Monday, December 30, 2019

Reading ESAs for public-school parents

Oklahoma policymakers should enact a Florida-style Reading Scholarship program, former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons writes ("Reading ESAs will put Oklahoma parents in charge"). This would provide Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for the parents of children enrolled in public schools to pay for tutoring services, afterschool and summer school reading programs, and other services dedicated to improving literacy.

Teacher shortage?

"There are about 32,000 in Oklahoma who are certified but not teaching in an Oklahoma public school," according to state superintendent Joy Hofmeister ("Shortage of applicants, not teachers, plagues Oklahoma schools").

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Oklahoma education agency promotes progressive activism masquerading as civics

Oklahoma’s state superintendent—allegedly a Republican—is using the power of government to promote social-justice activism in public schools.

Public education lacks accountability; governance reforms can help

"The fundamental problem with public education is the lack of accountability," Greg Forster writes. The best school accountability is parental choice, of course, but reforms to the system’s governance structure can also help. Oklahoma should give the governor the power to appoint the state superintendent and should hold educational elections at the same time as normal elections."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Left-wing activism masquerading as civics

Generation Citizen smuggles propaganda and vocational training for progressive activism into Oklahoma schools and calls it "action civics," Dr. David Randall writes.

Monday, December 23, 2019

No arrests in Star Spencer middle school brawl

"A viewer originally told News 4 at one point a parent assaulted a teacher with a knife, and another parent went to get a gun from a car."

Time for lawsuit reform to benefit teaching profession

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

If listening to someone whack a bell at Christmas dinner “to pierce the silence in the face of all forms of oppression including racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia” sounds like your idea of a good time, then membership in the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) may be for you.

But if you think such political performance art sounds like a root canal minus any end-result benefits, then you’re among a likely strong majority of Oklahomans—including many good Oklahoma teachers. The problem for those good teachers is that current Oklahoma law prods them to financially support teachers’ unions that advocate political positions out of line with the views of many state teachers.

Here’s why: As part of its membership package, teachers’ unions typically provide insurance coverage that protects members from lawsuits. While Oklahoma law technically protects teachers from personal liability for actions taken in the normal course of employment, many educators are still at risk.

For example, when a teacher breaks up a fight, many schools will refuse to back the teacher’s action, which leaves him or her personally liable if someone decides to sue. Ask around, and you’ll quickly find that lack of administrative support is a common teacher complaint.
OCPA's Jonathan Small (at right) chats with
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at OCPA on May 29, 2014.

As a result, many Oklahoma teachers retain their OEA membership to have insurance coverage even though they disagree with much of what the OEA does.

Rather than drive teachers into the union, it’s time Oklahoma gave them an alternative.

Under legislation that could receive final approval in the 2020 legislative session, the state would provide teachers with up to $2 million in liability insurance coverage as an add-on to their payment package.

In addition to providing coverage, lawmakers should also strengthen legal protections for teachers so they can defend themselves and their students in the classroom. If teachers are not allowed to maintain classroom discipline, how are they supposed to improve educational outcomes?

Doing those two things would protect good teachers from financial ruin and also allow them to sever ties with unions, because for many teachers the only appeal of union membership is the liability insurance coverage. The politics of the union often run far from the views of typical Oklahoma teachers.

Recall that last summer dozens of OEA members attended a National Education Association Representative Assembly where attendees declared support for “the fundamental right to abortion,” called on the U.S. government “to accept responsibility for the destabilization of Central American countries,” vowed to partner with organizations “doing the work to push reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States,” and more.

And my earlier quote about the piercing bell comes from holiday recommendations put out by NEA EdJustice.

Oklahoma teachers should have the right to maintain classroom discipline without fear. And they definitely deserve the chance to teach without having to financially support political extremists.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Wagoner Public Schools cancel classes due to 'severity' of social media threat

"Wagoner Public Schools has canceled classes Friday because of a threat made toward the high school Thursday night," KTUL reports.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Former Oklahoma superintendent accused of sex crimes dating to 1985

"A former superintendent for Peckham Public Schools has been charged after allegations of child sexual abuse were reported," News 9 reports.
Gary Young, 65, of Blackwell, was charged with three counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16, one count of cause, procure and/or permit injury or sex abuse to a child, and one count of cause, procure and/or permit injury to child and one count of blackmail. ...

"It spans multiple years, multiple age ranges, and includes all personnel and children,” State Department of Education General Counsel Brad Clark said in August. ... Allegations date back as far as 1985. Young is accused of touching a girl between age 4 and 10 years old inappropriately in his home while she took a bath. ...

“We are just opening the doors of information that will be flowing out,” said Attorney Cameron Spradling, who represents 3 of the 4 alleged victims. “We have to recognize that every vampire needs a keeper. Every predator has somebody who has enabled them and protected them from being exposed. Those keepers should be brought to justice as well.”

In court filings, Young is also accused of pressuring a co-worker into sex following a party. After the incident, according to the alleged victim, Young threatened if she reported the incident, she'd lose her job.

“We are just at the beginning, I know that there are dozens of victims that will be coming forward,” said Spradling. “This is just the opening. The criminal case will be amended, and amended, and amended.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Newspaper finally corrects obvious error

The Washington Post has finally corrected an obvious error made by an education-school dean. (Sadly, we see this sort of ed-school shoddiness in Oklahoma, too.)

OKC teacher says 'violence is a huge problem'

"Violence is a huge problem," one Oklahoma City teacher remarked in a recent survey. "I wish I could gripe about cell phones turning students into zombies, but I’m too busy breaking up fights."

Monday, December 16, 2019

Oklahoma mom claims daughter bullied at school over Trump sweatshirt

"A mother claims her daughter's classmates threatened to shoot the girl because she wore a sweatshirt depicting President Donald Trump," the CBS affiliate in Tampa/St. Petersburg reports.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Former Sweetwater teacher accused of rape to hear sentence Monday

News 9 has the story.

Student victimization in U.S. schools

A new publication from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that "there were measurable differences between students in public and private schools who reported being victims of any crime or theft at school in school year 2016–17. Students in public schools reported being the victims of any crime (2.2 percent) and theft (1.5 percent) at higher rates than students in private schools (0.8 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively). In addition, the rate of students reporting no victimization in private schools (99.2 percent) was higher than for public schools."

Friday, December 6, 2019

Monday-Friday catechesis

Many Christian parents "have their kids in the public schools or other educational establishments," Albert Mohler warns today, "where they are being entirely incubated in a non-Christian, if not absolutely, anti-Christian moral universe, and then they are surprised when their own kids begin to answer questions in ways that indicate they are the very products of that indoctrination. And it is happening often with such subtlety and at such a deep level, that those kids are extremely resistant to biblical truth by the time they hear it."

Money for nothing?

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

For decades, Oklahoma politicians vowed they could defy the laws of financial reality by giving state retirees ever-larger benefit checks without paying for those benefits, without any impact on other taxpayers, and without any impact on the rest of state government.

Rather than provide “money for nothing” to retirees, however, those politicians instead saddled Oklahomans with enormous unfunded liabilities that left current teachers and state workers with an unsecure retirement and forced the diversion of millions of dollars from schools, roads, and other needs.

There were 19 “cost of living” adjustments (COLAs) provided to state employees from 1975 to 2008, and most were approved without any funding. So how did lawmakers “pay” for those COLAs? By raiding pension assets again and again and again. It didn’t take long before Oklahoma had some of the worst-funded state pension systems in the nation. The teachers’ retirement system was in especially bad shape with a funded ratio that hovered around just 50 percent.

Thanks to several reform laws passed in the last decade, the situation has improved dramatically. One of the most significant reforms was to require full funding for benefit increases (imagine that!). But legislation filed in 2019, which could advance in 2020, would evade that requirement and provide increased retirement benefits without funding. Instead, it would raid state pensions of more than $850 million, according to estimates.

One doesn’t have to be a certified public accountant (although I am) to know where we’re headed with such legislation: back where we started.

The impact of past pension raids continues to be felt throughout the state. For one thing, lawmakers have had to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to the existing system to shore it up. That’s money that would have otherwise gone to other needs like schools, roads, and public safety. Remember in 2018 when legislators claimed they had to raise taxes to cover expenses? Those tax increases are one logical outcome of state pension raids.

Rather than repeat a regrettable part of our history, lawmakers need to embrace real reform. That means not only admitting that pension benefits should be funded, even if that means legislators must provide less spending to other state agencies, but also overhauling the system.

Today’s workforce is highly mobile, and the 20-something who hires on as an educator or support personnel today probably won’t remain there for the next three decades. Plus, the current outdated defined-benefit plans provide employees no asset that can be passed on to help other family members or their future generations. It’s time to provide all non-hazard-duty government workers with a 401(k)-style retirement plan whose assets follow them when they leave a government job.

Oklahoma needs a modern retirement system fitted to the needs of modern workers, not a “greatest hits” rerun of the failed financial policies of the past.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A dreaded part of teachers' jobs: Restraining and secluding students

Public Radio Tulsa has the story.

Former Oklahoma teacher sentenced to 40 years in prison for sex with students

"A former Pocola High School teacher was sentenced to 40 years in prison for having sex with multiple students," KFSM reports.

Oklahoma teacher accused of assaulting student

"A suspended John Marshall Middle School teacher is accused of assaulting a student," The Oklahoman reports.

Gender identity: Does it belong in our public schools?

In this new podcast, recent college graduate Tiffany Roberts discusses teaching children about gender identity and sexual orientation with Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.

Parents say 5-year-old sexually assaulted at Ponca City school

"Where were the adults?" asks the victim's mom. "Why weren't they protecting my child from this kind of thing happening?"

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Oklahoma charter school success hiding in plain sight

"Oklahomans, in recent weeks, have been buffeted by report after report, including results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ACT college readiness exam, and the state’s own A-F assessment of the public education system, demonstrating the abysmal state of student achievement in Oklahoma’s public schools," OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos writes. "But hiding in plain sight in the A-F report was one vital, and possibly saving, fact—the extraordinary performance of many of the state's charter schools."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Asian students remain far ahead of Americans

"U.S. teenagers made no significant gains on an exam taken by students around the world, and continue to trail students in Asian countries," The Wall Street Journal reports today.

Students assaulting teachers: Tulsa union boss says teachers 'really are like domestic abuse victims'

"It’s a secret many teachers aren’t comfortable talking about," KTUL reports.
“It’s the best-kept worst secret because you just found out about it. It is a huge ordeal. It is bigger than anyone knows,” said Shawna Mott-Wright with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. 
It's a secret that many teachers are hesitant to talk about—what happens when children get violent? “We just don’t talk about it,” said Mott-Wright. “It’s upsetting because we really are like domestic abuse victims.”
“There were a few times when I wasn’t sure if I was safe. [But] you have to be ready to go into that atmosphere,” said State Representative John Waldron. Waldron wasn’t hurt when he was teaching, but he said it’s not hard to find a teacher who has been. “I know someone who was attacked by an elementary school student while she was pregnant a few weeks before she gave birth to her child,” said Waldron. ...
“We’re talking about intentionally assaulting you, with the intent to hurt,” said Mott-Wright. Mott-Wright said that even though the number of physical attacks has gone down the last few years, it isn’t an accurate picture because districts self-report, and many teachers don’t want to come forward. “In our office, it’s gone up. Not a multiplication problem but an exponential problem. We have been living with this, with our teachers, over three weeks,” said Mott-Wright.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The way kids are learning about Thanksgiving is changing

"Oklahoma schools teach native history in Thanksgiving," The Oklahoman reports. And Brian McNicoll has a helpful article here. In short, Douglas Wilson writes, "the tumultuous history of Thanksgiving has left the door open for many postmodern wielders of corrosive acids to step in with their view that Thanksgiving really ought to be renamed something like Genocide Awareness Day."
But as is the fashion of debunkers, our modern naysayers often cannot be troubled with understanding what actually happened throughout our actual history, and so they resort to the simple expedient of putting a different film into the retrospective projector. … Anybody who talks about the settling of North America as though it were a cohesive group called “white people” doing the settling and a group of indigenous flower children being displaced by the disembarking whites is someone who probably ought to stay out of the conversation. ...

The inhabitants of North America when Columbus landed were divided into many tribes, multiple tribes, and these tribes had different languages, customs, histories, and characteristics. Quite a number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another. And to make the whole situation even more festive, the newcomers were also divided into different tribes, and they had different languages, customs, histories and characteristics. A number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another.

White tribes would war with each other, like the French and English did. Red tribes would war with each other, like the Comanche and Apache. Red tribes would go to war with white tribes, like the Wampanoag in King Philip’s War, with the Mohawk fighting on the side of the English. And white tribes would grievously mistreat oppress red tribes, as happened to the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee), culminating in the Trail of Tears. And I use white and red above, not as my categories, but rather as a way of illustrating that when you zoom out that far, such that those are the two identifying characteristics that you see, then by that point you understand almost nothing.
In short, Wilson writes, "because envy is a wasting disease, a wasting disease that seeks to deck itself out in the language of virtue, it blurs all historical distinction, and talks a great deal about social justice. We, on the other hand, like to talk about a little thing we call justice justice."

Your child's school will improve 'eventually'

"Despite a dramatic increase in school funding and the adoption of what state officials say are higher academic standards, Oklahoma students’ academic performance on state tests mostly remained stagnant in 2019 or lower than in 2017," Ray Carter reports.
That has some officials asking how long Oklahomans will have to wait to see promised results. “When do you expect the curve to shift back upward and how long do you anticipate that taking?” asked State Board of Education member Jennifer Monies during that group’s monthly meeting. 
“Eventually,” replied State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.
Sadly, as James Lankford observed poignantly in 2015, that's small consolation for parents: "My child doesn't have a few more years. This is my child's only shot."

Holiday reminder from the teachers' union

Don't forget to be an insufferable boor!

Protecting our students through parental freedom

"Students should not have to wait years or become victims of violent crime before their parents are allowed to transfer them to safer schools," Vicki Alger and Tim Benson write.

OKC students stomp on boy, rip off his clothes

"A school bus brawl was caught on camera, leaving parents frightened to continue sending their children to John Marshall Middle School," KFOR reports.
A middle school boy was left laying in a fetal position on the floor of a metro school bus. ... Kids are seen shoving and stomping on the boy. ... Then, students pin him down and rip off his clothes. ... Police are familiar with John Marshall Middle School. They’ve been called to the school countless times this school year and even line the perimeter of the campus. Teachers and students were seen under dogpiles, and now, the all-out brawls are moving to the bus.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

'Just give it time and the schools will get better'

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Oklahoma school appropriations have surged by 20 percent over the last two legislative sessions, but outcomes continue to decline, as has become apparent with the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ACT exam, and state testing results. When I point this out, I’m often told to “give it time,” that one cannot expect school performance to change in just one or two years.

Fair enough. But the problem is that this pattern extends for decades. Oklahomans have steadily increased school funding through the years, but the outcomes produced by the school system are often unchanged from prior decades—or even worse.

In 1990, a host of tax increases were passed for education as part of House Bill 1017. Since then, Oklahoma has legalized the lottery and casinos, and increased taxes again, all to boost school funding. And, contrary to the political spin from some activists, the amount spent on education in Oklahoma has increased significantly over that time.

In 1990, Oklahoma’s per-pupil expenditure was $7,934. By the 2018 state budget year, that figure reached $9,094, an increase of nearly 15 percent. (Both figures are adjusted for inflation.)

The problem is that we’re often getting the same or worse results, just at a higher cost.

Oklahoma’s NAEP score on fourth grade reading in 1992 was 220 (prior-year outcomes were not immediately available on the NAEP site). In 2019, the score was 216.

Oklahoma’s average composite ACT score in 1989, before HB 1017’s tax increases passed, was 19.9. In 2019, Oklahoma’s average composite ACT score was 18.9.

Just how long are Oklahomans supposed to “wait” for those promised improvements in academic results? Surely a quarter-century is long enough to conclude that spending increases alone are not getting the job done.

But what is the alternative to waiting and hoping as yet another generation of Oklahoma children gets left behind? One proven solution is to increase school choice.

Low-income urban students often enter charter schools two grades behind, but finish performing at grade level or better and go on to obtain college degrees. The parents of children with special needs who now attend private schools thanks to state-funded scholarships will tell you of lives changed, dramatically, for the better.

To increase spending on a government system does not change outcomes. But harness spending increases to parental choice, and then you have a formula for improvement and upward mobility. No government system is going to care for a child more than that child’s family or guardian, and simply spending more money to get the same (or worse) results is not progress.

It’s time for this decades-long waiting game to end. State lawmakers should put Oklahoma on a path to true academic improvement by not only boosting education funding, but also giving parents the ability to choose their child’s school.

Blaine on trial

The good folks at the Center for Education Reform have a nice round-up here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Oklahoma student waited in frigid temperatures for school bus that never came

"A seventh grader in Oklahoma City waited for nearly an hour in 19-degree weather for his school bus, which never showed up," Yahoo News reports.

Investigation into allegations of Dickson teacher threatening student underway

"An investigation into allegations against a Dickson High School teacher is currently underway," The Daily Ardmoreite reports. "The teacher is accused of having made verbal threats against a student."

Muskogee parents say bullied 9-year-old has concussion, fractured spine

"The parents of a nine-year-old student at Pershing Elementary are saying their son received a concussion and a fractured spine during a bullying incident at the school, where he was slammed into a brick wall," Leif M. Wright reports. "Kimberly Baucom said her son, Taveion, called her shortly thereafter and said he felt like his head was going to explode, and it hurt to walk. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and a fracture of his L-5 vertebra, according to Baucom. ... Taveion is scheduled to have surgery to repair his spine."

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Sooners stand with Yukon student in fight against bullying

"After videos of other students hitting him at school spread across the internet, a Yukon middle schooler and his family have received support from near and far, lots of help, and tons of love," The Oklahoman reports.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Active shooter drills are traumatizing students, experts say

SWAT members enter Norman North High School during an active-shooter
exercise on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoman has the story.

Oklahoma teachers want help dealing with violent students

FOX 25 has the story.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Oologah students in custody after caught with explosive materials

"Two Oologah High School students are in custody after officers said they used explosive materials outside of the school and were planning to use them to do damage inside as well," the News on 6 reports.

Student brings handgun to Union High School; second incident in three weeks

The Tulsa World has the story.

Friday, November 8, 2019

OKC mother outraged at school officials after son found covered in feces

"An Oklahoma City mother is outraged after walking into the nurse's office at her child's school and finding her son naked and covered in his own feces," News 9 reports.

Academic results show why families voting with their feet

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Government officials often refer to government spending as an “investment” to suggest a business approach is being applied to public policy. But if spending equals investment, then Oklahomans must ask, “What are the results?”

When it comes to our school system, results are now worse than they were before the “investment” of the past two years.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation’s report card, Oklahoma student scores declined in fourth and eighth-grade reading, were stagnant in fourth-grade math, and improved slightly in eight grade math (by a margin considered statistically insignificant). Oklahoma students remain below the national average in all NAEP subjects.

On the ACT exam, Oklahoma students’ scores declined in every subject this year. In fact, 46 percent of students failed to meet ACT college-readiness benchmarks in any of the subjects tested.

When Oklahoma state test results were released months ago, they showed academic achievement was lower in 2019 than in 2017. In every subject and grade tested, a majority performed below grade level.

Those declining results have occurred even though lawmakers increased K-12 school appropriations by 20 percent over the last two sessions.

Some will object it’s unrealistic to expect a dramatic turnaround in just over a year. I don’t disagree. But is it unrealistic to think academic results should at least stop declining after such huge spending increases?

If “investment” alone is failing to stem the bleeding, let alone generate improvement, then more is needed. Policy changes must also be adopted. And parents in one of the state’s worst school systems have highlighted one solution.

Tulsa Public Schools faces a $20 million shortfall. The district’s leadership blames its financial problems on state funding cuts. But, as noted, the state has not been tightfisted over the last two years. Instead, Tulsa’s true problem is that students are leaving the district in droves and state funding is following them out the exits.

Where are those students going? According to the Tulsa World, 3,700 students left TPS for Epic Charter Schools, an online provider, from summer 2013 to June 2019, while another 3,300 students left for brick-and-mortar charter schools.

Parents are taking stock of the results of state “investment” in districts like Tulsa, and are responding by voting with their feet and moving children to schools that produce better outcomes. The greatest challenge for those families is not a lack of state “investment” in schools; it’s a limited array of school choices when their geographically assigned school fails to deliver results.

Combining school choice with greater education funding is policymakers’ best path to improving Oklahoma’s education system and student outcomes. Otherwise, next year may end the same as this year—with policymakers baffled that schools not only failed to improve after tax-and-spending increases, but actually got worse.

Student, school resource officer brawl in Midwest City

"Police and a Midwest City High School parent are speaking out about a series of Snapchat videos showing a brawl between a student and a school resource officer," KFOR reports.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A beautiful tapestry

WovenLife is an intergenerational program in Oklahoma City that puts seniors and young children (including special-needs students) in the same environment. “There’s a lot of love here,” says one teacher, “and you feel it when you walk in the door.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Covington-Douglas teacher’s aide pleads guilty to sex crimes

A teacher's aide in the Covington-Douglas school district "has pleaded guilty to sodomy and giving alcohol to minors after being arrested in 2018 for giving students alcohol and having sex with one of them," KFOR reports.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

School choice, funding increases can coexist

Oklahomans are strongly supportive of public education, Ray Carter reports. And they also support educational choice.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Bullied Locust Grove sixth-grader says grown-ups didn't help

"Cellphone video shows a Locust Grove student allegedly bullying another student on a bus," KTUL reports. The bullied sixth-grader "says the bully had been tormenting him and his classmates for weeks, and he was getting no help from the school. 'I got to where I finally quit telling 'cause nothing was getting done,'" he said.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Happy 100th birthday, Oklahoma teacher shortage!

Oklahoma's education special interests (and incurious journalists) have been singing the same tune for a century, Greg Forster writes.

Friday, November 1, 2019

State Department of Education wants to change the subject

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

If the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s new $3.29 billion state-appropriation request were transformed into a book for young readers, the title might be The Mystery of the Missing Teacher Raises.

Why? Because the budget plan is being sold based on comparisons that make hundreds of millions in teacher pay raises disappear.

Over the last two legislative sessions, lawmakers have increased K-12 school appropriations by 20 percent, funneling $638 million more into the system, boosting teacher pay by a combined total average of more than $7,000 apiece, and devoting millions more to classroom funding.

That spending goes missing in comparisons put out by the Department of Education to defend its new state appropriation request. The proposed school budget would add $219 million in new spending and is touted as raising state-appropriated per-pupil funding to $3,275. That matches a per-pupil figure last achieved in 2009.

But the department’s per-pupil estimate for the 2020 budget year does not account for the funding provided for teacher pay raises over the last two years. Why not? When those pay raises passed, they were touted as a big step. Now they’re relegated to a footnote.

And that’s not all. The department’s budget emphasizes a program to incentivize people to become school counselors, including 526 certified counselors now working as teachers. If Oklahoma had a surplus of teachers, that might not be alarming. But it doesn’t, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister noted earlier this year. She wrote that Oklahoma “remains in a severe teacher shortage, even after back-to-back teacher pay increases averaging $7,300 a year and an unprecedented infusion of $75 million into the funding formula signed into law last May.”

While the teaching workforce increased by 1,100 last year, the number of emergency-certified teachers increased by more than 1,000. You may recall one argument for raising teacher pay was that the state was over-reliant on emergency-certified teachers and needed to attract more traditionally trained teachers back to the classroom.

Now it seems the Department of Education thinks counselors are more important than traditionally certified teachers. And this shift is occurring against a backdrop of dispiriting academic outcomes.

Oklahomans deserve a plan to improve those outcomes and address workforce needs. Instead, it appears agency officials simply want to change the conversation. But this is no time to change direction.

If the past two years’ efforts are not achieving the results expected, then it would be better to admit so forthrightly and offer a new plan to achieve those still-unattained goals.

A children’s mystery book can provide a few afternoons of diversion. But what Oklahoma needs is an education plan that will improve lives for years to come.

OKCPS teacher allegedly shoves autistic student to the ground

"Another case of violence has surfaced at John Marshall Middle School," KFOR reports. "This time police say a teacher shoved a student with autism to the ground, and the boy’s mother told officers the middle school principal lied to her face about what happened."
“It scares me every day when I come with my daughter,” Ana Munoz said. 
Parents are petrified as a heavy police presence surrounded John Marshall Middle School once again. The school is home to 900 students and the infamous videos of students in an all-out brawl. 
“It’s very, very sad,” Munoz said. But police say Wednesday afternoon it was a teacher who lashed out. News 4 confirmed a teacher allegedly shoved a teen “head first into the bricks.” Police say the 12-year-old victim is "diagnosed with autism" 
“My daughter called to me,” Munoz said. “She said, 'I’m scared mom.'”

Norman elementary-school teacher arrested with heroin

KOCO has the story.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

DA investigating alleged violent hazing incident at Muldrow High School

"The Sequoyah County District Attorney's Office is investigating an alleged violent hazing incident involving athletes at Muldrow High School," KFSM reports. "After several complaints from parents, the Sequoyah County District Attorney has been asked to bring in two investigators to assist the school's on-campus police department, according to Muldrow Police Chief George Lawson."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Don’t overregulate choice

"There is no real need to regulate private schools, in choice programs or otherwise, for anything other than health and safety," Greg Forster writes. "Parents are the real accountability system."

Friday, October 25, 2019

Study finds local districts not prioritizing spending for classroom necessities

FOX 25 has the story.

Union student brings gun to school

"A Union student is facing possible criminal charges after school officials said he brought a gun to school in his backpack," the News on 6 reports.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Putnam City School District has 800 security cameras, facial-recognition software

"The specter of mass shootings has pushed school administrators across the country to consider investment in an array of new and emergent security technologies that have been sold as potential solutions to head off these tragic incidents," Lucas Ropek reports for Governing magazine.
Chief among the new technologies is facial recognition—a technology that has recently exploded to prominence in many other sectors of society. ... One place where the technology has been welcomed with open arms is Putnam City School District in Oklahoma.

Covering a significant swath of Oklahoma City, as well as several smaller, neighboring cities, Putnam already has an extensive security system: over 800 cameras are equipped at 30 school buildings spread out over some 43 square miles, said Mark Stout, the district's chief of police. Still, improvements are always being sought, he added.

The district began looking into the facial recognition market in early 2018. After selecting Israeli vendor AnyVision, equipment was installed during the late months of that year; officials then ran the cameras through a period of testing that lasted four to five months—with a heavy emphasis on rooting out any potential for gendered or racial bias, Stout explained.

While still relatively new, district administrators feel the technology gives an added layer of sophistication to security processes already in place. When coupled, for instance, with a system of strategically placed metal detectors and Genetec-powered access control devices—which allow officials to remotely lock down certain parts of the school—the new cameras hopefully have the capability to help quickly identify and isolate threats.

Also important is the product's "watchlist" feature, which helps security officials archive and identify certain students who have been suspended, do not belong on school grounds, or who may pose some sort of threat. While some schools have seen backlash over this feature, Stout said that the public has been receptive to it as a key security function.

At the same time, the software is also moving closer to accurate object recognition, which would help security personnel identify "someone with a rifle, or a long gun, or a handgun," Stout said. This future capability would greatly advance the ability to minimize threats, he added.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Security screens can protect Oklahoma students from school shooters

"A company has developed screens that go over classroom windows to block the sight of active shooters," the News on 6 reports.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Police arrest Mid-Del student after finding stolen pistol in backpack

"Del City police say they have arrested a juvenile after discovering a stolen pistol in the student’s backpack," KFOR reports.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019

OKCPS student with hit list says 'I will wreak havoc in Oklahoma City'

"A 14-year-old boy's journal reveals a hit list, his desire to murder his mother, and plans to 'wreak havoc on Oklahoma City,'" News 9 reports. The OKCPS student's mother "contacted police, fearing her son would commit an act of violence on a school. The mother said her child fantasizes about horrific shootings that have left behind mass carnage, specifically Columbine High."

Friday, October 4, 2019

‘We can’t afford more than one guard, so we try to fill the gaps with with armed staff’

"With more mass shootings happening every year," Caroline Halter reports, "protecting kids has become a priority for school administrators in Oklahoma."

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Don’t accept excuses — your child can learn to read

An OCPA policy brief last month reminded us that colleges of education are failing and offered proposals to improve teacher quality. Sadly, then, a story this week from Oklahoma Watch (“In Oklahoma, a Discredited Theory of Reading Is Widely Used”) came as no surprise.

“In classrooms across Oklahoma and the nation,” Jennifer Palmer reports, “students are taught to read using a theory that has been discredited by decades of research by brain scientists.”

Hats off to Oklahoma Watch for shining a spotlight on this enormous problem. Think about it: fully 7 in 10 Oklahoma fourth-graders are not proficient in reading. The numbers are even worse for minority students. Many of these children, thinking there's something wrong with them, will go through life with unspeakable distress. As their frustration mounts, many will slide into delinquent behavior. Many are destined for welfare or prison.

Unfortunately, illiterate children grow up to become illiterate adults. As one longtime Oklahoma educator with a doctorate in education has pointed out: “More than 20 percent of our state’s population, or nearly 400,000 people, can’t read.”

This massive failure is as unnecessary as it is heartbreaking. “To teach a child to read properly is not difficult,” says author Douglas Wilson. “Local education professionals have made it seem difficult, and the entire process has been shrouded with arcane professional terminology. But the only term that concerned parents need to know and understand is phonics.” (Wilson’s 1991 book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning basically launched the modern-day classical Christian education movement.)

“It's almost a sin what we're doing to our children,” phonics tutor Sylvia Brown once told me. Mrs. Brown is a former public-school speech pathologist, assistant principal, and principal in Tulsa. “In my 30-some years of teaching, I have not met a child who couldn't read when we go to the basics and teach him his alphabet then teach him his sounds," she said."I haven't met one yet. Maybe there is one out there on this planet, but I don't believe there is."

Your child needs a strong foundation in phonics. He or she needs to be taught — in a direct, systematic, and intensive manner — how to match sounds with the letters that spell them.

In the words of world-renowned reading expert Siegfried Engelmann, a professor emeritus of education at the University of Oregon who died this year at the age of 87: “If your child is not reading by the end of the first grade and is not retarded (IQ below 75), do not accept excuses that blame your child.”

What to Do

I will discuss some schooling options below, but right up front it's important for you to know that you can do this yourself. My wife and I recommend Engelmann’s book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which we used with all of our children. You won’t regret it. As Susie told our oldest son when he graduated high school:
What stands out in my mind is that I was able to spend time with you. I am grateful that I got to be the one sitting next to you on the couch, listening as you slowly sounded out letters, words, and sentences. It was I who got to be the one to hear you read for the very first time.
Indeed, teaching your child to read may turn out to be the most fulfilling thing you'll ever do.

If your child is in a public school and is not learning to read, you must ask the school to give your child a firm foundation in phonics.

Another option is to seek out a private school, though you'll want to make sure it's one that provides a firm foundation in phonics. Don’t panic — private schooling is more affordable than you might think: according to The Journal Record's 2019 Oklahoma Policy Review, average private school tuition in Oklahoma is $4,588 for elementary schools and $6,140 for high schools. Moreover, scholarships are available. Oklahoma has two programs to choose from:

  ➤  Many students are eligible for a private-school scholarship funded by private donations (for which donors receive a state tax credit). Click here to learn more about the program. To explore schools, click here, here, or here, for example.

  ➤  Many students — special-education students, foster kids, children adopted out of state custody, and more — are eligible for a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. Click here to learn more about the program. (Ironically, many children shunted into special education are there only because of a teachin' deficit disorder: the grown-ups never taught these children how to read.)

As I've lamented for 25 years, school-produced illiteracy is a huge but underappreciated problem. "Men can always be blind to a thing," Chesterton observed, "so long as it is big enough." The illiteracy epidemic and its victims should be in the news every week, not only at Oklahoma Watch but in media across the state. 

Moreover, it's time for our state's political leaders to bring greater scrutiny to bear on those whom author and attorney Bruce Shortt has called "Oklahoma's crack team of government educators — the folks who spend billions of dollars a year to achieve heretofore unknown levels of semiliteracy and illiteracy among otherwise normal children."

Journalism and public policy aside, the main thing for parents is to make sure your child can read.

  • "We cannot continue to fail our students by not making explicit scientifically-based reading instruction a national priority," says Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. And check out these MRI photos.
  • "There is no reason a child cannot read before they are in third grade, but our teachers have to teach based on the science of reading, and that is not happening across this state," says Oklahoma state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. "It is happening in pockets. ... No child needs to struggle to read if we are teaching them properly."
  • "Evidence shows that virtually anyone can learn to read if they are taught to associate letters with particular sounds (phonics) and that trying to teach students to read using the whole language approach works poorly," Erik Gilbert writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education ("How Ed Schools Became a Bastion of Bad Ideas"). "Still, colleges of education continue to resist phonics."
  • Joy Hofmeister weighed in on this topic again. "The science of reading is not being taught in every classroom," she said. "There are veteran teachers who believe they are teaching reading correctly, and actually some of the methods are compounding the difficulties with children who struggle to read. And they’re doing that without realizing it."
  • "[S]tate officials say many teachers still use reading-instruction theories that brain research has shown don’t work and can be detrimental," Oklahoma Watch reports. "We see that struggle persist year after year," says state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. "We can overcome dyslexia and other struggles only through explicit systematic phonics instruction."

Friday, September 27, 2019

OKC student headbutted teacher in the chin

"Oklahoma City police said a John Marshall Middle School student has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a teacher," News 9 reports.
The teacher said it all started when he noticed a group of students skipping class. “Maybe 12-15 students just running up and down the hallways, not in class,” the teacher said. “So, I used the in-class intercom to call the office and said, ‘Hey, we need an administrator down here.’”

The teacher said one student physically ran into him and began a physical and verbal altercation, when the unexpected happened. “(I) got him to his feet, stiffened his arms, and put his head down,” said the teacher. “(I) got into a fighting stance and (the student) headbutted me right in the chin.”

A school resource officer arrived immediately as did the new school principal. There was no doubt in the teacher’s mind that he would have the student arrested and facing assault and battery charges.

“I think there just needs to be some consequences for their (student) actions when they are not being held accountable, and they know that,” the teacher said. “Now that they know that, the culture has been created within the school where the students know how far I can go, I can go pretty far and not have anything done.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Child abuse, education-establishment style

Climate change is not the major threat to children, writes former teacher Larry Sand.

'We have individuals that would like to come into schools and do everyone harm'

"We have individuals that would like to come into schools and do everyone harm, from our kids to our teachers and anyone that’s around," teacher-union boss Ed Allen tells KFOR.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Spoils system: ‘Government employees pick their politicians’

"One of the key challenges for education reformers is the huge size of the government school monopoly as a 'reverse patronage' employer," Greg Forster explains ("The government school monopoly as reverse patronage program").
The power of entrenched education special interests is not only, or even primarily, in the money collected through such means as union dues. The single greatest political obstacle to education reform is the large number of people who get their jobs from the status quo, and will therefore show up during elections to vote and volunteer for politicians who will protect the status quo. ...

Every smart legislator finds out who the big employers in their district are and pays close attention to their concerns. This isn’t primarily about seeking to please the employers in hopes of getting their campaign donations (although it is that, too); it’s primarily about seeking to please the employees in hopes of getting their votes. And in virtually every legislative district in the United States, one of the biggest local employers is the government school monopoly.

This system gives us what we might call "reverse patronage." In the 19th century, under the patronage system, hiring and firing in most government jobs was directly controlled by political officeholders. Politicians in each party would hire their party’s people to staff the government from top to bottom. (On one famous occasion, Abraham Lincoln kept his Civil War generals waiting while he attended to more important business: deciding which party faction to give control of a Post Office appointment.) Each change of party would bring massive turnover. This was also called the “spoils system” because government jobs were like the spoils of war for whoever won the election. 
In short, Forster explains, "In the government school monopoly, we have a reverse form of patronage. Instead of politicians picking their government employees, government employees pick their politicians."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Anti-bullying bill sidelined as bullying problem grows

Ray Carter has the story.

Only 57 percent of Tulsa students feel safe at school

"Half of Tulsa Public Schools students felt like they 'belonged' last year, while 57% reported feeling safe at school," the Tulsa World reports.
Monday’s presentation also revealed that 33.2% of third-grade students last year were proficient in reading, compared to 34% in 2017-18. ... Further, 26.1% of TPS students were proficient in both reading and math last year, which was behind the district’s goal of 27%. The number of 11th graders meeting SAT benchmarks in math and English language arts has declined from 33% in 2018 to 27% in 2019.

School cancelled for Yukon Public Schools due to threats

FOX 25 has the story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Parents suing Broken Arrow Public Schools and former teacher over molestation charges

"Parents of four Broken Arrow students are suing a former elementary school teacher and the school district," KJRH reports. "The lawsuit alleges that the school district was negligent and did not provide a safe learning environment for the students."

Saturday, September 7, 2019

‘I'm absolutely against it’: Stitt disapproves of school districts hiring lobbyists

"Four school districts—Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Bixby, and Jenks—spent nearly $200,000 combined in taxpayer funding on contract lobbyists during the 2018-2019 school year," Ray Carter reports. "Those lobbyists were hired even as the four districts were also paying thousands more to a range of organizations that employ numerous other lobbyists on behalf of the school districts."
Gov. Kevin Stitt
That school tax dollars are being expended on contract lobbyists has raised a host of concerns, and critics of the practice include Gov. Kevin Stitt, who issued an executive order this year that banned similar practices at state agencies. “If a state agency or a school district is using taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist, I’m absolutely against it,” Stitt said in an interview. “If I found out that the school districts are using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists, 100 percent I’m going to call them out on it. I’m going to share with Oklahomans what’s happening. It’s just counterproductive. What are they lobbying for? We have the best interests of our children at heart, and to hire a lobbyist to monitor legislation or use tax dollars to muddy the water at the Capitol, I just don’t see it as being productive.”
For their part, some school officials defend the practice. But it does raise concerns about indirect funneling of taxpayer dollars to political campaigns, as well as concerns about open-records laws. Sadly, the practice is not uncommon nationwide.

It's a classic case of what a former adviser to the Oklahoma Speaker of the House called taking your money and lobbying for more of your money.

OKC teacher was trampled at school, is now plagued with anxiety

"Another teacher injured was at John Marshall Middle School," News 9 reports.
Miranda Bradley, an 8th grade English teacher, said she was supposed to go back to work Wednesday, but the thought of returning to that environment is giving her severe anxiety. 
Bradley said bruises all over her body are the result of a fight in the cafeteria at John Marshall Middle School back on August 22. “It was madness,” she recalled. “Pandemonium. And I finally made my way out. And not seconds after I got out of the cafeteria, here come the kids behind me. And I got trampled. I fell and then they trampled me.” 
When she finally went to the doctor, she was also diagnosed with a concussion and sprained wrist. But even worse, she said, is the crippling anxiety. 
“I’m covered in hives. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest. My blood pressure is through the roof,” said Bradley.

Accuser says superintendent paid teachers for sex

Longtime Peckham school district Superintendent Gary Young "is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with young children as well as current and former students and staff members, including one staffer who said she received poor evaluations when she rejected his sexual advances," The Oklahoman reports. The state Department of Education has received a complaint that Young had an inappropriate relationship with one teacher who, based on her degree and years of experience, should be paid a minimum salary of $47,531 but instead is paid $87,849, plus an additional $9,097 as a support employee.

Friday, September 6, 2019

To help with childhood trauma, expand school choice

"Expanding school choice is not an alternative to providing greater access to effective trauma services," Greg Forster writes. "It is the best way to provide greater access to effective trauma services. Even better, it would greatly reduce the number of children who need such services in the first place."

Critic of virtual schools has degree from online university

An Oklahoma lawmaker who has been critical of virtual charter schools holds a doctorate from a for-profit online university that was subsequently closed amid claims it was a diploma mill. 

(For what it's worth, the late North Korean dictator Kim il-Sung holds an honorary degree from the same university.)

ChoiceMatters is helping bullied kids find a different school

The organization's director, Robert Ruiz, knows firsthand about the problems of bullying and school violence.

News flash: Competition works

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Here’s a statement few people will dispute: Competition works. Yet when it comes to education, some policymakers and most public school employees act as though the way to improve the quality of service to families and their children is to limit their taxpayer-funded choices to just one local option.

Proof to the contrary can be seen in the rash of schools now offering 100-percent online education.

For several years now, a handful of online charter schools have offered students an online education. The biggest and most well-known of those providers has been Epic Charter Schools.

Parents have been choosing online learning even though the per-pupil spending at online charter schools is significantly less than the per-pupil spending at a traditional brick-and-mortar public school.

The number of people pursuing K-12 learning online in Oklahoma is astounding. Epic alone reports roughly 24,000 students statewide this year. Those families have chosen online learning for many different reasons, but some of the most commonly cited are the greater range of course offerings, the special needs of children, and bullying problems at local schools.

Chances are you know a family with children who have benefited from online schooling. Because state funding follows students, the exodus to online charter schools has had financial consequences for traditional districts. Now those schools have been forced to step up their game.

At Sapulpa, the local school is offering a virtual academy that provides students “full or partial online delivery of instruction with an element of student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of learning.”

Sound familiar?

Noble Public Schools’ virtual academy provides a 100-percent online education but still lets online students participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, band, and chorus.

Norman Public Schools now offers students “the flexibility to complete all of their coursework outside the traditional school building” through online learning.

Union Public Schools has launched Union Virtual for students in grades 6-12. Sand Springs offers online learning. Broken Arrow offers a full-time online program. So does Lawton. So does Ponca City. And so do others. The list goes on and on.

This is a huge change occurring across Oklahoma to the benefit of students and their families. And the rapid pace of this change is being driven by competition from just a handful of online charter schools.

Policymakers should not simply celebrate this success, but build on it by expanding school-choice opportunities. If the modest level of competition produced by a small group of online providers can create this kind of change, imagine what would happen if Oklahoma had a truly robust education market competing for all students. Then the boom in online learning would be only a hint of better things to come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

School choice saved, changed Oklahoma boy's life

"My oldest son—a well-behaved, honor-roll student—attempted to take his own life," writes an Oklahoma mom.
Internal struggles had changed school from a place of learning to a place of fear and despair for him. Feeling trapped, he almost succeeded in taking his own life and shattering ours. 
Following this near tragedy a few important things happened: My son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a diagnosis that helped him understand why he was feeling so lost. And I moved him and my two other children out of public school and into a virtual public school where they could learn in an environment better suited to their needs.

Amid riots, pepper spray, handcuffs, 11-year-olds 'too scared to go back' to OKCPS middle school

"The Oklahoma City School District says they are making big changes to combat the violence at John Marshall Middle School, but some parents told News 9 they still don't feel safe sending their kids there," News 9 reports.
Those parents said they are permanently pulling their kids out of the school. The district said 34 students have left the school since the beginning of the year. The district spokesperson also said that some of those students may have been waiting for transfer approval.

Eleven-year-old Ezekiel and his buddy Joshua were not at school on Tuesday. They're supposed to be 5th graders at John Marshall Middle School. According to their parents, they are too scared to go back. "The second day of school there was a fight that broke out while he was on his way to his classroom and he ended up getting hit," said Veronica Murphy, Ezekiel’s mother. "They’ve never been in a school like this before," added Etta Dunlap. "Nor seen the riots, the pepper spray from police tactics, the tasering of kids. They put the kids in handcuffs."

Oologah students create device to help students during school shooting

The News on 6 has the story.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Second student walks away from Southern Hills Elementary since start of school year

FOX 25 has the story.

Gun discovered on the floor inside Canton Elementary School

"The Canton police chief has been suspended after a gun was discovered on the floor inside Canton Elementary School," News 9 reports.

Former Cushing teacher admits sexting 13-year-old student

KUSH has the story.

Police respond to more than a dozen incidents at John Marshall Middle School

KFOR has the story.

Oklahoma police foil potential school shooting, arresting three teens

International headlines for Mid-Del Public Schools.

Oologah-Talala student arrested after threats

The actions of another student possibly prevented a school shooting, said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.

Peckham superintendent accused of sexual misconduct

"The Oklahoma State Board of Education has suspended the certificates of longtime Peckham Public School Superintendent Gary Young after receiving multiple allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual harassment from former students and coworkers," NonDoc reports.

Former Kingston teacher pleads guilty to rape

"A former Kingston first grade teacher accused of having sex with multiple high school boys pleaded guilty Monday," KXII reports.

Fight at OKC middle school injures teacher

KFOR has the story.

Pawhuska schools face third threat in three weeks

The latest incident involves a substitute teacher who threatened to kill an elementary student during class. "This now the third incident in 6 days of school," said Pawhuska Police Chief Nick Silva. "This is not a trend we want."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Forming teachers

Colleges of education are failing. Even as ed schools are extensively colonized by far-left ideology, it turns out that teacher education makes no visible difference to student achievement. Parents and taxpayers deserve better. A new OCPA study proposes a few simple policy changes which could help make reinvention of teacher education plausible, attractive, and sustainable.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

'She doesn't feel safe at the school she’s assigned to'

A 12-year-old student in Moore was forced to walk two-and-a-half miles home in extreme heat, News 9 reports. The girl's mother says "her daughter visited the school office in an effort to figure out what bus to ride home." Staff allegedly told the girl to either "guess or walk home." Her mother told KFOR that the school staff in the office "wouldn’t even let the girl look up her mom’s phone number to call for help."

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Bullied at school, six-year-old walks out of OKC school, wanders along I-240 and Western

"A good Samaritan helped reunite a mother with her 6-year-old son, who was found wandering along a busy road after he walked out of an elementary school," KOCO reports.
First-grader Xavier left Southern Hills Elementary School on Tuesday after he told his teacher that he had to use the bathroom. Instead, he was found walking along Interstate 240 and Western Avenue in the rain with no adult in sight.

Amanda Lopez, who was driving in the area, told KOCO 5 that she was in the right place at the right time. She recorded a video, stunned at what she was seeing. 
"There's a 6-year-old little boy standing out here in the street by himself," Lopez said while recording the video. 
Lopez is furious, saying a mother could have lost a child. 
"We're putting our babies in these people's hands, and for that baby to walk off like that, it's not right," Lopez said. 
Lopez and a group of others helped Xavier and tracked down his mother, who was visibly upset and wondering how this happened. 
"I don't understand why he was able to walk out them doors and through a fence. I don't understand that," Xavier's mother, Amber Mateos, said. 
Oklahoma City Public Schools officials called the incident unfortunate, saying, "We are currently working through it with school staff and the family involved. As always, the safety and security of OKCPS students is our top priority." 
Lopez is thankful she was in the right place at the right time but hopes the situation leads to more than just an apology. 
"That child walking down the side of the highway like that, anybody could've took home and he woulda been gone," Lopez said. 
According to Lopez, Xavier told her he was trying to find his way home after being bullied at school.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Putnam City using facial recognition on security cameras

"At Putnam City Schools, they've spent $10 million in the past four years on school security," KFOR reports ("Oklahoma school district using facial recognition on security cameras").
Their network of surveillance cameras is monitored 24/7. "We have someone in here in dispatch watching the cameras, monitoring alarms; making sure our schools are safe and secure even through the night," said Putnam City Schools campus police chief Mark Stout.

The chief says the district already has a wide range of equipment at their disposal already: 900 cameras, 2,000 motion detection devices, and 200 sound detection devices.

Those cameras are now fully equipped with facial recognition, installed on each of the district's high school campuses, middle school campuses, and the alternative school.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

'Tis the season for utility-bill verifications

This photo I snapped today in overwhelmingly white north Edmond serves to remind us that the black market for school choice is still thriving.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mother says Catoosa school told her to keep silent about inappropriate touching

"A mother is speaking out tonight after a former Catoosa teacher accused of inappropriately touching students turned himself in," KTUL reports.
"She went up there to complain about it, and they told her to be quiet," said the mother.
Since the incident, this mother says her daughter is afraid to go to school and isn't sure if she’ll be returning to Catoosa this year. 
We reached out to the district for a comment, but our calls were not returned.

School-voucher program is helping Oklahoma foster kids

One little girl, who was adopted from foster care in 2015, suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, the after-effects of severe abuse, and more. Her mom says the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship has been a godsend.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Former Catoosa teacher facing 10 counts of lewd or indecent proposals to a child

FOX 23 has the story.

Who you gonna call?

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

When the movie “Ghostbusters” premiered in the 1980s, it was just a comedy. But if it’s remade (again) in 2019, the setting may be in Oklahoma’s public school system. That’s because there’s reason to think many districts are receiving funding for “ghost” students who do not attend those schools.

This issue gained attention when it was recently alleged an online charter school has received funding for “ghost” students, but that problem extends statewide.

Here’s why: Oklahoma law distributes state aid based on several factors, and one factor is a district’s average daily membership (ADM). State law allows districts to use the highest weighted ADM of the two preceding school years. As a result, if a district has 400 students one year, 380 the next, and 360 the following year, that district may be funded as though it still has 400 students when it has just 360.

It’s even possible for a student to be counted in multiple districts at the same time if a child moves from a district with declining enrollment to one with surging enrollment.

Just because this is currently legal doesn’t make it a good idea. Given the financial challenges constantly highlighted at schools, why would we expend money paying districts to educate children who are not at those schools?

By the way, “ghost” funding doesn’t occur just at one type of school. While some rural districts may benefit, so can Oklahoma’s largest districts—Oklahoma City and Tulsa—which have also experienced declining enrollment. In the urban centers, families have had good reason to move out, so why would state lawmakers leave in place a system that financially rewards districts like Oklahoma City for poor performance that drives students away?

Pinning down the number of “ghost” students being double-counted or still reflected in district ADMs after moving out of state is no easy task, but there are some hints. According to the Oklahoma Department of Education, the high-year ADM for all schools combined in the 2019 state budget year was 711,560. That compares to a reported total enrollment of 698,586 as of the most recent count, which occurred on Oct. 1, 2018.

That’s a difference of almost 13,000 students. Now, not all those 13,000 are “ghost” students. But if even half of them are, that would easily translate into tens of millions of dollars that have been misallocated for educating nonexistent students.

States like Indiana and Arizona have stopped using backward-looking student counts that result in ghost-student funding and instead rely on current-year headcounts. There’s no reason Oklahoma can’t do the same.

Conservatives and liberals disagree on education policy and spending priorities, but surely we can all agree that paying to “educate imaginary students” should not even be on the list.

  • "We're allocating close to 200 million of your tax dollars to students who don't exist," says Gov. Kevin Stitt. "This is unacceptable." Adds state Rep. Kyle Hilbert: "Every year our schools receive less money per student because our formula sends out money for ghost students, students that do not actually exist. We must end this practice of watering down school finances by (instead) funding schools based on the number of students they actually have in their classrooms."
  • Enrollment figures released in January 2021 show that some districts are being funded for hundreds or even thousands of nonexistent students. In all, "districts may receive at least $195 million combined for 55,236 'ghost' students who do not attend classes in the district but are nonetheless included in enrollment counts used to determine state funding for each district." In short, this farce is now too big to ignore.
  • Oklahoma voters are in a ghostbusting mood, according to a survey of 500 registered Oklahoma voters conducted Sept. 20-24, 2020, by CHS & Associates (margin of error: +/- 4.3%). "This reform is really a no-brainer for most voters," says pollster PatMcFerron, "with three-quarters being supportive. Among Republicans, support expands even more. Even among registered Democrats, however, there is a 42-point advantage for proponents." Specifically, respondents were asked: “As you may know, Oklahoma’s school districts currently receive their funding based on the highest number of students they have served during any of the past three school years. This means that districts with shrinking enrollment are receiving funds for students they are not serving and that those with growing populations are getting less per student than they would otherwise. Would you favor or oppose legislation that funded schools based on the number of students they are serving during that particular school year?"
    • Strongly Favor .......... 51%
    • Somewhat Favor .......... 24%
    • Somewhat Oppose .......... 7%
    • Strongly Oppose .......... 12%
    • Undecided .......... 6%
  • State Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) is sounding the alarm that the number of double-counted students is about to increase dramatically.
  • Oklahoma school districts are getting paid for “ghost students,” says the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, “and they will fight, fight to the death, to maintain those.”

Thursday, August 1, 2019

#OklaEd sending three million tax dollars to private company

"School districts across the country are increasingly turning to new technology to help minimize the impact of an active shooter," FOX 25 reports.
Just this year, the Oklahoma State Department of Education secured $3 million in new funding to implement a statewide panic button system. “We have 540 brick-and-mortar districts, and we hope that 100% of them have adopted the program by the end of the 20-21 school year,” said Jon Parker, executive director of school safety & security at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

The department is providing the RAVE Panic Button to all districts. It’s an app that alerts authorities to an active shooter, a medical emergency, a fire, or other crisis. The app simultaneously sends out a notification to other teachers and staff on campus as well.

“Staff members are very well-equipped to be able to respond quickly, but they can’t respond until they know they need to respond,” said Noah Reiter, vice-president of customer service for RAVE Mobile Safety. “So this application reduces the time it takes for them to implement their emergency response.” ...

Oklahoma will join states like Delaware and Arkansas, along with the District of Columbia, in deploying this technology. It reflects a growing trend—and booming business—in the U.S. In 2017, security equipment and services for schools generated $2.7 billion in revenue, according to analysis by HIS Markit.
Booming business! Indeed, it looks like this private company may even (gasp!) turn a profit. Which is fine with me. For as past OCPA speaker Walter Williams reminds us, profits are very much a good thing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Oklahoma private schools surprisingly affordable

The Journal Record's "2019 Oklahoma Policy Review" is a helpful publication which "looks back at the accomplishments of this year's legislative session with fact sheets, analysis of specific sectors, and issues that present major challenges. This unbiased review of the legislative session acts as an almanac for anyone interested in what occurred at 23rd and Lincoln."

This year's edition has an interesting article featuring the observations of educators who are now in the state legislature. But what I found most interesting is a nearby graphic highlighting something I never tire of repeating: Oklahoma's private schools on average are surprisingly affordable: