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 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."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Public education and Orange Julius

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Growing grassroots movements confronting school sex assault

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Futile accountability systems should be abandoned

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

I encourage you to read the entire article here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Politicians shouldn’t penalize parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Keep education—and choice—in the states

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Government schools: Sowing the seeds of our destruction

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Want to regulate schools? Use parents

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

School choice research is not a weapon

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sapulpa 2nd grade teacher arrested for drugs, embezzlement

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

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

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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

But you just wait until the Republicans take over

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

Oklahoma should enact a parental-choice tax credit

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tulsa Public Schools org chart a thing to behold

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

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

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

Student arrested with loaded gun at Midwest City High School

The News on 6 has the story.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Justice in This Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Courageous Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

Reporter’s ‘everyone knows’ lede inappropriate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Perry sex assault suspect was left alone with students

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