confused "sexual identity." But I have some very good news: God is offering his mercy to you! I plead with you to renounce your sexual sin and turn to Christ. I implore you to repent and believe the good news, namely, that Christ died for your sins and was raised for your justification. Jesus says to all sinners, heterosexual and homosexual alike: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." This is wonderful news. But it is through tears that must I warn you that, if you do not repent, you will fall into the hands of an angry God and be cast forever into "into the outer darkness [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Would Mr. Baker consider that young lady's discourse to be what he calls "anti-gay hate speech"? Should her opinion "not be allowed to be heard"?

Red-diaper baby David Horowitz, one of the founders of the New Left in the 1960s, likes to say that "inside every liberal is a totalitarian screaming to get out." This liberal intolerance was on display last week in Bernie Sanders' ugly outburst. Let's hope it doesn't come to Oklahoma classrooms.

OKC school board passes LGBTQ Pride Month resolution

The Gayly quotes school board chairman Paula Lewis as saying, "We want OKCPS to be a sought-after district."

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

An education system divorced from God teaches destruction

Rev. Edward W. Fowler, a minister in Broken Arrow, reminds us that there's no such thing as "neutrality" in education.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Private-school parents most satisfied with schools

Interesting results from the 2016 Education Next survey.

Profiting from tax-credit scholarships?

No, tax-credit scholarship policies don't enrich donors and they don't drain the public coffers, Jason Bedrick and Marty Lueken write.

Principal resigns amid OKC investigation

"A principal at one school and three teachers at another have resigned amid investigations by Oklahoma City Public Schools," The Oklahoman reports today.

Stronger penalties could reduce culture of silence in Oklahoma

"In Perry, school officials overlooked serious abuse allegations, which likely facilitated further abuse of children," The Oklahoman editorializes today. "Increasing the severity of penalties facing school administrators who fail to take action seems a reasonable way to ensure such abuse is reported promptly in the future."

Monday, June 5, 2017

‘Public schooling’ is a myth

"The legend says that public schools accept all comers," Robert Enlow writes. "That is simply not true, and it never has been."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Oklahoma expands its private-school choice programs

Oklahoma has two important private-school choice programs. Happily, our state's political leaders expanded both programs during the 2017 legislative session.

Our school voucher program, enacted in 2010, is helping rural students who want a faith-based educationbullied children who contemplated suicideautistic students, and more.

In 2017, SB 301 expanded the eligibility for this voucher program. Formerly limited to students on an IEP, eligibility now extends to children in foster care (a 2015 OCPA recommendation) and children adopted out of state custody. Click here to see how your state senator voted. Click here to see how your state representative voted.

Oklahoma's tax-credit scholarship program, enacted in 2011, is helping hearing-impaired children, homeless students, teenage students battling addiction, and more.

In 2017, SB 445 made more cap space available for this tax-credit scholarship program. Click here to see how your state senator voted. Click here to see how your state representative voted.

It should come as no surprise that a Republican government would expand parental-choice options. The GOP platforms, both nationally and in Oklahoma, place a strong emphasis on parental rights and educational choice. Moreover, no fewer than seven public-opinion surveys conducted by reputable polling firms over the last few years have shown strong support for school choice among Republican voters. This, of course, helps to explain why Republican political leaders support school choice. Most notable are President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. (They are embracing the views held by the great President Ronald Reagan, who in his day proposed "a tuition tax credit plan," "a voucher system," and "education savings accounts.") Here at home, Sen. James Lankford, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Gov. Mary Fallin, and others support educational choice.

Given those realities, it's disappointing that school choice hasn't made even more progress. "I think Oklahoma has been way too slow" at expanding school choice, Scott Pruitt told me in 2015. "It's shocking to me, when you look at the individuals that make up our legislative bodies, how most of them are conservative in their viewpoint, they ought to be seizing this opportunity—now—to make Oklahoma the most choice-friendly state in the country."

Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, in part because many of the Republicans in our legislative bodies arrived via the Trojan Horse dragged in by GOP campaign consultants. Regrettably, these operatives are more concerned with collecting lucrative fees than with electing candidates from the Republican wing of the Republican party. And school choice hasn't been the only casualty: Republican politicians, claiming there's a budget "crisis," also continue to raise taxes and increase government spending—even though the CAFR tells us (on page 193) that total state spending is at an all-time high. (You likely didn't know that—but you would if journalists would report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.)

Still, kudos to Oklahoma's political leaders for taking these baby steps toward securing parental rights. There's much more work to be done. All parents have the moral right to direct their child's path. As private-school choice advocate Martin Luther King III says, "fairness demands that every child, not just the rich, has access to an education that will help them achieve their dreams."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Public education and Orange Julius

"Heritage Park Mall is a tomb," Kevin D. Williamson reports from Midwest City. Moreover, 
[W]hat is quite clear is that our current system of education, which focuses the great majority of its energy and resources on those students at the very top of the performance curve and those at the very bottom, is not doing very much for those in the middle. It is as relevant to the 21st century as an Orange Julius or a Chess King outlet—dead as Heritage Park Mall, even if it doesn’t know it yet.
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Growing grassroots movements confronting school sex assault

"In Oklahoma," the Associated Press reports, "a district agreed to hire victim advocates after a walk-out by high school students who felt their high school failed to protect girls who had been bullied for reporting attacks."

Friday, May 19, 2017

Futile accountability systems should be abandoned

"Test-based accountability is essentially a central-planning exercise similar to that used by officials in the Soviet Union in attempting to manage the country’s economy," Jay P. Greene writes in the Summer 2017 issue of EducationNext. "In both cases, a distant official selected a particular goal for production, focused on a limited set of metrics to assess whether goals were met, and then threatened to impose rewards or sanctions based on whether those metrics showed desired results. Central planning failed in the Soviet Union, and it is failing here in public education—and for similar reasons."

I encourage you to read the entire article here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Politicians shouldn’t penalize parents

Parents, not government officials, have the moral right to raise their children according to their consciences.

That, in a nutshell, is why school choice is so important.

Think about it. In a free society, the government rightly defers to parents when it comes to raising their children. Bottle-feed or breastfeed? Spanking or time-out? Piano lessons or karate lessons? For countless decisions every day, the government defers to parents when it comes to raising their children.

And since education is simply a subset of parenting (as education professor Jay Greene sagely reminds us), the government should defer to parents when it comes to educating their children.

Now obviously the government is going to spend money on education. But politicians shouldn’t play favorites, directing all the money to schools operated by the government. Let’s direct some of it to parents in the form of a voucher or a tax break.

We know that Oklahoma’s political leaders respect parents. In 2014 they enacted a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” to ensure that no state government entity infringes upon parents’ rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

But as important as that law is, it’s time to translate its principles into effective remedies, says Oklahoma City University law professor Andrew Spiropoulos. “We must guarantee all parents, no matter their income, the effective right to exit a failing school and choose one, public or private, that satisfies their needs.”

Happily, we already do this for some parents. For example, Oklahoma’s private-school voucher program is helping certain bullied children, autistic students, rural students who want a faith-based education, and many more.

Moreover, our state’s tax-credit scholarship program is helping hearing-impaired children, homeless students, teenage students battling addiction, and more—all while saving the state money.

So private-school choice is working for those who are eligible. But we need to do more. All parents have the right to direct their child’s path.

School-choice foes say we shouldn’t “drain money from public schools.” But that assumes the public schools are entitled to the money in the first place. In truth, they have no place of privilege, says Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams, a liberal Democrat. He rejects “the antiquated belief that existing public school systems have the right of first refusal when it comes to educating our children.”

Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, strikes the right balance. “I am very pro public schools,” he says. But he also supports parental choice. In fulfilling their God-given duty to raise their children, he says, parents “should be able to consider the best option for their children’s whole education and formation.”

Some parents would prefer a more rigorous curriculum for their children. Others are tired of all the bullying. Others simply don't want their daughters sharing a locker room with boys. In the Tulsa Public Schools, for example, “gender non-conforming students” have the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their “gender identity.”

And it's not just Tulsa. Aaron Baker, an 8th grade history teacher in the Mid-Del school district, points out that several other school districts don't discriminate on the basis of "gender expression or identity." (Mr. Baker promotes "radical social justice in Oklahoma public schools," so he's enthusiastically on board with this radical social experiment.) These districts include BristowBroken Arrow, ClevelandCollinsville, Durant, GlenpoolMid-Del, OkemahOwasso, Ponca City, ShawneeStillwater, and Tulsa Union.

"[W]e have now sunk to a depth," George Orwell once observed, "at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." In that spirit, let us now reaffirm that a six-year-old girl is not a boy. A 14-year-old boy does not belong in the girls' locker room. After all, if children lack the perceptual judgment and physical skills to cross a busy street, the American College of Pediatricians reminds us, they certainly are not competent to decide they're the wrong sex or to consent to mutilation. Regrettably, we have now sunk to a depth where some grown-ups, refusing to state the obvious, choose to participate in systemic, taxpayer-supported child abuse.

Most Oklahoma parents reject this moral insanity and are zealous to protect their children's privacy. Politicians should not penalize these or any other parents (by making them pay twice) for raising their children according to their consciences.


[A shorter version of this piece appeared March 26 in The Oklahoman.]

Monday, May 15, 2017

Keep education—and choice—in the states

"Education reformers face an enormous temptation to use federal power to foist choice upon the states," Greg Forster writes for OCPA. This would be a bad idea, he says, whether the policy is Title I portability or a federal tax credit.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Government schools: Sowing the seeds of our destruction

"Several years ago, the Independent Institute honored Andy Garcia at our unforgettable Gala for Liberty," Mary Theroux writes.
There was not a dry eye in the house (including his) as Andy Garcia recounted his memories of leaving his home, Cuba, at the age of 5. 
Once the Castros had seized power, they passed a law giving the State full rights over all children. As I had been taught by my true-believing Marxist Development Economics professors at Stanford, this is how you build the “New Man” that makes Socialism the ideal society. 
Cuban parents not wanting their children to be raw material for Marxist experiments, instead made the ultimate sacrifice and turned their children over to the Catholic church’s Peter Pan project, under which their children were flown to live in freedom with families in the United States—not knowing if they would ever see their children again, and many of whom did not. 
After Andy Garcia’s mother reported to his father that she had seen Andy (at the age of 5) marching and singing the Internationale, his family joined the exodus. Fortunately, Andy’s father was able to later also leave Cuba, and the family was reunited in Florida.
Read the whole thing here.

Public-school educator tells homeschooled teenagers: ‘You can go to hell’

"I’m as gay as the day is long and twice as sunny," an assistant principal said to some homeschooled teenagers. "I don’t give a f— what you think Jesus tells me."

Friday, May 5, 2017

Want to regulate schools? Use parents

"It should not astonish us," Corey DeAngelis writes, "that families are selecting schools that do not specialize in producing obedient test-taking machines. Naturally, it is likely that parents care less about standardized tests than the overall development of their children. ... If we really want to ensure that children have access to high-quality schools, we ought to use the most powerful form of regulation that we have: parental choice."

School choice research is not a weapon

"When it comes to something with as many moving pieces as school choice, research is more useful as a flashlight than as a firearm," writes AEI scholar Rick Hess.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sapulpa 2nd grade teacher arrested for drugs, embezzlement

"A Sapulpa 2nd grade teacher was arrested on drug and embezzlement complaints Monday, May 2 at Holmes Park Elementary," the News on 6 reports.
Court records show the assistant superintendent called police after the teacher, Megan Nicole Sloan, left her Facebook account open on another teacher's computer. Administrator Johnny Bilby told police the second teacher could see a conversation where Sloan was talking about using and selling heroin as well as pawning items that belonged to the school, an affidavit states. 
Officers say they met with Sloan in the principal's office, and the teacher told them she had "Xanax footballs" in her purse and admitted to selling school iPads as well as using student field trip money to buy drugs and gas. Officers also said they found multiple syringes in her purse--some with exposed needles. One officer estimated there may have been as many as 40 syringes in Sloan's purse and a makeup bag. At least one of the syringes contained brown liquid police said was heroin.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

‘Why should state-run schools be the default agents of education?’

"We could say that the public schools’ monopoly on public educational funds is actually in tension with both of the First Amendment’s religion clauses," Melissa Moschella writes. "The absence of some sort of voucher program (at least for low-income students) is in tension with the Establishment Clause because it promotes secularism in children’s formal education. It is also in tension with the Free Exercise Clause because it places a substantial burden on the ability of parents to fulfill one of their most serious religious duties."

Saturday, April 29, 2017

But you just wait until the Republicans take over

"While other states have enacted genuine school choice, made agencies more efficient and effective, and reduced burdens on the productive economy," Andrew Spiropoulos writes, Oklahoma's legislature "is stuck in policy mud."

Oklahoma should enact a parental-choice tax credit



"School choice is a reality, and we should just get used to it,” Democratic state school superintendent Sandy Garrett said in 2001. "We have a lot of choice already in Oklahoma, but I think we'll have some sort of a tax credit or something to let children go wherever their parents want."

Ten years later Oklahoma did indeed enact a tax-credit scholarship program. But there's more to be done. Oklahoma's political leaders "should consider providing individual tax credits for education expenses," writes former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons.
Parents paying for private education or home education have to pay twice: once in taxes to support public schools and again for tuition, fees, textbooks, and school supplies. To address some of this unfairness, some states now offer tax credits for these education expenses. Illinois has the largest tax credit program with nearly 300,000 families earning credits up to $500 for educational expenses.

Individual tax credits for education expenses are subject to one major criticism: you only get tax credits up to the amount you owe in taxes. Since wealthier families tend to owe the most in taxes, they will get the largest tax credits. One solution is a refundable tax credit for educational expenses, such as exists in South Carolina. That program allows parents of special-needs children to receive up to $10,000 in tax credits for educational expenses. If the credits exceed your tax bill then you receive a tax refund for the difference. This ensures that the rich aren’t the biggest beneficiary of the program. 
Oklahoma's political leaders overwhelmingly support parents' rights. They should not penalize parents by making them pay twice. A good piece of legislation, the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, was introduced last year but did not receive a hearing. But according to OCHEC, the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators' Consociation, this legislation could have been "positive for the homeschool community."

Now it's important to note that OCHEC wants nothing to do with vouchers or education savings accounts (ESAs). But tax credits are different.

"There are two types of tax credits," OCHEC explains. "One is refundable, which means at some point money will exchange hands. The other is a non-refundable tax credit, which means no money ever changes hands." The proposed Parental Choice Tax Credit Act was the latter.
It is a non-refundable income tax credit for educational expenses. Qualifying expenses include enrollment in a qualified (private) school and the expenses that are associated with that. The bill also would allow parents who provide instruction by other means (i.e., homeschoolers) for their children from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The expenses that could be claimed by homeschool families would include tutoring fees, correspondence school fees, the cost of computer equipment, software and services, textbooks, workbooks, curricula and other written materials used primarily for academic instruction. ...
The bottom line is that this tax credit could reduce a parent’s income tax liability based upon the educational expenses that they have paid for their family. It would be up to each family to decide whether they wanted to claim the credit. Since the credit would not be refundable it would only allow parents to keep more of their own money. Any parent claiming this tax credit, assuming it passed, would not be taking state funds.
Freedom of conscience requires school choice, as Boston University professor Charles Glenn and others have observed. Let's hope Oklahoma's political leaders act to secure this fundamental freedom.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tulsa Public Schools org chart a thing to behold




When OCPA journalist Jay Chilton recently examined the 2016-17 organizational charts for the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS), he was surprised to find hundreds of individuals who aren't teaching or interacting with students every day. This document is something taxpayers really should see for themselves. Click here and scroll.

A Tulsa World data tool indicates that during the 2014-15 school year, TPS employed 22 individuals with salaries in excess of $100,000—several of whom had the job title “executive assistant.” Tulsa superintendent Deb Gist was paid $217,806 in 2016, according to an Oklahoma Watch data tool.

Using data that the Oklahoma State Department of Education reports to the U.S. Department of Education, economist Benjamin Scafidi has shown that Oklahoma's growth in non-teaching staff has far outpaced student growth over the last two decades. Between 1993 and 2014, TPS enrollment decreased by 3 percent and the number of teachers decreased by 4 percent—but non-teaching staff increased by 147 percent.

Student arrested with loaded gun at Midwest City High School

The News on 6 has the story.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cuban father sentenced to prison, judge denounces ‘capitalist’ homeschooling

[The following is a message from Mike Donnelly, director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association.]

Yesterday, a Cuban court sentenced pastor Ramón Rigal to a year in prison for homeschooling his children. Ramón’s wife, Adya, was ordered to spend a year under house arrest.

According to Ramón, authorities used the three-hour trial more as a platform for denouncing alternatives to state education than as a venue for delivering justice.

“They would not let me speak in my defense,” Ramón told me after the Tuesday trial. “I brought evidence that my children were learning—notebooks and materials—[but] they didn’t care.”

Ramón and Adya Rigal have been sentenced, but are appealing their conviction. We are asking our members and friends to join us by signing a petition to the Cuban government to respect the rights of parents to homeschool their children and to cease its prosecution of the Rigal family.

No Justice in This Court

The Rigals decided to homeschool their children earlier this year in order to remove them from an environment where they were being bullied and indoctrinated in the state school system.

In February, the couple were arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors for failing to send their children to state schools.

Ramón said he had intended to present a defense at the trial based on Cuba’s constitution and various international human rights treaties the nation has ratified. But his efforts were curtailed as authorities focused on defending the state system.

“When I tried to tell the judge about my evidence or to say that the government was acting unfairly, the judge told me that if I continued to speak she would have me removed from the courtroom,” Ramón said.

The judge also refused to hear testimony from a dozen witnesses Ramón had assembled to speak on his behalf. “Whenever I tried to bring up one of my witnesses,” Ramón said, “the judge would tell them to ‘get out of here.’”

The court relied instead on what appeared to be scripted presentations from state employees drafted as witnesses: a school director, school psychologist, teachers, and a juvenile probation officer. The prosecutor asked them all the same basic questions and received the same answers: that only trained teachers are qualified to inculcate socialist values.

In closing remarks, the government prosecutor summarized the case this way: Homeschooling “is not allowed in Cuba because it has a capitalist foundation.”

Ramón’s account of the trial was distressing, but not surprising. It was just about what one expects from the communist courts of Cuba—anything but justice. Their jurisprudence reflects a disregard for accepted principles of due process and the rule of law, as well as Cuba’s international human rights obligations.

The outcome could have been worse; the Rigals faced up to eight years in prison and risked the state taking custody of their children. They were also given three days to appeal. However, finding attorneys willing to help them challenge a legal system overseen by the ruling Communist Party presents a major difficulty.

Communist governments do not appreciate lawyers who are willing to defend people whose human rights have been violated. Officials in communist China recently arrested hundreds of lawyers who were then accused of disloyalty for denouncing abuses by the government.

A Courageous Example

“This is a great injustice,” said Ramón. “They are trying to force us to send our children only to state schools—not having the option for the children to be taught at home. They should respect the right that parents have based on the human right to teach their children and to respect their faith and the right to homeschool.”

His wife added that she fears not only for the future of their family but for the congregation Ramón pastors.

“I am worried for my children and my husband,” Adya said. “We are only trying to do what is best for our children. I do not want to be separated from my husband. Our children need him. Our church needs our pastor. My children are very sad and worried.”

Although Ramón would prefer to remain in Cuba, he hopes that the United States may offer refuge to his family since the Cuban authorities are determined to jail him rather than allow him to homeschool his children.

Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to support the Rigals, and we encourage the global homeschooling community to affirm the parents’ right to teach their children at home.

The Rigal family are a courageous example to all of us who enjoy the freedom to homeschool our children. They are standing up to a totalitarian government that—no surprise—represses home education despite having signed international agreements urging respect for freedom of conscience and parental rights. Democratic countries like Germany and Sweden that similarly repress home education should question their policies, which are as draconian as communist Cuba.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Do Ponca City schools have ‘fewer and fewer resources’?


Gallup reported in September 2016 (“Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low”) that "Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media 'to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly' has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media."

That Gallup finding came to mind yesterday when I read a cringe-inducingly one-sided story in The Ponca City News headlined "Schools Forced to Make Budget Cuts." Though the reporting may have been done accurately, it wasn't done fully and fairly. The Ponca City superintendent is quoted in the article as saying, “What is happening to public education in our state is not normal.” He complains of having to “operate our schools with fewer and fewer resources.” These statements went unchallenged (to say the least) by The Ponca City News

Here is some additional information to consider.
  • According to data compiled from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System and provided by the state Department of Education, total education spending in Ponca City, even when adjusted for inflation, is higher today ($51,954,016) than it was a decade ago ($49,355,806). Per-pupil spending is also higher—up from $9,590 to $10,123.
  • Oklahoma’s public education system now has more non-teachers than teachers. According to economist Benjamin Scafidi, if it weren’t for the non-teaching staff surge of the last two decades Oklahoma could have given each teacher a pay raise of more than $6,000. In Ponca City, the non-teaching staff increased by a whopping 28 percent—even as enrollment declined by 10 percent. Why?
  • According to researchers at the George W. Bush Institute, the average student in Ponca City is performing better in math than 52 percent of students in Oklahoma, 46 percent of students in the nation, and 35 percent of students in other developed economies. Is this performance good enough to justify the superintendent's annual compensation of $205,025? Taxpayers must decide for themselves.
  • School officials imply that Ponca City’s per-pupil spending of $10,123 is not enough. But how much is enough? Would $15,971 (Cushing) be enough? How about $17,552 (Stroud), $25,373 (Taloga), or $43,817 (Reydon)? The superintendent in Tahlequah has gone so far as to say, “There has never been enough revenue for public education, and there never will be.” Does the Ponca City superintendent share that view? If not, at what dollar amount would he tell taxpayers, “Thank you. The funding level you have provided is now sufficient. If there are any problems remaining with the schools, I take responsibility for them.”?

Reporter’s ‘everyone knows’ lede inappropriate

"Everyone knows there's an education budget crisis," Katiera Winfrey reported yesterday for the News on 6 ("Broken Arrow Church Shows Members How To Take Action To Fix Education Budget").

Not a great lede, I would respectfully submit. According to data compiled from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System and provided by the state Department of Education, total education spending in Oklahoma, even when adjusted for inflation, is higher today ($6,695,978,193) than it was a decade ago ($6,115,624,776). Per-pupil spending is roughly flat (up slightly from $9,775 to $9,781). 

Some people—though certainly not "everyone"—may deem this a "crisis." Others would say, "No, it seems like $244,525 for a classroom of 25 kids should be more than enough. The 'crisis' is that the schools are performing so poorly even with all this money." In any case, it's not for a reporter to take sides, declaring up front that "everyone knows" there's a crisis.

The lede is even less defensible given the Broken Arrow dateline. Total education spending in Broken Arrow, even when adjusted for inflation, is much higher today ($191,478,105) than it was a decade ago ($139,014,756), which could help explain the palatial luxury seen below. Per-pupil spending is higher too—up from $9,120 to $10,191.


In short, it's important for journalists to tell the full story. This is especially urgent in light of Gallup's September 2016 finding (“Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low”) that "Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly’ has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media."

I'm not accusing Winfrey of intentional bias. Like the film critic Pauline Kael, who couldn't understand how Nixon beat McGovern (given that everyone she knew had voted for McGovern), many journalists don’t realize that their J-school training and subsequent existence in the media's center-left epistemic bubble (especially in Tulsa) have conditioned them to report the news less than "fully, accurately, and fairly."

Here's hoping for more balanced reporting in the future.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Perry sex assault suspect was left alone with students

"A former volunteer aide accused of molesting multiple girls was left alone with students on several occasions—some while teachers were away on personal business," The Oklahoman reports.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

All education is public

"It is essential to understand that the public-private school dichotomy which prevails in our social arrangements and discourse is extremely misleading," Stephen Turley writes
This is because all education is public: all education seeks to cultivate within students an appreciation of shared values that constitute the common good of a community. There is simply no such thing as an education that is entirely private. There is, however, education that is coercively funded and non-coercively funded; an education system that depends on the compulsory nature of the state versus one that depends on the voluntary tuition paid by willing participants. The real question, then, that emerges is not whether we are going to support public education, but whether we are going to support the kind of public promoted by state-financed education. In a word, the defining attribute of that public order perpetuated by state-funded education is secular.  ... 
If Christians are to remain faithful to the biblical gospel, we must once again affirm the public witness of the church, particularly in the field of education. For such an affirmation not only awakens the soul to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, but in embodying the Truth, it exposes the state-financed educational system which denies Truth as what it is: a lie.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Stillwater students form ‘fight club’

The News on 6 has the story.

Dispelling the myth that school choice can’t help rural students

Writing for U.S. News & World Report, Michael McShane says school choice can supplement rural public education.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Reporting the education news ‘fully, accurately, and fairly’



Gallup reported in September 2016 (“Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low”) that “Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly’ has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year.”

Clearly, reporters and editors need to be doing all they can to try to win back the trust of their customers. Thus it was surprising to learn that the editor of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise is a founding member of a group working against the interest of some of his customers. In an April 4 news story announcing the group’s formation, the E-E's Nathan Thompson reports:
A group of concerned Bartlesville-area residents have started a grassroots effort on the current state of Oklahoma’s public education funding crisis. 
Public Education Advocates for Kids—or PEAK—started in January with a core group of seven Bartlesville residents who wanted to improve public education, retain quality teachers and encourage Oklahoma legislators to properly fund schools. The founding members of PEAK are Keri Bostwick, Alison Clark, Examiner-Enterprise Editor Chris Day, Dan Droege, Vanessa Drummond, George Halkiades and Becky Olsen. … 
PEAK’s key belief is public education is the fundamental driver of the state’s long-term economic prosperity, job creation and quality of life. To get there, the group supports increased funding for all state public schools, starting with significant pay raises for all teachers to be competitive with surrounding states. PEAK is strongly against using taxpayer funds to support private schools through the form of vouchers or education savings accounts. … The group also supports prudent tax increases to improve funding for quality education in the state, Droege said.
Credit: Saeed Sadeghi 
To be sure, higher taxes, increased government spending, and opposition to parental choice are all defensible policy goals and are shared by some (though not all) of the E-E’s readers. But according to the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics, “The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.” Thus, journalists should “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

Is it possible for the E-E’s editor to pick a side on policy disputes without compromising the newspaper’s impartiality and credibility? Perhaps. Readers certainly should give the E-E every opportunity to prove that it can report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. But readers need to be alert. For example, does the word “crisis” belong in the lede of a supposedly straight news story? According to data compiled from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System and provided by the state Department of Education, total education spending in Oklahoma, even when adjusted for inflation, is higher today ($6,695,978,193) than it was a decade ago ($6,115,624,776). Per-pupil spending is roughly flat (up slightly from $9,775 to $9,781). Does this constitute a “crisis”?

Many readers would answer with an emphatic yes and could make a compelling argument for why a crisis mentality is warranted. But others might say, “No, actually, it seems like $244,525 for a classroom of 25 kids should be plenty.” In short, a funding “crisis” is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not for reporters or editors to take sides.

In order to report education news “fully” and “fairly,” journalists must always remember that their job is to serve their readers—not to serve their sources or themselves. To that end, here are 10 story ideas I would respectfully urge the E-E to consider in the weeks and months ahead.
  1. Bartlesville has a well-deserved reputation as an excellent public school district. According to researchers at the George W. Bush Institute, the average student in Bartlesville is performing better in math than 64 percent of students in the United States and better than 53 percent of students in other developed economies. So if Oklahoma lawmakers created a universal school-choice program, how many students in the Bartlesville Public Schools would even feel the need to utilize it? How many would actually leave for a private school? E-E journalists should explore the take-up rates in other school-choice states and try to get a sense of what might happen in Bartlesville.
  2. The E-E recently quoted state Rep. Earl Sears as saying, “I personally don’t support a voucher program.” A logical journalistic follow-up question for Rep. Sears would be: “As you know, Oklahoma already has a voucher program—a voucher program that likely wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you. Will you introduce legislation to repeal it?”
  3. Oklahoma’s private-school voucher program is helping hearing-impaired students, autistic students, students seeking to overcome addiction, and many more. With two private schools in Bartlesville participating in the program, E-E journalists could likely find some interesting human-interest stories about local students.
  4. Bullycide (suicide as a result of being bullied) is a heartbreaking reality in Oklahoma and nationwide. Oklahoma’s private-school voucher program turned out to be a godsend for Phylicia and for Dylan, both of whom had considered suicide. Are there other troubled students who have been rescued by the voucher program? If so, E-E journalists should tell their stories.
  5. PEAK wants lawmakers to “properly” fund schools. E-E journalists should explore the question: What level of funding is “proper”? If Bartlesville’s per-pupil spending of $9,530 is not enough, then what is? Would $15,971 (Cushing) be enough? How about $17,552 (Stroud), $25,373 (Taloga), or $43,817 (Reydon)? The superintendent in Tahlequah goes so far as to say, “There has never been enough revenue for public education, and there never will be.” Does PEAK share that view? Do BPS officials? If not, at what dollar amount would BPS officials tell taxpayers, “Thank you. The funding level you have provided is now sufficient. If there are any problems remaining with the schools, we take responsibility for them.”?
  6. PEAK wants “significant pay raises” for all teachers, even if it means supporting “prudent” tax increases. In a recent report examining the cost (salary, benefits, and payroll taxes) per teacher in Oklahoma in 2016, researchers at the 1889 Institute found that the average cost to taxpayers is about $66,034. E-E journalists should do a story on the report and should ask some of these taxpayers: What tax hikes would be “prudent”?
  7. Oklahoma’s public education system now has more non-teachers than teachers. According to economist Benjamin Scafidi, if it weren’t for the non-teaching staff surge of the last two decades Oklahoma could have given each teacher a pay raise of more than $6,000. E-E journalists should take a look at staffing decisions in some local districts. For example, why did the non-teaching staff in Bartlesville and Nowata increase even as enrollment declined? In Dewey, why was the non-teaching staff increase more than three times greater than the increase in students?
  8. The National Education Association warned of a “teacher shortage” nearly a century ago—and we’ve been hearing about teacher shortages ever since. But two Oklahoma researchers have concluded that “overall, there is no teacher shortage. In fact, there may be a surplus.” Journalists—always on the lookout for “man bites dog” stories—should be eager to explore a finding like this which contradicts the prevailing wisdom. E-E journalists should talk to the researchers and also talk to public school officials who would take issue with the researchers’ conclusions.
  9. PEAK is “strongly against” vouchers and ESAs, but what do other citizens think about these sorts of private-school choice policies? A Gallup poll released last week found strong support nationally for the Trump-DeVos school choice proposal, and indeed over the last few years there have been at least eight public-opinion surveys asking Oklahomans their views on school choice. Using the latest Gallup poll as a news hook, the E-E should take a look at the public opinion survey research on school choice.
  10. PEAK wants significant pay raises for “all teachers”—presumably even the bad ones. But a 2015 SoonerPoll survey found that 58 percent of Oklahoma voters say “pay raises should be given based on the quality of each teacher’s work,” while 40 percent say “pay raises should be given to all teachers across the board.” E-E journalists should interview some Bartlesville taxpayers to see which they prefer.
Whether or not E-E journalists pursue any of these story ideas specifically, here’s hoping they will strive to report the education news fully, accurately, and fairly.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


UPDATES: 

There's no shortage of good story ideas. Additional ones will be added below as they present themselves. 
  1. PEAK indicated on April 3 that it wants to “stop the next tax cut.” With April 15 still fresh on people’s minds, E-E journalists should do a story on the proposed legislation. Some Bartians may agree with PEAK that our political leaders need more money to spend on the government-operated school system. However, considering that the average Oklahoman had to work the first 101 days of 2017 just to earn enough money to pay the federal, state, and local tax collectors, others may be in the mood for any tax cut they can get.
  2. PEAK opposes Senate Bill 393, the Oklahoma Science Education Act, which passed the Oklahoma Senate on March 22 by a vote of 34 to 10 and is now being considered in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. E-E journalists should do a story on the legislation (and even publish the bill itself as a sidebar so readers can judge for themselves). PEAK believes this “anti-science” legislation is “designed to discredit evolution and climate change” and could even (gasp!) “open the door to creationism.” But given what Americans think on these topics—and knowing that Bible Belt Okies are even more conservative than Americans as a whole—E-E journalists shouldn’t have any trouble finding interviewees who support the legislation.
  3. The Bartlesville school board voted unanimously to outsource the schools’ janitorial services, the E-E reports. “The current janitorial staff were being managed by the principals at each site, which Preston Birk, the district’s chief financial officer, said was ineffective. … 'We didn’t invent the wheel. There’s quite a few other districts larger than us and smaller than us that outsource custodial work,' Birk said. The move will save Bartlesville Public Schools $300,000 total savings in the 2017-2018 school year, but [superintendent Chuck] McCauley said he expects that number will grow.” E-E journalists should pursue some follow-up stories: If this move is so beneficial to taxpayers in 2017, why wasn’t it done in 2007 or 1997 or earlier? And if it makes fiscal sense to outsource custodial work, are there other services the school board could outsource?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

More perfect than Union

The Oklahoman editorializes today:
David L. Kirp, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, recently wrote an op-ed for The New York Times headlined, “Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?” The column focused on Union Public Schools in Tulsa. Yet some Oklahoma charter schools outperform even Union. In 2015, according to the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, the percentage of students in Union schools who passed various state tests was markedly lower than the share passing those same tests at Harding Charter Preparatory High School and KIPP Reach College Preparatory School (both in Oklahoma City), even though the latter two charter schools both have higher minority student populations than Union and large numbers of low-income students. It's welcome news any time an Oklahoma school receives positive recognition, and some Union schools are doing fine, but that doesn't mean the closest public school always provides a quality education for every student or that charter schools aren't needed.
Indeed, one could argue that a school district spending $11,566 per student and paying its superintendent nearly a quarter-million dollars annually should actually be doing better than it is now. The average student in the Union school district performs better in math than 38 percent of students in other developed economies.

Friday, April 7, 2017

‘Pay no attention to that research consensus behind the curtain’

"Noah Smith dresses up a few fussy methodological quibbles and one big, really dishonest bit of fakery in order to cast aspersions on my Win-Win report and distract you from the research consensus behind the curtain," Greg Forster writes.

Former OKCPS bus driver accused of sexually assaulting student

KOCO has the story.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Two OKC mid-high students accused of attempting to rape fellow student on campus

The Oklahoman has the story.

Oklahoma elementary students assaulting teachers

"In 2015, Oklahoma schools reported 96 suspensions of elementary-aged students for assaulting a teacher or staff member," Jennifer Palmer reports.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Public schools will always include religious indoctrination

"Public schools were created explicitly to reinforce the dominant religious beliefs of American culture," Professor Russell Dawn writes. "Those beliefs used to be Protestant, but are now secular. Both are religions."

Islam being taught in public schools?

Interesting segment here with Tucker Carlson.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Al Franken opposes school choice

Except for his own kids' $44,000 a year private school.

Indeed, The Daily Caller reports, "at least seven of the 46 Senate Democrats who voted against Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s newly-minted education secretary, currently send or once sent their own children or grandchildren to expensive private schools.

Tulsa mother says daughter received birth control implant during educational trip

FOX 23 has the story.

‘Former bleeding-heart liberal’ changes her mind on vouchers


Facts to consider on Oklahoma teacher pay

The 1889 Institute is out with a new policy report, "Teacher Pay: Facts to Consider." Below are some highlights. I encourage you to read the entire report here.
  • Oklahoma’s average teacher salary was $44,921 in 2016, which is $13,600 more than in 2000 (but only $1,000 more when adjusted for inflation).
  • Including benefits and payroll taxes, Oklahoma’s average teacher pay in 2016 was about $66,034.
  • Assuming a 45-hour workweek during contracted days and an additional 40 hours outside contracted days, an average teacher work hour’s total compensation in Oklahoma amounted to $39.45 in 2016.
  • Nationally and in Oklahoma, average teacher salaries reached their historical maximum in 2010.
  • In 2010, Oklahoma’s average teacher salary, adjusted for cost of living, ranked 14th in the nation and on a par with Texas.
  • In 2010, average compensation with benefits included for Oklahoma’s teachers undoubtedly exceeded that for Texas’ teachers.
  • In 2016, Oklahoma’s average teacher salary, adjusted for cost of living, ranked 30th in the nation.
  • Teacher salaries were insulated from the early impacts of the Great Recession (2008-2009) by federal funds provided to public education across the nation through 2010.
  • By 2015, the national inflation-adjusted average teacher salary had only begun to recover from the drop after 2010.
  • The national inflation-adjusted average teacher salary has yet to recover to its long-term trend.
  • Oklahoma’s inflation-adjusted average teacher salary was at its long-term trend in 2016, and never fell below it.
  • Since 2010, Oklahoma’s inflation-adjusted average teacher salary has fallen more than any other state’s except Mississippi, but this fall is from a level that was anomalously high compared to other states in 2010.
  • Texas’ high average teacher salary status in the region must be tempered by the realization that Texas’ pay in benefits is much lower than Oklahoma’s.
  • National studies comparing teacher pay to that of other similarly skilled professions show that teachers compare well.
  • Any teacher shortage in Oklahoma is extremely small and the evidence is so sketchy that there actually could be a small surplus.
  • Emergency certification numbers provide no evidence of a true teacher shortage.
    • Only 2.1 percent of Oklahoma teachers were emergency certified in 2016.
    • Forty-one percent of emergency certifications were for elementary education and early childhood.
    • There were no emergency certifications for Special Education.
    • In Advanced Math, Biology, Chemistry, Early Childhood, English, and Science, 70 percent of emergency certification candidates had strongly subject-related college degrees.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Oklahoma higher education not just treading water

Oklahoma’s higher education officials often claim that, because of reduced government subsidies from lawmakers, universities are forced to raise tuition and fees just to keep their heads above water.

In reality, as Neal McCluskey demonstrates, higher education has taken in much more revenue than what was needed to backfill state cuts. As you can see in the charts below, Oklahoma’s per-student appropriations have indeed fallen over the past 25 years, but tuition and fee revenues have increased at a much greater rate—resulting in a net increase of $61 per student or $25 million per year. 


Monday, March 20, 2017

When higher education undermines freedom


An official at the University of Oklahoma recently praised Donald Trump’s critics for their ability to “overcome hate.” OU's president wants “hate speech” reported to the police—and one professor did in fact call the police after being handed an evangelistic tract. 

If OU insists upon undermining political freedom, Greg Forster writes for OCPA, lawmakers might want to consider cutting back on direct subsidies and instead more fully voucherizing their support for higher education.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

‘The best and brightest ever being produced’

"We are doing a better job in public education today than ever before in history," said state Sen. Ron Sharp, a retired teacher, in remarks to the Senate Education Committee on February 20. "Our kids are the best and brightest ever being produced, and for someone to indicate that 100 years ago that kids were being educated better, or 50 years ago, is someone who has not studied history."

And apparently Sen. Sharp said some other interesting things in that same meeting.

Measuring quality—but by whose measure?



Lindsey Burke has an excellent new post responding to Tulane's Doug Harris on the question of accountability. “Even if free markets did work well,” Harris argues, “it would be reasonable for policymakers to ask for some measurable results. It’s hard to think of another case where government writes checks to private organizations without checking whether taxpayers are getting anything for their money.” Burke's response:
First, ESA and other education choice funds do not go to “organizations.” Funds go to families, not schools. Schools certainly benefit, but only by way of parents taking their funds to schools that fulfill what they’re looking for. Likewise, food stamps are for the hungry, not grocery stores; Section 8 housing vouchers are for those who need shelter, and are not subsidies designed to prop up the apartment building industry. 
Second, the government regularly writes checks to individuals for use at a variety of organizations without requiring either those individuals or organizations to meet certain government-imposed metrics. Grocery stores accepting food stamps aren’t held to higher standards than those than don’t, nor are food stamp recipients required to abide by any dietary guidelines or limited to a certain caloric intake. Contra Harris, this approach is the norm for nearly every entitlement and welfare program, including Social Security, SNAP, WIC, Section 8, and so on. As Jay has noted, the feds aren’t checking on grandma to see that she spent her social security money on vegetables or rent. 
This is the norm in education policy as well. Pell grants to colleges require accreditation, but that is far from a measure of academic quality. Colleges that accept Pell grants are not required to administer national tests or any tests at all. Nor are they required to meet government-imposed benchmarks for graduation rates or any other quantifiable measures, let alone to harder-to-quantify ones like civic values or noncognitive skills. 
Third, and more germane to the choice conversation, is Harris’s notion that government is needed to ensure accountability. Not only are government regulations in education a far inferior form of accountability than market driven mechanisms, but they can actually have the inverse effect of what was intended by regulation-hawks. And coming from Louisiana himself, where the high-regulation model is in place (requiring private schools accepting students on a voucher to take the state test and punishing “underperformers” by kicking schools that parents have chosen out of the options pool), Harris should acknowledge that the so-called accountability regulations have not lived up to their proponents’ promises and may have had the exact opposite effect of what was intended. 
Heavy-handed regulations (a state testing mandate, among others) have discouraged the vast majority of private schools from participating, while likely encouraging lower performers (as indicated by student attrition from those schools prior to entering the voucher program) to join the LSP, willing to incur the regulations in order to secure a new funding stream.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scaremongering about home education

"The Washington Post Magazine's cover story this week is about … the horrors of home-schooling," Charlotte Allen writes for The Weekly Standard. The push by some activists for government "monitoring" of homeschooling
is an attack on the faith and cultural ways of the Mennonites or any Christians, adherents of other traditional religions, and perhaps people of no religion at all who wish to shield their children from school cultures that oblige students to learn how to put a condom onto a cucumber, force girls to shower with biological males, or even just plain skip the three R's in favor of lessons in trendy political correctness.

Parent in assault case sues Norman Public Schools

"The father of a boy police say was sexually assaulted by members of the Norman North wrestling team claims in a lawsuit that lax supervision led to his son being attacked three times during a school trip," The Oklahoman reports.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Oklahoma lieutenant governor: ‘I trust parents’

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Educational choice and Oklahoma’s Parents’ Bill of Rights

Oklahoma has enacted a Parents’ Bill of Rights which says no state government entity shall infringe upon the rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it’s time to translate these principles into effective legal remedies: We must guarantee to all parents, no matter their income, the effective right to choose a public or private school that satisfies their needs.

Yes, school choice works—but that is not the point

The empirical evidence tells us that school choice "works." But as Paul DiPerna and Robert Pondiscio remind us in a couple of recent articles, that's not necessarily the main point.

"Contrary to recent editorials in some major U.S newspapers, the empirical research on school choice programs is far more positive than not," DiPerna writes at EducationNext.
Summaries of the effects of multiple programs generally show positive effects, as does a meta-analysis of gold-standard experimental research on school choice by Shakeel, Anderson, and Wolf (2016). Participating students usually show modest improvements in reading or math test scores, or both. Annual gains are relatively small but cumulative over time. High school graduation and college attendance rates are substantially higher for participating minority students compared to peers. Programs are almost always associated with improved test scores in affected public schools. They also save money. Those savings can be used to increase per-pupil spending in local school districts. Studies also consistently show that programs increase parent satisfaction, racial integration, and civic outcomes.
In short, DiPerna writes, "the many places where we have observed significant positive results from choice programs swamp the few where we have seen negative findings." Still, he says, amid all the empirical evidence we need to remember to keep our eye on the ball:
Researchers and policymakers must carefully balance the need for data-driven evidence with the reality that educational choice is, at its core, an issue of parental empowerment [emphasis added]. A voucher, education savings account, or tax-credit scholarship gives real voice to families. Their students are no longer bureaucratically assigned to a school; rather, they are financially enabled to find the best education provider for their children...
Pondiscio emphasizes this same theme in an excellent piece over at U.S. News.
Wonky battles over research studies can be illuminating. They can also be irrelevant or premature. While [Neal] McCluskey and other advocates are correct that the preponderance of evidence tends to favor school choice, this entire debate puts the cart before the horse. When we look to test-based evidence—and look no further—to decide whether choice "works," we are making two rather extraordinary, unquestioned assumptions: that the sole purpose of schooling is to raise test scores, and that district schools have a place of privilege against which all other models must justify themselves.
That's really not what choice is about. Choice exists to allow parents to educate their children in accordance with their own needs, desires, and values. If diversity is a core value of yours, for example, you might seek out a school where your child can learn alongside peers from different backgrounds. If your child is a budding artist, actor, or musician, the "evidence" that might persuade you is whether he or she will have the opportunity to study with a working sculptor or to pound the boards in a strong theater or dance program. If your child is an athlete, the number of state titles won by the lacrosse team or sports scholarships earned by graduates might be compelling evidence. If faith is central to your family, you will want a school that allows your child to grow and be guided by your religious beliefs. There can be no doubt that, if you are fortunate enough to select a school based on your child's talents or interests or your family's values and traditions, the question of whether school choice "works" has already been answered. It's working perfectly for you.
In sum, Pondiscio says, "the desirability of school choice and educational pluralism is a values-driven question, not an evidence-based one." That's a truth we must always articulate.