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."

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.

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.