Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sex ed lesson for 12-year-olds upsets Oklahoma parents

"A graphic sex education lesson has some Green Country parents upset after they said the lesson told their 12-year-old children different ways to have sex," the News on 6 reports.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tulsa mother claims cocaine was found at Union Middle School

KTUL has the story.

Oklahoma closes the ‘honesty gap’

In this 2006 report, OCPA
recommended that Oklahoma
"reverse course and increase
expectations for performance." 
"With new test score standards that state education officials believe are more in line with national standards, the majority of Oklahoma students lack proficiency in all but one subject area tested," Ben Felder reports today in The Oklahoman.
An average of 63 percent of Oklahoma students scored below proficient in the 18 state-required tests issued last school year in grades third through eighth, and 10th grade. 
The 10th-grade U.S. history test was the only exam where a majority—slightly over 50 percent—of students scored as proficient or advanced. 
Most Oklahoma students lack the basic subject-level knowledge the state now requires, according to the statewide scores released Wednesday.
Disappointing, to be sure, but Oklahoma's education officials do deserve credit for finally working to close the honesty gap. This is something OCPA has been recommending for more than 11 years. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Duncan Public Schools, police department investigating YouTube fight videos

KSWO has the story.

Oklahoma teacher hiring devastated by emergency ‘common sense shortage’

"Oklahoma’s education establishment and click-addicted media benefit from public hysteria about a 'teacher shortage' and 'emergency certifications,'" Greg Forster writes. "But the general consensus is that the empirical research does not find evidence of educational value—at all—to teacher certification requirements. These arbitrary and educationally useless requirements do nothing to improve educational quality, and much to hinder schools’ ability to hire teachers."

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Excellent point about home-buying

Oklahoma teacher: “I teach my students that the phrase ‘law and order’ is steeped in systemic racism”

"The prevailing narrative about government-run schools," the Cato Institute reminds us, is that they "harmoniously bring together people from various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds and instill in their children the civic values necessary for a pluralist democracy. In reality, however, government schooling often forces citizens into political combat. Different families have different priorities on topics ranging from academics and the arts to questions of morality and religion. No single school can possibly reflect the wide range of mutually exclusive views on these fundamental subjects."

Unsurprisingly, we see this conflict in public schools here in a Bible Belt state where Barack Obama twice won 0 of 77 counties. In the Mid-Del school district, for example, there's a history teacher named Aaron Baker who describes himself as a "proud liberal progressive public school teacher" who promotes "radical social justice in Oklahoma public schools." How radical? Mr. Baker believes educators should avoid using male and female pronouns. He believes that some opinions—such as views he deems "anti-gay hate speech"—"should not be allowed to be heard."

In a state where political-correctness slayer Donald Trump won 77 of 77 counties, all this is going over about as well as you might expect.

To his credit, Mr. Baker doesn't hide what he's doing. "I teach my students that the phrase 'law and order' is steeped in systemic racism," he recently informed us. "I teach my students that concentrated wealth multiplies poverty. ... I teach my students that the greatest nuclear threat the world has ever seen is the United States of America."

Mr. Baker is not a supporter of school choice—earlier this year he encouraged people to "agitate and disrupt" a school choice summit—but in truth he illustrates better than anyone why we so desperately need it. "In a market-based education system, parents can select the school most closely aligned with their priorities," Cato says. "By contrast, when these questions are decided through a political system, such as elected school boards, parents with differing views must struggle against each other to have the school reflect their views. Inevitably, some parents will lose that struggle. To add insult to injury, all citizens are forced to pay for the government-run schools through their taxes, even when those schools are antagonistic toward their most deeply held values."

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Skiatook teacher arrested on complaint of sexual battery

The News on 6 has the story.

OKC teacher suspended after giving students inappropriate assignment

"A metro teacher is suspended after students and parents reported an inappropriate assignment that was sexual in nature," KFOR reports.

Parents, student say bullying a problem in Edmond school district

"Outlining his own case of cyberbullying, a high school student urged Edmond School Board members and administrators to do more to combat the problem," Steve Gust reports for The Oklahoman.
Drew O'Daniel, a sophomore at Edmond Memorial High School, was granted five minutes to speak to the five-member board during its regular meeting Monday night. ... O'Daniel's comments came a month after his mother, Cara O'Daniel, requested the school board do more about bullying prevention. She and another mom, Julie Daniel, told the board there still were too many incidents of bullying in the Edmond school district.
Edmond public information director Susan Parks-Schlepp said the district policy has strict guidelines against bullying and takes every reported case seriously. Yet, neither Drew nor Cara O'Daniel believed their concerns were taken seriously by the district. ... He explained his was not an isolated incident. He cited the case of a girl, who attended Edmond schools but is now home schooled because of being taunted. He made his comments at the beginning of Monday's meeting when 150 to 200 other students and school patrons were present because of pending recognition for National Merit Semi-Finalists and the Edmond North High School state championship cheer team. 
After he spoke to the board, the room applauded. While being interviewed, two school patrons he didn't know offered him free counseling, as well as free martial arts training. "What I really want is for the school board and the administrators to do more about bullying," he said. 
Both Edmond Superintendent Bret Towne and Memorial Principal Tony Rose said they could not comment on the case. Yet, Towne, after the meeting, admitted the overall issue was still under review. "We know we have a ways to go," he said. 
A billboard in Edmond, Jan. 24, 2012
Well, yes. And how soon might the problem be solved? What shall bullied students and their parents do in the meantime? One Edmond parent told a reporter seven years ago, "On one front your child’s spirit is broken, and there is no more frustrating feeling than watching your child be abused. The other front is the fact that the school administration just wants you and the problem to go away."

The problems persist, even in Edmond. The district has a very good reputation—indeed, the average student in Edmond is performing better in math than 65 percent of students in the nation and 54 percent of students in other developed economies—but that doesn't mean every school is a good fit for every child, especially children who are being bullied.

I'm sure most Edmond parents and students are satisfied with their school. Others simply would like to see the district do more to address bullying. But for bullied students who need help now, they deserve (even if they opt not to use it) a ticket out in the form of a voucher, a tax credit, or an education savings account.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Diversity and community on campus

"The University of Oklahoma's mandatory student 'diversity training' is a horrifying recital of coercive tactics, clearly designed not to educate students about diversity (which would be valuable) so much as to manipulate, threaten, and control them so they don’t think the wrong things," Greg Forster writes.

Test scores are about to go down

Tahlequah superintendent Lisa Presley sent out a district-wide email on Monday:
From: Lisa Presley
Sent: Monday, October 02, 2017 6:39 PM
To: District
Cc: Lisa Presley
Subject: state testing 
Today we had discussions regarding the Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) and the 2017 test scores. Below are some of the major take-aways from the 2017 testing reset:
  • The 2017 Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) results will post on Oct. 11. Districts will receive paper copies the week of Nov. 27.
  • This year's testing results serve as the baseline year for ESSA accountability.
  • Our state-level assessment scores now align with the ACT, SAT and NAEP.
  • Our school district testing data will be in the same format as in previous years.
  • Expect a significant decrease in the number of students who score proficient or higher due to the new standards, assessments, and definitions for performance levels.
  • This year is a total reset and the OSTP scores cannot be compared to previous years.
  • Expect steady, incremental growth in test scores moving forward.
Please remember that teachers had only one year to teach the new standards in science, ELA and math; and that the new test scores do not reflect on the effectiveness of our schools or that our students are less skilled than before. The new test scores do mean that our students are being held to a higher standard that will better prepare them for college and career.
TPS is a great school district with outstanding educators! We are ready and willing to meet the challenge of preparing our students for a bright future!
Whether or not TPS is "a great school district" is, of course, open to debate. According to researchers at the George W. Bush Institute, the average student in Tahlequah is performing better in math than 43 percent of students in the nation and 32 percent of students in other developed economies. In any case, let's hope Tahlequah and every other Oklahoma district is indeed ready and willing to succeed.

Important to keep in mind

"No reasonable person believes that the level of student performance is a reliable proxy for school quality," Jay Greene reminds us. "Instead, the level of performance is largely a function of the severity of disadvantage among the students."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sapulpa school shooting threat reported to police

"An alleged plan to carry out a shooting at the Sapulpa high school and junior high campuses was reported to police Saturday," the News on 6 reports.
School administrations, working in coordination with Sapulpa Police, are actively investigating the alleged threat. 
Assistant Superintendent Johnny Bilby said, “Sapulpa Public Schools take all threats seriously. The safety of our students and staff are our top priority.” He also said there will be an increased police presence at the schools on Monday.

‘Dark’ money duplicity

"The teachers unions decry dark money," Peter Cook writes, "but spend plenty of it." Oklahomans know this all too well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Owasso High School investigates student fight video

"Owasso parents are upset about a brawl between two high school students that was caught on video and posted online," the News on 6 reports. "Parents said they're concerned about student safety."

The funding crisis myth

"The narrative that schools need more money distracts from discussions about how dollars are being spent," Frederick M. Hess and Amy Cummings write.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

By a margin of more than 4 to 1, Oklahoma Republicans say tax dollars should follow the child

In a recent statewide survey of 1,016 likely Oklahoma voters (margin of error: plus-minus 3.07 percent), respondents were asked:
Educational choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of educational choice?
Fully 65 percent of those surveyed say they support using tax dollars to send their child to a school of choice, whereas 28 percent oppose. Oklahoma Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support educational choice—with the Republican tally coming in at 76 percent to 17 percent.

Read the entire survey here.

Edmond pre-K student found wandering near busy roadway after leaving school

KFOR has the story.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Vian school bus driver under investigation for picking up hitchhiker

"A school bus driver for Vian Public Schools is currently under investigation, according to Superintendent Victor Salcedo," KFSM reports. "Salcedo said the bus driver is accused of giving a hitchhiker and a dog a ride on their bus while students were on board on September 12."

One parent, Naticia Drew, says she has had problems with this particular driver before. "The kids have been late for 45 minutes because they told me she felt like she needed to call on some horses or some dogs that were sick and wait on animal control to get there."

Trump favors educational choice

Course choice for rural schools

Good article by Jonathan Small today in the Enid News & Eagle.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Matt Damon wants to limit school choice for your kids

Of course, he sends his kids to posh private schools, the Daily Caller reminds us.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Woman says Caney Valley teacher is bullying special-needs third grader

KJRH has the story.

Hilldale teacher says student assaulted her and exposed himself

CNHI News has the story.

Why millennials support school choice

"We’re used to having plenty of options," Tommy Schultz explains, "and we distrust institutions."

Ed choice can help ease growing pains

Deer Creek has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best public school districts in Oklahoma. For example, the average student in Deer Creek is performing better in math than 72 percent of students in Oklahoma, according to researchers at the George W. Bush Institute. Moreover, the average student in Deer Creek is performing better in math than 67 percent of students in the United States and better than 56 percent of students in other developed economies.

Unsurprisingly, many parents want to live in the district. The Oklahoman noted last week that Deer Creek's enrollment is increasing. With that in mind, policymakers should always be aware that private-school choice policies (vouchers, tax credits, ESAs, etc.) can serve as a "pressure release valve" in high-growth areas like Deer Creek.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Henry Scholarships are improving education

"The success of Oklahoma's Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program proves that when customers have power, providers are more responsive and service improves," the state's largest newspaper editorializes. "This is breaking news only in government."
Critics of the scholarship program argue parents aren't capable of figuring out if their child is properly served in a private school, but then argue those same parents are fully capable of navigating federal, state and local bureaucracies to obtain an improvement in services not being rendered in a public school. If you can do the latter, then obviously you can do the former.
Read the whole thing here.

4 in 10 Oklahoma high school graduates have little chance of succeeding in college

"The status quo isn't acceptable," the state's largest newspaper notes today. "When 42 percent of Oklahoma's high school graduates have little chance of succeeding in college, the chances for state prosperity are similarly limited."

Monday, September 11, 2017

All the news that fits

Jonathan Small and I have a new post over at OCPA about media bias in Oklahoma. Whether through story selection or the choice of narrative framework, journalists don't always report the news fully and fairly. Moreover:
It’s not just what stories they choose to write (think of The New York Times slogan “All the news that’s fit to print”) and how they construct those stories. It’s also what stories they choose not to write. 
Here’s an example. When a public opinion poll in 2015 showed voter opposition to school vouchers, a reporter for the Tulsa World correctly deemed it newsworthy and reported the findings. But last month when OCPA sent this same reporter the results of a new survey showing strong support for Education Savings Accounts and other forms of private-school choice, she replied tersely: “Wayne Greene, opinion pages editor, is your contact at the Tulsa World.” In other words, all the news that fits, we print. Anything else is just your opinion. 
Now granted, newspapers are entitled to evaluate newsworthiness and make their own publishing decisions. Still, this hardly seems like an appropriate response from a reporter to a source. 
Is it any wonder that only one in seven Republicans trust the media?
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teen suicide rates spike during back-to-school season

"Many parents are recognizing the negative effects that forced schooling has on mental health," Kerry McDonald writes.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Attorney says ‘teachers and coaches having sex with students has run rampant in Oklahoma’

"A mother alleges in a civil rights lawsuit that Western Heights Public Schools failed to 'properly investigate and report claims of sexual misconduct' after her developmentally disabled daughter was victimized by a teacher," The Oklahoman reports.
The federal lawsuit filed this month in Oklahoma City also alleges the school district created a "hostile educational environment" in which the daughter was subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation. ... 
"The school district has absolutely failed my daughter and they failed my family," the mother, a former Western Heights district employee, told The Oklahoman on Friday. "I trusted them with everything I had and this was going on under their nose. ... 
The lawsuit alleges "a pattern of inappropriate conduct" by the Western Heights district and refers to "at least five former coaches and teachers (having) been charged, some sentenced, for sexual contact with students." ... 
"It's time that the situation at Western Heights be revealed for what it is — an atmosphere where coaches and teachers have been allowed to have sex with their students," said Cameron Spradling, the attorney representing the mother. 
"That has to stop at Western Heights, and it has to stop at all other schools in Oklahoma. No one has any doubt that teachers and coaches having sex with students has run rampant in Oklahoma."
Sadly, it's not just the grown-ups. "Based on what I heard from my constituents," writes former state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton (D-Oklahoma City), "sexual harassment of girls in our public schools is close to being pro forma. ...Your daughter has a much better chance of growing up to be a strong, independent young woman if she can skip this abuse during her formative years."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Are Oklahoma’s public schools being starved?

Byron Schlomach (Ph.D. in economics, Texas A&M University) is the state policy director for the 1889 Institute, an independent research organization. He is also a scholar-in-residence at the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise at Oklahoma State University. This useful chart prepared by Dr. Schlomach provides some much-needed historical context.

OKC school board is telling lies

"After this past week, any fair observer must worry that the leaders of the Oklahoma City Public School District lack both the intellectual understanding and political skills to run the district effectively," Andrew C. Spiropoulos writes.
Instead of looking in the mirror, the school board announced this week that its solution to the district’s serial failures was to file a lawsuit against the state for allegedly underfunding the schools. Let’s begin with the fact that Oklahoma courts have consistently and wisely held that the constitution exclusively vests the authority to determine the proper level of school funding in the Legislature. 
Even more infuriating than the board’s vacuous legal arguments are its dishonest factual ones. The board claims that the Legislature has cut common school funding when, in fact, in the face of a vicious recession in the energy industry, it has increased appropriations from $2.37 billion in 2013 to $2.43 billion in 2018. While almost every other state agency has had its budget seriously slashed, the state Legislature has prioritized common education, sparing it from cuts time and time again. The most brazen lie told by the board was the fantasy that the Legislature cut funding for textbooks, when, in fact, upon request by the educators themselves, all it did was provide schools the flexibility to spend the same pool of money on what the schools thought most important. Lies, no matter how often they are repeated, remain lies. Let’s not even discuss how inept you have to be, in the face of the emotions unleashed by the crimes and conflict of Charlottesville, to suggest changing the names of schools without first researching what they really are. 
Filing bogus lawsuits, carelessly indulging in political correctness, pining after destructive tax increases – these are the hallmarks of the unreconstructed left. In the past, the district’s leaders, no matter their personal ideology, have never been so stupid as to gratuitously alienate the conservatives who dominate the political, social and economic establishment of this city and, for almost two decades, have faithfully supported the district. Those days appear to be gone, and, as night follows day, barring change, the support will go as well.

Parents prefer four-day week: ‘Don’t take this from us’

Noble school superintendent Frank Solomon tells The Journal Record ("For some schools, four is the new five") that the four-day school week has worked well for his district.

Coyle superintendent Josh Sumrall is even more emphatic. "We love it here, all of the parents and community. There's literally not one person that's come into my office or sent a letter saying it doesn't work for them. ... Parents have told me, 'Don't take this from us.'"

"I know it's not for every district in the state, but we really like it," Sumrall says. "If we can make this work, leave us alone and let us do it."

Copan sees benefits from four-day week

"I would wager if we took a poll tomorrow of people in Copan who want to go back to a five-day week, I don’t think we would have enough support for it in the community," Copan High School principal Chris Tanner tells the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.

Caney, Cave Springs, Atoka, Swink happy with four-day week

"I haven’t heard a negative from my parents since we started," Caney superintendent Lori Delay says.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oklahoma voters want tax dollars to follow the child

Nearly two in three Oklahoma voters support using tax dollars to choose the public or private school which best meets their child’s needs.

That’s one of the findings in a new survey commissioned by OCPA just as the new school year gets under way. The statewide survey of 1,016 likely Oklahoma voters was conducted by the firm Cor Strategies and has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.07 percent. The survey question wording is below. To see a summary of the results, click here. To see the methodology, click here.

“If you could select any type of school in order to obtain the best education for your child, what type of school would you select?”

While 47 percent say they would choose a traditional public school, the majority of Oklahomans would choose something else. Specifically, 30 percent would choose a private school, 12 percent would choose homeschooling, and 11 percent would choose a charter school. Whether in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or the rest of the state, fewer than half of respondents say they would choose a traditional public school in order to obtain the best education for their child.

“According to data from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System, public education spending in Oklahoma is approximately $9,700 per student per year. Would you say that taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment?”

Only 22 percent of respondents think taxpayers are getting a good return on their annual investment in public education (expenditure summary file here), whereas 66 percent do not. This gloomy take on ROI cuts across party lines, being shared by Republicans (69 percent), Democrats (60 percent), and Independents (68 percent).

“A proposal has been made to move local school board and school bond elections to the general election date in November. Some people support the idea, believing it would increase voter turnout for these school elections and make it harder for education interest groups to influence the outcome. Other people oppose the idea, believing that the school elections would get lost on a crowded ballot and it would make them more partisan. Do you support or oppose moving school board and school bond elections to the general election date in November?”

Oklahomans support this idea by a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent. Democrats oppose the idea (45 percent to 42 percent), but Republicans (58 percent to 31 percent) and Independents (63 percent to 24 percent) are in support.

“Educational choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of educational choice?”

Fully 65 percent of respondents support using tax dollars to send their child to a school of choice, whereas 28 percent oppose. (Interestingly, 44 percent strongly support the idea while 15 percent strongly oppose.) Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support educational choice—with the Republican tally coming in at 76 percent to 17 percent.

“A proposal has been made to give parents the chance to customize their child’s education through Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs. With an ESA, the state puts the funds it would have spent on a child’s behalf into a bank account the parent controls. The parent can then use these funds to purchase the education that best meets their child’s needs from a wide variety of sources, including private schools, virtual schools, and institutions of higher education. Any funds not used in a school year could be carried over for future education, including college. Would you say that you support or oppose Oklahoma having a program like this one?”

Oklahomans support ESAs by a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent. Though Democrats (49 percent to 42 percent) oppose ESAs, Republicans (52 percent to 30 percent) and Independents (56 percent to 25 percent) overwhelmingly support ESAs.

A poll, of course, is only a snapshot of public opinion at the time the survey is taken. This newest snapshot does, however, add to a growing body of evidence. In addition to this Cor Strategies survey, here are the recent survey data which have shown strong support for ESAs and other forms of private-school choice:
  • 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
Here is the survey research showing that Oklahomans oppose school vouchers (the survey didn't ask about ESAs):
  • Public Opinion Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2015

[Cross-posted at OCPA]

DeVos: Schools of choice ‘are accountable to the parents’

"I think the first line of accountability is frankly with the parents," U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently told the Associated Press.
When parents are choosing school they are proactively making that choice. And schools are accountable to the parents. And vice versa, the students doing well and working to achieve in the schools. I think it’s important for parents to have information about how their students are doing, how they’re achieving, how they’re progressing. And that kind of transparency and accountability I think is really the best approach to holding schools accountable broadly. It starts with holding themselves accountable to communication of relevant and important information to students and parents about how they are doing. And we know from, that when parents choose and they are unhappy with whatever the school setting is they will choose something different. And that’s the beauty of having choices.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Parents test school liability in bullying and child suicide

The Muskogee Phoenix carries an Associated Press story with this lede: "The parents of an 8-year-old Ohio boy who hanged himself from his bunk bed with a necktie want school officials held responsible, testing the issue of school liability in suicides blamed on bullying."

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

We need real school choices

There’s no one “right” educational choice for everyone, Greg Forster writes for OCPA ("Christians and Public Schools: Babylon, Exodus, or Pentecost?").
Parents should evaluate local schools, public and private, and select the one that aligns best with their views and goals. Of course, parents don’t have an equal choice as long as the government uses its tax power to offer free schools while alternatives need to charge tuition. We need school choice policies to make real choices available. 

Oklahoma school district pays $18,500 to hear private-school educator

McAlester Public Schools recently paid $18,500 to hear motivational speaker Ron Clark, the founder of a highly acclaimed private school in Atlanta. Granted, the district should be commended for realizing that no one education sector—be it public, private, or home—has all the answers. But does that amount seem excessive?

Glenpool teen gets 25 years for molesting girls at elementary school

The Tulsa World has the story.

Kingston teacher fired, now under police investigation

KXII has the story.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Setting the record straight on ed choice

You've heard many of the arguments against school choice:
  • “Private school vouchers offer false choices.”
  • “Vouchers were not designed to help low-income children.”
  • “A pure voucher system would only encourage economic, racial, ethnic, and religious stratification in our society.”
  • “Private school vouchers lack accountability.”
  • “Vouchers take money away from neighborhood public schools.”
Our friends at EdChoice do some helpful myth-busting here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Why can’t Elgin afford school supplies?

As the new school year approaches, Will Hutchison reports for KSWO, teachers in the Elgin Public Schools "are having to spend hundreds of dollars of their own money just to make their classrooms operational."

Here's hoping KSWO or some other media outlet will do a follow-up story asking the question: Why can't Elgin afford school supplies? Consider:
  • According to data compiled from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System and provided on the website of the Oklahoma State Department of Education, total education spending in Elgin (even when adjusted for inflation) is nearly double what it was a decade ago. (Elgin's total education spending was $11,471,638 in 2006. It was $21,817,564 in 2016.)
  • Yes, student enrollment increased between 2006 and 2016. But even on a per-student basis (again, adjusted for inflation), Elgin's spending was substantially higher in 2016 ($9,677 per student) than it was in 2006 ($8,310 per student).
  • In the spending category called "Supplies," which includes "Classroom and/or Office Supplies," spending rose from $1,852,404 in 2006 to $2,534,502 in 2016.

Given these facts, why are some teachers having to spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on classroom supplies? I don't know the answer, but here's hoping some curious journalist will explore the matter with school board members and administrators. 

Have school officials rolled up their sleeves and gone over the budget line by line? For example, have they privatized all non-teaching personnel? (The Bartlesville school board recently voted to outsource the schools’ janitorial services, a move the district CFO says will save $300,000 annually.) Have they taken a close look at the athletic budget? Have they considered renegotiating the contracts of underperforming teachers? (The average student in Elgin is performing better in math than 42 percent of students in other developed economies; surely Elgin parents demand better than that.)

If classroom supplies truly are a priority, then school officials—with nearly $22 million at their disposal—need to find a way to buy classroom supplies. Yes, it may require some difficult decisions, but setting priorities is the sort of thing the Elgin superintendent is paid $114,652 annually to do.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Segregation flourishes under the government-school monopoly

M.L. King, Jr. Elementary School in Oklahoma City is 89 percent black.

"If you want to make sure schools are segregated, the quickest and easiest way to do it is to force families into schools based on their ZIP codes," Greg Forster writes. "School choice is actually the only education policy with a serious hope of reducing segregation in schools."

Protecting Oklahoma students from bullies

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and the American Academy of Pediatrics have some suggestions for parents.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Public schools take all students?

"Opponents of school choice programs often defend the traditional public school system by saying it must take 'all students,'" the state's largest newspaper points out today.
 This isn't actually true, and there are many notable exceptions or caveats to that statement. A reminder was provided when it was recently reported that even within the Oklahoma City school district, students from one location are not guaranteed admission to another school in the same district. Principals alone make that determination, and there's no requirement to justify an approval or rejection. Furthermore, the district doesn't keep records on students who are denied a transfer or the demographics of those granted transfers. It's to their credit that local school leaders are now pushing for a standardized process that includes record keeping. One suspects that if records had been kept, you would find many schools even within Oklahoma City's district that don't always abide by a “come one, come all” approach to students.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lawsuit alleges Norman officials ‘fostered an environment of hazing and assault’

"A civil lawsuit has been filed in Garvin County, Oklahoma alleging three former Norman North High School wrestlers, former coaches, and Norman Public School officials 'fostered an environment of hazing and assault within its wrestling program,'" Caleb Slinkard reports.

Oklahoma boy whose teacher raped him was threatened with paddling for speaking out about abuse, family say

"The family of an eighth-grade boy who was abused by his teacher say the school threatened to paddle him as punishment for 'spreading rumours," Shehab Khan reports.

Monday, July 24, 2017

‘Only 22 African-American senior boys were college-ready in Tulsa Public Schools in 2015’

North Tulsa community leader Justin Pickard "said that based on a benchmark ACT score of 21 (out of 36), only 22 African-American senior boys were college-ready in Tulsa Public Schools in 2015," Bill Sherman reports in the Tulsa World.

Hollis settles lawsuit over student sex with teacher

The U.K. tabloids have the story.

Leftist ideologues use big-lie technique to slam school choice

School vouchers "are impeded by a legacy of bigotry rather than being propelled by one," Robert Holland writes.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lawmakers set to enhance school voucher bill

Stars and Stripes has the story.

CAP’s misleading, historically inaccurate report on the racist ‘origin’ of vouchers

A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a leftist advocacy group, "plays fast and loose with the facts to offer a warped and historically inaccurate history of school choice," Frederick M. Hess writes.

Some Oklahoma districts are embracing Personalized Learning

Sarah Julian, the communications director for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, has a very interesting and encouraging article over at NonDoc this week. Headlined "Personalized Learning: Budget cuts spur new teaching model," the piece discusses personalized learning (PL), a new teaching model being adopted by many public school districts in Oklahoma and throughout the nation. She writes:
PL has gained traction nationwide not only for its ability to expand course options and engage students with a flexible learning schedule but also for the impressive student outcomes it produces. Gone is the "sage on the stage" lecture routine. Instead, PL provides students with a mix of digital and in-person instruction, which empowers teachers to serve as mentors and facilitators. Students are in the driver’s seat, where they have more responsibility and accountability for their own learning.

Staff with the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) began working with school districts across the state in late 2015 to implement Oklahoma’s version of personalized learning: Momentum Schools. Momentum gives students the choice of how, when and where they attend school. For example, a school designates certain hours each day when the building is open. As long as students get their state-mandated 6.5 hours of seat time in each day, they can choose when to be physically present.

Further, instead of traditional group class time, students schedule meetings with individual teachers to assess schoolwork. Students work at their own pace to ensure they master the content. As a result, parents, teachers and, most importantly, students are excited about and engaged in their education, and their progress proves it. ...
With PL, though, students have a more extensive catalog of online courses from which to choose. Further, they can control the speed at which they learn the content. This means that many PL students are able to take far more classes than a traditional school setting would allow. And those students who need more time? They can work slower without the worry of falling behind or facing criticism from peers. In all, PL provides the opportunity for a richer educational experience for all students.
My only quibble has to do with the article's budgetary references, starting with the breathless lede: "Never in our state’s history have public schools been in such a dire financial crisis." That's not true, as economist Byron Schlomach has shown:

We're also told that schools have "no money in their coffers" and are "in the throes of extreme financial hardships." In truth, Oklahoma's education spending—in total and per-student—is higher than it was a decade ago, even when adjusted for inflation. In Chickasha, the one district mentioned in the article, total spending is down but per-pupil spending is up.

But those objections aside, I strongly recommend the piece and encourage you to read the whole thing here. If a teaching model can improve student learning, cut down on discipline problems, and deliver Mandarin Chinese and AP physics to kids from Boise City to Idabel, what's not to love?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The failure of private-school choice was greatly exaggerated

"Although the 'failure' of private school choice is continuously echoed by education reporters across the nation, the scientific evidence largely suggests otherwise," Corey A. DeAngelis reminds us.

EPIC, Rose State partner to bring learning centers to Oklahoma, Tulsa counties

NewsOK has the story.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oklahoma homeschool mom has seen children thrive

"We have had so many amazing experiences as a homeschooling family," Tahlequah mom Tavia Armstrong tells the Tahlequah Daily Press, "but probably my favorite thing of all was being able to serve other families."
"I love kids, and as one of the leaders of the local homeschooling community, I have been able to witness transformations in children," said Armstrong. "I've seen kids who were bullied in school make connections and find best friends. I've watched kids who were behind in school, often just because they had a hard time sitting still, get inspired and discover intellectual gifts they didn't know they had. I've seen kids so shy they wouldn't even speak bloom before my eyes into social butterflies."

Republican lends support to Drew Edmondson campaign

Political activist Angela Clark Little identifies as a Republican. Interestingly, however, last year her PAC, Oklahomans for Public Education, actively supported several Democratic legislative candidates over Republicans. Moreover, Little once acknowledged that she endorsed a Republican candidate in order to boost the Democrat's chances of winning the general election. And as recently as last month Little joined with former Gov. David Walters and a who's who of Democratic luminaries to help raise money for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson.

Neither Edmondson nor Little are strong supporters of educational choice policies. By contrast, Republicans—as evidenced by GOP platforms, voters, and political leaders—support school choice. Not only leaders such as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, but also Sen. James LankfordGov. Mary Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, and many more—including the late great President Ronald Reagan, who in his day proposed "a tuition tax credit plan," "a voucher system," and "education savings accounts."

But by all means let’s keep the kids trapped there

Four Oklahoma schools have been named among the "Top 20 Worst Schools in America," News 9 reports.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Some optimistic school-voucher findings from Indiana and Louisiana

Today in The Wall Street Journal.

Oklahoma parents combat bullying, suicide

KFOR has the story.

Griffin touts scholarships for foster, adopted children

State Rep. Tim Downing, Robert Ruiz, and state Sen. AJ Griffin are
pictured at the July 6 meeting of the Oklahoma School Choice Coalition.

The video is here, and Jay Chilton has a report here.

Economist takes down OU educator

Here's an excellent letter to the editor from economist Byron Schlomach:
You would think an associate dean at the University of Oklahoma would do his homework, but Lawrence Baines (Point of View, July 7) was clearly more intent on defending his institution's gatekeeping status for public school teachers than in telling the truth. His evidence against “emergency” certification, referred to as “exceptions” by the Oklahoma Department of Education, and better characterized as an alternative certification system, is really no evidence at all. While Baines is correct to equate teacher certification to occupational licensing, he also equates such regulation with consumer protection even though economists have pointed out for decades that licensing does more to harm consumers than protect them. He cites a real scholar, economist Eric Hanushek, regarding the dangers posed by ineffective teachers, giving the impression that Hanushek would take Baines' position in favor of traditional certification. Hanushek is actually quite critical of teacher certification and notes that certification purposely excludes many who could be effective in the classroom. Hanushek would be first to point out that the bulk of ineffective teachers are traditionally certified. 
Baines cites statistics regarding teacher misconduct in Texas with not one shred of evidence that the increased misconduct numbers have anything to do with their alternative certification system. The numbers in Texas would be expected to rise for no other reason than the growth they have experienced, but Baines doesn't bother to compare rates of growth in teacher numbers and incident numbers. He wrote propaganda, not facts.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bureaucrat calls baloney—but why?

In a recent column published in The Oklahoman ["Oklahoma’s (missing) $8,872 teacher pay raise"], economist Benjamin Scafidi cited federal data showing that a decades-long employment surge of non-teaching staff (in Oklahoma and nationwide) has far outpaced student enrollment growth. Scafidi, who earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia, is a professor of economics at Kennesaw State University. He is also a Friedman Fellow with EdChoice, a nonprofit organization founded by Milton and Rose D. Friedman.

One commenter is not a fan of Dr. Scafidi's article:

If nothing else Mr. Payne's comment should elicit a wry smile. Scafidi makes the case that teachers haven't gotten pay raises because non-teaching bloat has swallowed up the money. Then, as if to prove Scafidi's point, straight out of central casting comes a critic: a generously compensated non-teacher with a title that could have come from one of those parodic bureaucratic-job-title generators. Unlike teachers in the Union school district, Mr. Payne receives an annual salary of $99,220—as well as a six percent on-call stipend, paid teacher retirement of seven percent, a paid life insurance policy of $80,000, paid health, dental, and disability insurance, and 20 days of vacation.

Mr. Payne's comment raises some questions.

(1)  He says Scafidi's article is "not in line with the reality inside Oklahoma schools." But according to the latest data reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education, Union has more non-teachers (1,036) than teachers (828). Why is that? And why did Union's non-teaching staff grow by 150 percent over the past two decades while the number of students increased by 49 percent?

(2)  He says Scafidi's "numbers are highly suspect." How so? After all, they are numbers reported by the Oklahoma Department of Education to the U.S. Department of Education. Is Payne implying that Oklahoma bureaucrats have done something suspicious? Federal bureaucrats? Dr. Scafidi? A drive-by accusation is not sufficient; if Payne believes the numbers are suspect, he should explain why.

(3)  He says Dr. Scafidi's "premise is baloney." Again, please elaborate: What is his premise, and why is it baloney?

(4)  He says Ed Choice "has a vested interest in making public schools look bad." Here's what EdChoice says in its latest publication of Dr. Scafidi's findings:
EdChoice is committed to research that adheres to high scientific standards, and matters of methodology and transparency are taken seriously at all levels of our organization. We are dedicated to providing high-quality information in a transparent and efficient manner. ... All individuals have opinions, and many organizations (like our own) have specific missions or philosophical orientations. Scientific methods, if used correctly and followed closely in well-designed studies, should neutralize these opinions and orientations. Research rules and methods minimize bias. We believe rigorous procedural rules of science prevent a researcher’s motives, and an organization’s particular orientation, from pre-determining results. If research adheres to proper scientific and methodological standards, its findings can be relied upon no matter who has conducted it. If rules and methods are neither specified nor followed, then the biases of the researcher or an organization may become relevant, because a lack of rigor opens the door for those biases to affect the results. The author welcomes any and all questions related to methods and findings.
Again, Payne's vague drive-by accusation is unsatisfactory. Is he implying, as with the "propaganda" and "highly suspect" remarks, that Scafidi's research is inaccurate?

My colleague Trent England will be discussing these matters on his radio program. (Be sure to listen to Trent weekday mornings from 7:00 to 9:00 on AM 1640 The Eagle, with the TuneIn app on your phone, or at KZLSAM.com.) If Mr. Payne would like to elaborate on his comment, he has an open invitation to do so on The Trent England Show.

One more question. Despite Union's per-student spending of $11,566 (higher than it was a decade ago, even when adjusted for inflation), the average Union student is performing better in math than 55 percent of students in Oklahoma, 49 percent of students in the nation, and only 38 percent of students in other developed economies. Is this performance good enough to justify the Union superintendent's total annual compensation of $238,728?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

‘The best education available’

LeVar Burton won the NEA "Friend of Education" Award yesterday. And as education reporter Mike Antonucci reminds us, Burton once told Oprah: "I was raised a Catholic because my mother is a teacher and knew that the best education available for her children was parochial school."

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. [Updates: State Sen. AJ Griffin discusses the legislation here. Oklahoma Watch reports on the legislation here.]

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."