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."

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."