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

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.