Thursday, March 23, 2017

Al Franken opposes school choice

Except for his own kids' $44,000 a year private school.

Indeed, The Daily Caller reports, "at least seven of the 46 Senate Democrats who voted against Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s newly-minted education secretary, currently send or once sent their own children or grandchildren to expensive private schools.

Tulsa mother says daughter received birth control implant during educational trip

FOX 23 has the story.

‘Former bleeding-heart liberal’ changes her mind on vouchers


Facts to consider on Oklahoma teacher pay

The 1889 Institute is out with a new policy report, "Teacher Pay: Facts to Consider." Below are some highlights. I encourage you to read the entire report here.
  • Oklahoma’s average teacher salary was $44,921 in 2016, which is $13,600 more than in 2000 (but only $1,000 more when adjusted for inflation).
  • Including benefits and payroll taxes, Oklahoma’s average teacher pay in 2016 was about $66,034.
  • Assuming a 45-hour workweek during contracted days and an additional 40 hours outside contracted days, an average teacher work hour’s total compensation in Oklahoma amounted to $39.45 in 2016.
  • Nationally and in Oklahoma, average teacher salaries reached their historical maximum in 2010.
  • In 2010, Oklahoma’s average teacher salary, adjusted for cost of living, ranked 14th in the nation and on a par with Texas.
  • In 2010, average compensation with benefits included for Oklahoma’s teachers undoubtedly exceeded that for Texas’ teachers.
  • In 2016, Oklahoma’s average teacher salary, adjusted for cost of living, ranked 30th in the nation.
  • Teacher salaries were insulated from the early impacts of the Great Recession (2008-2009) by federal funds provided to public education across the nation through 2010.
  • By 2015, the national inflation-adjusted average teacher salary had only begun to recover from the drop after 2010.
  • The national inflation-adjusted average teacher salary has yet to recover to its long-term trend.
  • Oklahoma’s inflation-adjusted average teacher salary was at its long-term trend in 2016, and never fell below it.
  • Since 2010, Oklahoma’s inflation-adjusted average teacher salary has fallen more than any other state’s except Mississippi, but this fall is from a level that was anomalously high compared to other states in 2010.
  • Texas’ high average teacher salary status in the region must be tempered by the realization that Texas’ pay in benefits is much lower than Oklahoma’s.
  • National studies comparing teacher pay to that of other similarly skilled professions show that teachers compare well.
  • Any teacher shortage in Oklahoma is extremely small and the evidence is so sketchy that there actually could be a small surplus.
  • Emergency certification numbers provide no evidence of a true teacher shortage.
    • Only 2.1 percent of Oklahoma teachers were emergency certified in 2016.
    • Forty-one percent of emergency certifications were for elementary education and early childhood.
    • There were no emergency certifications for Special Education.
    • In Advanced Math, Biology, Chemistry, Early Childhood, English, and Science, 70 percent of emergency certification candidates had strongly subject-related college degrees.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Oklahoma higher education not just treading water

Oklahoma’s higher education officials often claim that, because of reduced government subsidies from lawmakers, universities are forced to raise tuition and fees just to keep their heads above water.

In reality, as Neal McCluskey demonstrates, higher education has taken in much more revenue than what was needed to backfill state cuts. As you can see in the charts below, Oklahoma’s per-student appropriations have indeed fallen over the past 25 years, but tuition and fee revenues have increased at a much greater rate—resulting in a net increase of $61 per student or $25 million per year. 


Monday, March 20, 2017

When higher education undermines freedom


An official at the University of Oklahoma recently praised Donald Trump’s critics for their ability to “overcome hate.” OU's president wants “hate speech” reported to the police—and one professor did in fact call the police after being handed an evangelistic tract. 

If OU insists upon undermining political freedom, Greg Forster writes for OCPA, lawmakers might want to consider cutting back on direct subsidies and instead more fully voucherizing their support for higher education.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

‘The best and brightest ever being produced’

"We are doing a better job in public education today than ever before in history," said state Sen. Ron Sharp, a retired teacher, in remarks to the Senate Education Committee on February 20. "Our kids are the best and brightest ever being produced, and for someone to indicate that 100 years ago that kids were being educated better, or 50 years ago, is someone who has not studied history."

And apparently Sen. Sharp said some other interesting things in that same meeting.

Measuring quality—but by whose measure?



Lindsey Burke has an excellent new post responding to Tulane's Doug Harris on the question of accountability. “Even if free markets did work well,” Harris argues, “it would be reasonable for policymakers to ask for some measurable results. It’s hard to think of another case where government writes checks to private organizations without checking whether taxpayers are getting anything for their money.” Burke's response:
First, ESA and other education choice funds do not go to “organizations.” Funds go to families, not schools. Schools certainly benefit, but only by way of parents taking their funds to schools that fulfill what they’re looking for. Likewise, food stamps are for the hungry, not grocery stores; Section 8 housing vouchers are for those who need shelter, and are not subsidies designed to prop up the apartment building industry. 
Second, the government regularly writes checks to individuals for use at a variety of organizations without requiring either those individuals or organizations to meet certain government-imposed metrics. Grocery stores accepting food stamps aren’t held to higher standards than those than don’t, nor are food stamp recipients required to abide by any dietary guidelines or limited to a certain caloric intake. Contra Harris, this approach is the norm for nearly every entitlement and welfare program, including Social Security, SNAP, WIC, Section 8, and so on. As Jay has noted, the feds aren’t checking on grandma to see that she spent her social security money on vegetables or rent. 
This is the norm in education policy as well. Pell grants to colleges require accreditation, but that is far from a measure of academic quality. Colleges that accept Pell grants are not required to administer national tests or any tests at all. Nor are they required to meet government-imposed benchmarks for graduation rates or any other quantifiable measures, let alone to harder-to-quantify ones like civic values or noncognitive skills. 
Third, and more germane to the choice conversation, is Harris’s notion that government is needed to ensure accountability. Not only are government regulations in education a far inferior form of accountability than market driven mechanisms, but they can actually have the inverse effect of what was intended by regulation-hawks. And coming from Louisiana himself, where the high-regulation model is in place (requiring private schools accepting students on a voucher to take the state test and punishing “underperformers” by kicking schools that parents have chosen out of the options pool), Harris should acknowledge that the so-called accountability regulations have not lived up to their proponents’ promises and may have had the exact opposite effect of what was intended. 
Heavy-handed regulations (a state testing mandate, among others) have discouraged the vast majority of private schools from participating, while likely encouraging lower performers (as indicated by student attrition from those schools prior to entering the voucher program) to join the LSP, willing to incur the regulations in order to secure a new funding stream.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scaremongering about home education

"The Washington Post Magazine's cover story this week is about … the horrors of home-schooling," Charlotte Allen writes for The Weekly Standard. The push by some activists for government "monitoring" of homeschooling
is an attack on the faith and cultural ways of the Mennonites or any Christians, adherents of other traditional religions, and perhaps people of no religion at all who wish to shield their children from school cultures that oblige students to learn how to put a condom onto a cucumber, force girls to shower with biological males, or even just plain skip the three R's in favor of lessons in trendy political correctness.

Parent in assault case sues Norman Public Schools

"The father of a boy police say was sexually assaulted by members of the Norman North wrestling team claims in a lawsuit that lax supervision led to his son being attacked three times during a school trip," The Oklahoman reports.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Oklahoma lieutenant governor: ‘I trust parents’

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Educational choice and Oklahoma’s Parents’ Bill of Rights

Oklahoma has enacted a Parents’ Bill of Rights which says no state government entity shall infringe upon the rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it’s time to translate these principles into effective legal remedies: We must guarantee to all parents, no matter their income, the effective right to choose a public or private school that satisfies their needs.

Yes, school choice works—but that is not the point

The empirical evidence tells us that school choice "works." But as Paul DiPerna and Robert Pondiscio remind us in a couple of recent articles, that's not necessarily the main point.

"Contrary to recent editorials in some major U.S newspapers, the empirical research on school choice programs is far more positive than not," DiPerna writes at EducationNext.
Summaries of the effects of multiple programs generally show positive effects, as does a meta-analysis of gold-standard experimental research on school choice by Shakeel, Anderson, and Wolf (2016). Participating students usually show modest improvements in reading or math test scores, or both. Annual gains are relatively small but cumulative over time. High school graduation and college attendance rates are substantially higher for participating minority students compared to peers. Programs are almost always associated with improved test scores in affected public schools. They also save money. Those savings can be used to increase per-pupil spending in local school districts. Studies also consistently show that programs increase parent satisfaction, racial integration, and civic outcomes.
In short, DiPerna writes, "the many places where we have observed significant positive results from choice programs swamp the few where we have seen negative findings." Still, he says, amid all the empirical evidence we need to remember to keep our eye on the ball:
Researchers and policymakers must carefully balance the need for data-driven evidence with the reality that educational choice is, at its core, an issue of parental empowerment [emphasis added]. A voucher, education savings account, or tax-credit scholarship gives real voice to families. Their students are no longer bureaucratically assigned to a school; rather, they are financially enabled to find the best education provider for their children...
Pondiscio emphasizes this same theme in an excellent piece over at U.S. News.
Wonky battles over research studies can be illuminating. They can also be irrelevant or premature. While [Neal] McCluskey and other advocates are correct that the preponderance of evidence tends to favor school choice, this entire debate puts the cart before the horse. When we look to test-based evidence—and look no further—to decide whether choice "works," we are making two rather extraordinary, unquestioned assumptions: that the sole purpose of schooling is to raise test scores, and that district schools have a place of privilege against which all other models must justify themselves.
That's really not what choice is about. Choice exists to allow parents to educate their children in accordance with their own needs, desires, and values. If diversity is a core value of yours, for example, you might seek out a school where your child can learn alongside peers from different backgrounds. If your child is a budding artist, actor, or musician, the "evidence" that might persuade you is whether he or she will have the opportunity to study with a working sculptor or to pound the boards in a strong theater or dance program. If your child is an athlete, the number of state titles won by the lacrosse team or sports scholarships earned by graduates might be compelling evidence. If faith is central to your family, you will want a school that allows your child to grow and be guided by your religious beliefs. There can be no doubt that, if you are fortunate enough to select a school based on your child's talents or interests or your family's values and traditions, the question of whether school choice "works" has already been answered. It's working perfectly for you.
In sum, Pondiscio says, "the desirability of school choice and educational pluralism is a values-driven question, not an evidence-based one." That's a truth we must always articulate.