Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Noble school board member speaks out against bill requiring five-day school weeks

"Noble Public Schools board member Erika Wright said Senate Bill 441 wouldn't be easy on her district," FOX 25 reports.
The bill would require public schools to be in session for 180 days out of the year, where Noble only has a school year of 151 days. "What that would translate to for our district is we may have to let teachers go," Wright said. "Because of that we could probably very much expect that we would have larger class sizes."

Five-day school week bill could cause districts to add days to school year

"A bill to force all of Oklahoma's school districts to have five-day weeks could also require schools to add days to their calendars," the News on 6 reports.
The bill would require every school to be in session for 180-days per year. This means Tulsa Public Schools would have to add 14 days to the calendar and Union would have to add 10. 
Officials with other districts say they're concerned about the bill's impact on classes. A recent study also shows 81 percent of parents with children in four-day districts like having their kids out on Fridays.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Oklahoma nonprofit works to make college credit more accessible for rural high school students

The Tulsa World's Kyle Hinchey has the story.

Boren says stopping four-day school weeks ‘should be a top priority of our state government’

In Oklahoma, "far too many schools have only four-day school weeks," former Democratic Gov. David Boren declares. "It should be a top priority of our state government to stop this practice and fund five days for all of our children."

Stillwater News Press defends four-day school weeks

The Stillwater News Press editorial board doesn't like the idea of prohibiting four-day school weeks:
“We’d love to come do business in Oklahoma, but it turns out some of your smaller school districts are only in class four days a week, so we’ll have to pass.”

Let’s go ahead and file that under things that almost certainly have not been said by major companies.

Two bills are running through the Oklahoma Legislature that would mandate five-day school districts, mainly as even our Sen. Tom Dugger has said, because four-day school weeks make us look bad. We probably shouldn’t go into all the things coming out of the Capitol that have made Oklahoma look bad to outsiders, but we can address the school week issue with ease because we have several local districts that use the four-day school week. Here’s the thing—they like it. And whatever happened to wanting local control for districts?

The bills are hedged by the caveats would allow for school districts to remain at four days a week if they can prove it’s saving money and improving student performance. That the burden of proof would retroactively being put on the school districts doesn’t make much sense. If anyone had bothered to ask, they would probably have heard from many districts ready to share proof that the shorter week has been working for them, possibly even helping with teacher retention. And, once districts are able to prove this, and manage to stay at a four-day week, then what becomes of the national perception legislators were worried about? The bills were created to give a better impression of the state, right?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Study finds school choice improves mental health

Staci Elder Hensley has the story.

Former Durant teacher arrested on child porn charges

KFOR has the story.

Taxpayers' ROI on public education is not good, survey says

According to a new survey commissioned by OCPA and conducted by WPA Intelligence, only a third of Oklahoma voters say taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment in public education. Just over half (51 percent) say the ROI is bad.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Hope Scholarship bill for bullied kids fails in committee

"Lawmakers in Oklahoma just voted against a bill that would have given [bullied] students another option," the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia reports

"Senate Bill 570, authored by state Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) and co-authored by state Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City), failed to clear the Senate Education Committee this week, falling on a 10-6 vote," OCPA reports.
Senators who opposed SB 570 were J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso), Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City), Allison Ikley-Freeman (D-Tulsa), Tom Dugger (R-Stillwater), John Haste (R-Broken Arrow), Chris Kidd (R-Waurika), Roland Pederson (R-Burlington), Dewayne Pemberton (R-Muskogee), Paul Scott (R-Duncan), and Jason Smalley (R-Stroud). 
Senators voting in favor were David Bullard (R-Durant), Marty Quinn (R-Claremore), Wayne Shaw (R-Grove), Joe Newhouse (R-Broken Arrow), Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa), and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Edmond).
Parent Jessica Visalli supported the bill. She told the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City that her son "has been beaten multiple times in the head with a fist as he was walking in a classroom at the middle school."

After Moore teacher's actions, mom says first-grader is 'this little boy that is scared of life'

"Mother of three Kaitlyn Proctor said she has spent the last few months fighting to make sure her 7-year-old child, Eli, gets justice," KFOR reports.
“It’s hard now because it’s made him into this little boy that is scared of life,” Proctor said. 
Proctor said, in October, Eli went home crying, saying his legs hurt. The boy told Proctor that his 1st-grade teacher had shoved down his legs. The mom said, through investigation, Plaza Towers Elementary located a video of the incident. While the school declined to release it to us, Proctor described it as horrifying. 
“When I went up there to see the video, she repeatedly shoved his legs down on the ground and held them there, then grabbed him by the throat and lifted him to a standing position,” she said. Proctor said after the school showed her the video, Moore police were called and she filed a report against the teacher. 
“As soon as we found out about the incident, we immediately started investigating and found video of the incident. The police were contacted, and they requested the video. We immediately turned that video over to them,” said Dennis Horstkoetter, director of Safety and Security for Moore Public Schools. The school tells us that the teacher is no longer with the district. 
Now, police said no charges will be brought against her. 
“I am so lost with everything right now. I am speechless,” Proctor said. 
The Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office sent us a statement, saying, in part, “Based upon her review of the charges, it was determined that, although the teacher’s actions were inappropriate, they did not support the filing of a felony child abuse charge due, at least in part, to the lack of any physical harm or injury as well as the nature and extent of the force used.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Wagoner school leaders defend four-day school week

The Wagoner County American Tribune has the story.

Lawmakers advance measures increasing cap for tax credits

The Tulsa World has the story. Senate committee roll call is here. House committee roll call is here.

Compelling op-eds by bill authors Sen. Dave Rader ("Opportunity scholarships are vital to Tulsa’s ongoing renaissance") and Rep. John Echols ("Opportunity scholarships vital to 'Oklahoma's Turnaround'") ran earlier this week in the state's two largest newspapers.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Lawsuit alleges Ponca City school district failed to investigate complaints of sexual assault

"A lawsuit filed against Ponca City Public Schools claims violations of Title IX after the district allegedly failed to investigate complaints of sexual assault on a school trip," KFOR reports.
According to the lawsuit, school district officials conducted “virtually no investigation of the assault” once it was reported. It also states “the principal knew that an identical event occurred to other minors on the same trip by the same two perpetrators and failed to investigate it, as well.”

Putnam City student arrested, accused of bringing weapon to school

News 9 has the story.

Oklahoma school principal accused of child sexual abuse

"An Oklahoma middle school principal has been charged with child abuse and rape after a relative told police he had abused her years earlier," the Associated Press reports.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Choctaw students removed from school after racist incidents

News 9's Dana Hertneky has the story.

Left-wing activist represents 'all that's great' in Oklahoma public schools

The largest and most powerful labor union in the state is the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA).

OEA president Alicia Priest was in the nation’s capital last night for an NEA gala, at which 46 educators from across the country, each nominated by their state affiliates, were awarded for their excellence in public schools.

Pictured below is the OEA union boss with the Oklahoma awardee, Aaron Baker, an 8th-grade social studies teacher from the Mid-Del school district who promotes "radical social justice in Oklahoma public schools." Mr. Baker is Oklahoma’s shining star; he’s our example of educational excellence. He represents "all that’s great" in public schools. 

'The public education that we provide to north Tulsa kids is unconscionable'

"The public education that we provide to north Tulsa kids is unconscionable," writes Don Parker, executive director of KIPP Tulsa.
Tulsa lags the state of Oklahoma average by 25 percent to 74 percent on every proficiency measure at every grade level. Oklahoma scores 42nd out of 50 states in pre-K through 12 education quality, and the U.S. scores are mediocre on international assessments. That is our reality and every conversation about education should start with a clear expression of where we are. Talking about it in less specific terms would make us complicit in the problem.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Proposed tax break would help parents

A few years back, I suggested in the Tulsa World that Oklahoma’s political leaders should appreciate parents who undertake the hard work of educating their own children at home. These parents provide a benefit to society without making demands on budget-conscious politicians. Indeed, according to my back-of-the-envelope calculation, my homeschooling wife and I will save the politicians well over half a million dollars. That’s money they can use to build roads and bridges, incarcerate criminals, or pay public-school teachers.

Now, most parents choose home education because they're committed to it, regardless of the cost. Many of them don't want—indeed would never accept—something like government-funded vouchers. Many would. After all, on occasion the thought has crossed our mind: how about a little something, you know, for the effort?

A tax break, for example. As the Home School Legal Defense Association explains, "tax credits are not funding—rather, they are a way of returning the people’s own money to them. HSLDA believes that tax credits can help homeschoolers avoid the burden of double taxation, and in the past has supported most tax credit bills." (Caveat: "Beware of legislation that may seem like an educational tax credit but is really a 'refundable tax credit.' A regular educational tax credit reduces your total tax burden on a dollar-for-dollar basis, whereas refundable tax credits apply even if you don’t have a tax bill. Refundable tax credits are vouchers in disguise.")

One hopes they'll support this one: House Bill 1160 by Oklahoma state Rep. Rande Worthen (R-Lawton). The bill provides a non-refundable tax credit for homeschoolers, for private-school parents, and even for some public-school parents. And it appears to be a popular idea. A statewide survey of registered Oklahoma voters was commissioned by OCPA and conducted from January 29 to January 31 by WPA Intelligence, a highly respected firm. (One of the firm's clients, Sen. Ted Cruz, says "the team at WPAi are the best in business and I am proud to have had them as the pollsters for my presidential campaign." WPAi also did the polling for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's campaign.) Here's the relevant question:
“A proposal has been made to enact an individual tax credit for approved educational expenses. Oklahoma parents could receive a state tax credit of up to $2,500 per child for public-school expenses such as costs for band instruments and uniforms, athletic equipment, and other public-school activities. Or, they could receive the tax credit for costs associated with private school tuition or homeschooling. Would you support or oppose this proposal?”
  • Strongly support … 42%
  • Somewhat support … 22%
  • Somewhat oppose … 11%
  • Strongly oppose … 17%
  • TOTAL OPPOSE … 28%
  • Don’t know/refused … 8%
Most homeschooling parents are going to homeschool with or without a tax break. But for some parents, a tax break like this could be what enables them to choose traditional homeschooling over a traditional public school or an online public school. Here's hoping this legislation receives due consideration.

[UPDATE: The legislation cleared its first hurdle.]

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Scholarship tax credits generate great outcomes

The editorial board of the state's largest newspaper praises an important school-choice program.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Epic mom: 'The anxiety is gone, the stress is gone, the meltdowns are gone'

Bethany Cowan's 12-year-old son, Jacob, attends Epic Charter School. She told the News on 6:
“There was a lot of anxiety, every day we had tears getting ready for school. ... Jacob needed something different. ... I really, really am happy with who he is becoming as a person at Epic. The anxiety is gone, the stress is gone, the meltdowns are gone."

Monday, February 4, 2019

Duncan Public Schools responds to students' racist video

"Duncan Public Schools is responding after one of its students posted a racist video on social media," KSWO reports. "DPS issued this statement on its Facebook page Friday night:
This evening we became aware of a racially inappropriate and offensive post on social media which involves former and current Duncan High School students. This post was made outside of school hours and off campus. Students seeing the post informed DHS teachers and administration. We are in the process of investigating this matter and will take appropriate action to address the posting of this video as well as any disciplinary consequences to follow. We are disappointed and saddened to know that our students have been involved in such racially offensive conduct. 
Duncan High School and Duncan Public Schools do not condone the language used or any content in this post. Racial harassment, prejudice, intolerance, and hate is unacceptable in any form. We take any kind of harassment and bullying seriously.
We know we will need to engage our students, parents, and community in discussions about racism and hate based on these students’ actions. We will reach out to you soon to help us shape the best venue for this conversation.

We call on our parents, students, and community to partner with us to end racism, bullying, and hate. We believe that all our students should feel safe and welcomed both at school and in our community. Please help our cause by modeling appropriate use of social media for students. Also help our cause by informing school administrators when problems occur.

Thank you,

Wade Hampton, Duncan High School Principal

Melonie Hau, Duncan Public Schools Superintendent

Edmond Public Schools looking at installing new security features, including shatterproof glass

"Shatterproof glass and special entrances are among a number of security measures Edmond Public Schools officials are looking at to keep children safe," KOCO reports.
"The extremes, now with the violence, has really elevated that conversation," Superintendent Bret Towne said. "It's one of those things you lose sleep over as a superintendent."

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Four-day week? Dibble supports local control

"The Dibble Board of Education and I are strongly in support of local control," says superintendent Chad Clanton.