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.