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.

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


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.

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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pols penalizing parents

Yesterday in The Oklahoman, I made the case that parents have the moral right to raise their children according to their consciences. Politicians shouldn’t penalize parents by making them pay twice for education (once for taxes, once for tuition). I encourage you to read the whole thing here.

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.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cringeworthy religious bigotry from a school-choice opponent

In an email to Oklahoma state lawmakers yesterday, school-choice opponent Beccie Price wrote the following.

Will Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist students be able to attend private Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist schools using ESAs, our public tax dollars? 
Harry Potter could have attended Hogwarts using ESAs. I have nothing against Harry Potter, but I really don't want to fund his education with my tax dollars. 
What will your constituents say about ESAs funding private Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist schools? 
Beccie L. Price

Sigh. Here's hoping that more people will come to understand the importance of religious liberty for all, "from Anglicans to Zoroastrians."

"Whatever you do, don't send the tax-funded fire trucks!"

Friday, February 24, 2017

Gist affirms that reality is optional

Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Deborah Gist says TPS celebrates diversity in all of its forms, including "gender identity" and "gender expression."
We honor the dignity and equality of our transgender and gender non-conforming students. These students have the right to present themselves in a way that is consistent with their gender identity so long as rules are followed for appropriate dress that apply to all students. They also have the right to use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. This may include the use of gender neutral restrooms. 
Gist's fealty to the Sexual Revolution—and its promises of "godlike self-autonomy"—is deeply disappointing.

While we must always show love and compassion toward our gender-confused neighbors, Andrew T. Walker writes, we must also show concern for "children’s privacy and the implications for free speech and religious liberty that come from disagreeing with newfound social policy."

Study says bullying the number-one reason Oklahomans leave school

"One key finding was shocking and heartbreaking," says the state's secretary of education and workforce development. "Bullying was the highest reported reason given by high school noncompleters for dropping out. Moreover, it was among the top three issues among all noncompleters."

As I never tire of repeating, bullied students deserve a ticket out.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Molestation scandal in Perry schools shows the need for change

In addition to charging the actual child molester himself, "law enforcement officials have also filed charges against Principal Kenda Miller and teacher Jeffrey Sullins for failing to report suspected abuse," The Oklahoman points out.
Law enforcement officials indicate more school officials may face similar charges. 
Police only became aware of the situation in January when the parents of two students informed them that Cowen had allegedly touched their children inappropriately. Police subsequently learned Miller had received multiple complaints about Cowen for roughly a month before police were contacted, yet Miller and teachers dismissed those complaints. They insisted the children were lying, and didn't report the abuse allegations to police as required by law. 
One hopes this is a worst-case scenario, but the culture of silence that grants a child molester free rein in a public school occurs too often. In many cases, teachers and other school employees suspected of abuse are allowed to quietly resign and obtain employment in other schools. 
State law allows schools to notify the state Board of Education of those situations, but doesn't require even temporary revocation of a suspected child abuser's teaching license at that point. Furthermore, schools that don't notify the state board of suspected abuse are actually granted protection from lawsuits. 
As we've noted before, that law needs teeth. Otherwise, cases such as the one in Perry may only multiply. 
This incident also highlights why parents ought to have the right to use the tax dollars allocated for their children's education to send those kids to the school of their choice. 
There are numerous parents in Perry who now have good reason to worry about their children's safety in their local school. The neglect was enormous, and systemic failure involving multiple school officials abetted child abuse.

Western Heights teacher accused of popping 4-year-old in the mouth

KFOR has the story.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pryor substitute teacher allegedly exposed students to pornography

The Tulsa World has the story.

Oklahomans strongly favor K-12 spending over higher education

With Oklahoma staring at another significant budget gap this year, state policymakers are looking to prioritize.

To see what Oklahomans are thinking, OCPA commissioned SoonerPoll to ask this question: “The legislature is trying to prioritize areas of state spending. Which of the following areas of spending would you prioritize as most important?”

The clear winner was “K-12 schools” at 47 percent.

“Roads and other transportation expenses” came in second at 20 percent, followed by “health care” (19 percent), “public safety” (9 percent), and “colleges and universities” (5 percent).

The SoonerPoll survey, which was conducted December 19-21 with 440 likely Oklahoma voters, has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.6 percent.

Some readers may recall back in 1995 when U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter was running for president. He was having a hard time gaining traction. “You’re at 1 percent,” his fellow candidate Pat Buchanan quipped, “and that poll’s got a 3 percent margin of error. There’s a possibility Arlen Specter doesn’t exist.”

Higher education’s popularity does exist, but it appears to be rather limited. And I would suggest that Oklahomans’ instincts are sound in that regard; lawmakers should not prioritize government subsidies to colleges and universities.

After all, lawmakers are not skimping on higher education as it is. According to economist Byron Schlomach, a scholar-in-residence at the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise at Oklahoma State University, states spend an average of 1.6 percent of their Gross State Product (GSP) on higher education. Yet Oklahoma spends 1.9 percent of its GSP on higher education.

So why are we not getting more bang for the buck? One possibility is that we have too many public colleges and universities for a state our size. If we hope to build centers of excellence in Norman and Stillwater, we may need to re-examine our priorities.

Higher education is not efficient and Oklahomans know it. SoonerPoll discovered last year that 82 percent of Oklahomans believe public colleges and universities could be run more efficiently. Fully 80 percent believe that the chancellor of higher education, a former politician (naturally) who is paid more than $411,000 annually, is overpaid.

Moreover, economist Richard Vedder examined the teaching loads at OU and OSU and concluded in 2014 that taxpayers could save $181 million annually if professors taught more students. “Large numbers of faculty carry modest teaching loads, yet also have modest research accomplishments,” he wrote. “If the bottom 80 percent of the faculty taught as much as the top 20 percent, universities could operate with demonstrably fewer faculty members.”

Now granted, research is important too. We want scholars to find better ways to fight diseases, track tornadoes, and so on. But that’s not the only kind of “research” that’s going on. Do we really need an OU professor to publish in a scholarly journal an article entitled “Towards Queering Food Studies: Foodways, Heteronormativity, and Hungry Women in Chicana Lesbian Writing”?

Are the taxpayers of Oklahoma going to feel cheated if another OU professor isn’t able to do research for a scholarly article entitled “Hetero-cis–normativity and the gendering of transphobia”?

This sort of higher education brings to mind former Boston University president John Silber’s remark: “Higher than what?”

Indeed, it’s hard to keep up with the many troubling—sometime harmful—activities on some of our campuses. One official at my alma mater in Norman is paid $220,000 annually to, among other things, oversee mandatory “diversity training” for new students, covering things like sexual identity, unconscious bias, and privilege. Oklahomans are also forced to endure “social justice” activism via OU’s “Activist-in-Residence” program. OU students are learning all about "privilege" and "microaggressions" in a human relations theory class. And of course OU has the inevitable “bias hotline” so that microaggressed crybullies can anonymously inform on their neighbors.

If that’s not Orwellian enough for you, consider that OU president David Boren recently announced that instances of so-called “hate speech” should be reported immediately to the OU Police Department. (What is “hate speech”? Any speech liberals hate.) At a recent campus protest of Donald Trump, one OU official implied that supporting Donald Trump is synonymous with hate.

Worse still, an OU professor called the OUPD after someone handed her an evangelistic tract that said Islam is a false religion and that “Jesus Christ can be your personal Savior.”

It’s small wonder Oklahomans don’t place a high priority on subsidizing this sort of thing.

While we don’t want state lawmakers to micromanage college campuses, it’s not too much to ask that “colleges and universities which draw on public support actually serve as repositories of free inquiry and free thought,” writes American Enterprise Institute scholar Rick Hess. “State officials should feel comfortable demanding assurances from university leaders that public funds are supporting institutions committed to free inquiry and not forced indoctrination. And they should be unapologetic about redirecting state funds to institutions which respect that distinction.”

Better yet, Dr. Hess says, “they may want to consider cutting back on direct state support to institutions and instead fund higher education by empowering students to use funds at the institution or program of their choosing.”

Oklahoma high school coach arrested for selling fake meth

KOKH has the story.

Perry principal, teacher face charges after aide arrested

The Oklahoman has the story. Outrageous, indeed. And detached from reality.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Oklahoma state senator witnesses civic illiteracy

Former Choctaw teacher sentenced in rape case involving student

The Oklahoman has the story.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Public education system is indispensable to leftist cultural power

"I had to laugh at the Democratic memes on Twitter implying that DeVos bought her confirmation votes with campaign contributions," David French writes.
DeVos’s contributions are a drop in the ocean compared to the financial impact of the teacher’s unions in American politics. In 2016 alone, teachers’ unions gave $33.2 million in political contributions, 93 percent to Democrats. DeVos’s contributions—even if you include contributions from her entire family—are inconsequential by comparison. Who’s buying whom?  
But it’s about so much more than money. The public educational system is indispensable to leftist cultural power in the United States. As a practical matter, if your child goes to public schools from kindergarten through college, they are (with some exceptions) educated by the Left. Yes, there are conservative teachers here and there (especially in conservative towns), but they work in a system designed, built, and maintained by the other side of our great ideological divide. Moreover, given the public school monopoly in town after town, parents often have little choice but to expose their kids to public school morality, (often) public school incompetence, and public school ideology for seventeen consecutive years. It’s simply naive to believe this reality doesn’t carry with it profound cultural and political consequences.  
Finally, you can never forget the extent to which large numbers of secular progressives simply hate DeVos’s brand of Christianity. The idea that even a dime of taxpayer funds (through school choice) would go to a single Christian school is abhorrent to them, and they’d prefer that such schools vanish from the face of the earth. These ideologues want to control public education, they want to use public education to inculcate secular progressive values, and they want public education to be freed from any meaningful competition. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Goliath whines

"When you've outspent your opponents by a margin of almost 8-to-1, it's hard to portray yourself as a victim," The Oklahoman points out today. "But that hasn't stopped some supporters of the failed State Question 779."

Tulsa teacher accused of touching students resigns

The News on 6 has the story.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Quote of the day

"I am quite careful in my classroom about partisan politics, and my language was especially cryptic during the election last year," writes Aaron Baker, an 8th-grade history teacher in Del City. "However, I unashamedly promote tolerance, multiculturalism, gender equity, LGBTQ+ rights, and anti-racism. And I have always felt comfortable critiquing the President of the United States, both then and now. I am fully aware that the freedom that I enjoy in my classroom is available to me in large part because of white privilege."

Former Edmond band director sentenced on rape charge

"A former Edmond Memorial High School band director accused of having sex with a student in 2015 agreed to a negotiated plea of rape in the second-degree on Friday," News9 reports.

School choice saves taxpayers money

Martin F. Lueken explains.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Don't means-test school choice

In the February issue of Perspective, Greg Forster writes: 
Milton Friedman used to say “show me a program for the poor, and I’ll show you a poor program.” Policy gets made in a political environment—there’s no escaping it. A policy designed to attract few supporters, and from the politically weakest part of society, is going to be badly hindered from the start.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Shouldn't be that hard of a choice

"The state and national debate over education policy often comes down to whether our priority should be the welfare of school districts or that of individual children," OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos aptly observes today in The Journal Record.
If you think it’s more important to hoard money so school districts can pay higher salaries, buy materials, or offer improved facilities, then you need to cut off families’ avenues of escape from standard district schools, no matter how poorly the district schools are serving these children. If you care more about the lives of individual kids, you want dissatisfied families who can’t afford private schooling or can’t move to have many options from which to choose, accepting that the state funding allocated to that child will go to the new schools. Is this really that hard a choice?

McLain campus police: Pepper spray used 'a few times each year'

"Students found themselves pepper sprayed at a Tulsa high school Tuesday night after multiple fights broke out at a McLain High School basketball game," FOX 23 reports.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Police investigating alleged sexual assault at OKC high school

"Authorities say a teenager may face charges after allegedly sexually assaulting a girl at an Oklahoma City high school," KFOR reports. "On Jan. 27, the school resource officer at Capitol Hill High School was told by the principal that a girl had been assaulted by another student in the field house."

Tulsa elementary students say teacher touched them inappropriately

The News on 6 has the story.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Deb Gist tackling the important issues

Like sexual orientation and "gender identity." Regrettably, this is nothing new.

Video reportedly shows student attack at Tulsa school

"A video reportedly shows some local students physically attacking a Tulsa seventh grader," FOX 23 reports. "The student's family says the bullying has gone on for months, and the school hasn't stopped it."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

OPSAC director: Private schools are already accountable

Below is the text of a letter to state legislators from Dr. Donald Peal, executive director of the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission (OPSAC).
January 26, 2017 
Dear Oklahoma Lawmaker, 
As the executive director of the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission (OPSAC), which represents the 12 approved private school accrediting agencies that accredit approximately 140 private schools in Oklahoma, I write to make you aware of proposed legislation this session being introduced in the name of “accountability.” 
There are various pieces of legislation aiming to require certain private schools to participate in the Oklahoma School Testing Program, to adopt the A-F report card system, and to publish reports containing information about services provided to disabled students, to cite just a few examples. Specifically, the requirements are meant to apply to schools which participate in some of Oklahoma’s school choice programs. 
Like most Oklahomans, our private school leaders agree that private schools should be held accountable. The question is to whom they should be held accountable. Fortunately, the schools I represent are already very much accountable—to parents. We administer standardized tests, of course. But we’ve found that test scores aren’t the only factor—and often not even the main factor—parents are concerned about. We have to satisfy our customers (parents) when it comes to school safety, curriculum, school culture, instruction in moral values, and much more. If we fall short, parents can and do vote with their feet—and their checkbooks. This, of course, is the ultimate form of accountability.

Having said that, it’s not as though our schools are not also accountable to state and federal governmental entities. They are. Our schools comply with numerous governmental requirements, including health and safety regulations, anti-discrimination and civil rights laws, rules concerning the minimum number of school days/instructional hours, applicable wage and hour laws, IRS and other tax regulations, and more. 
Moreover, Oklahoma has established OPSAC to provide additional accountability and oversight of Oklahoma private schools that are accredited. OPSAC works in collaboration with and on behalf of the Oklahoma SDE to ensure that accreditation standards for private schools are equivalent to accreditation standards for Oklahoma public schools. Accredited private schools in the state must attain and evidence continued compliance with requirements that address areas related to educational quality and school operations and practices (including curriculum and the instructional programs), administrative and teacher qualifications, course offerings and graduation requirements, assessment, financial management and integrity, resource sufficiency, governance and organization structures, and more. 
We recognize that because public schools are directly accountable to government agencies—and lack the direct accountability to parents that our schools are known for—your job as elected officials is to try to craft rules and regulations which can approximate this true accountability as best as possible. We respect that. But we would suggest that it is unnecessary for you to regulate markets the same way you regulate these public school monopolies. Heritage Foundation scholar Lindsey Burke has noted, “There is no compelling body of evidence that top-down regulation improves student outcomes in schools that are already directly accountable to parents. By contrast, there is much evidence that direct accountability to parents yields results superior to those that are defined by bureaucratic red tape.” 
Placing extra strictures on our schools would require schools to redirect valuable time and resources that would otherwise be used in direct support of children’s education. We believe that the placement of these burdens is a solution in search of a problem and we respectfully urge you not to do so.


Donald Peal, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Obama's colossal education policy failure

"On its way out the door," journalist Mark Hemingway writes, "the Obama Education Department quietly released the results of its $7 billion investment in the School Improvement Grants program, 'the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools,' according to the Washington Post. Education Secretary Arne Duncan had promised the program would turn around 5,000 failing schools.

"The results are nothing short of a colossal failure. Test scores, graduation rates, and college enrollment were no different in schools that received School Improvement Grants than schools that did not."

Economist, OSU professor propose universal ESA for Oklahoma

Their study is here, and an op-ed in the Stillwater News Press is here.

Sen. Dossett introduces anti-choice legislation

A bill filed by Democrat state Sen. J.J. Dossett of Sperry "prioritizes ideological purity over pragmatism, embodies self-contradiction, and could have ripple effects far beyond what even Dossett likely intends," The Oklahoman editorializes today.
The legislation declares that “no state-appropriated funds shall be allocated to, transferred to or used, directly or indirectly, to support a private school that serves pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students.” 
In short, it's an effort to make it illegal to provide Oklahoma parents with education savings accounts that allow for the use of state funds to send their children to the school of their choice. 
Like many Democrats, Dossett, a former teacher/coach, opposes parental control and school choice in education for ideological reasons. Yet his bill immediately undermines that viewpoint by providing an exemption for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act. That program allows families to use taxpayer dollars to send children with special needs, such as autism, to private schools. 
Why make an exception? The likely answer: Because the Lindsey Nicole Henry program is wildly popular and an undoubted success. 
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hooray for the four-day school week?

"What really matters in education is … education," Trent England reminds us in the Enid News & Eagle. "There are many ways to achieve that mission. Some private schools operate less than five days a week with outstanding results."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fallin proclaims 'School Choice Week'

For the sixth year in a row, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has recognized National School Choice Week by proclaiming the week of January 22 to be School Choice Week in Oklahoma. Her official proclamation is here.

"Oklahoma has a multitude of high-quality educational institutions, including public, private, charter, virtual, career technology, tribal, religious, home, and other schools from which our students can benefit," Gov. Fallin says. "Oklahoma is committed to continually improving the quality of educational opportunities and empowering parents and students to choose effective education options that best fit their needs and academic goals."

State lawmakers should secure parental rights

"Rather than continuing to penalize parents financially for raising their children in accordance with their consciences," I tell School Reform News in its February issue, "it’s time for Oklahoma policymakers to enact and expand policies—vouchers, tax credits, ESAs, and more—which secure parental rights."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Teachers (and students) in harm's way

"Several incidents in Oklahoma schools have occurred in which teachers have been physically harmed by children in the 3rd and 4th grades," says the leader of one teacher organization.

Ed choice and economic growth

Writing today in The Journal Record, OCPA president Jonathan Small says educational choice can help boost the number of college graduates and spur economic growth in Oklahoma.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ed choice mythbusting never ends

With a new legislative session set to begin, Greg Forster (again) looks at some common myths about school choice in Oklahoma.

Drain the swamp

When a GOP campaign consultant advises Joy Hofmeister to feign conservative views and then do the bidding of the education establishment, that’s a problem. Read Andrew Spiropoulos's column today in The Journal Record.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Disabled student denied entry into Piedmont schools

"Piedmont school officials refused to admit a 17-year-old disabled student into the district even though his mother was an employee at the time," Tim Farley reports. "This isn’t the first time parents with disabled children have encountered problems gaining services or entry into Piedmont schools."

Yet another reminder of why Oklahoma's special-needs voucher program is so important.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A tax deduction for education

"Education is an investment with some expected return," Roy Cordato and Sheldon Richman write. "Its purpose is to enhance the future productivity and income of students. Thus, principles of efficient tax policy suggest tht all personal expenditures on education ... should be made with pretax dollars."

Read the whole thing here.

Trump runs the risk of destroying school choice

"If DeVos and Trump love school choice and the children it benefits, they will keep the federal government far, far away from them," Joy Pullmann writes. "Trump should not destroy school choice in the name of expanding it."

EPIC continues to grow

Oklahoma's 14th largest school system, though nearly last in per-pupil funding, is at or near the top in teacher pay (which is based on student performance).

A word of caution to the Trump administration on school choice

Good advice from Will Flanders and Jake Curtis.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

AFC holds successful event in Oklahoma City

Pictured from left: state Board of Education member Bob Ross, OCPA trustee Bob Sullivan, OCPA trustee Dana Weber, and Advance Rural Education founder Paul Campbell discuss educational choice at an AFC event in the Devon Tower. [Photo credit: Patricia Isbell Photography]

"Two key leaders of the American Federation for Children (AFC), a leading school choice advocate, came to the Sooner State for an early December event," Patrick McGuigan reports.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

School choice must be part of the mix in 2017

"Education is another area crying out for reform," the state's largest newspaper editorialized today.
Teacher pay is a high-profile issue, but pay raises shouldn't be enacted without addressing other problems in the state school system, including administrative waste, low standards, and the need for consolidation. School choice policies must be part of the mix. If schools don't have to fear the loss of students to better-performing alternatives, there will be little incentive for school administrators and school boards to reduce waste and improve academic performance.