Friday, February 28, 2020

Lawmakers prop up OEA/NEA despite radicalism

If transgender reading day occurs at your child’s school, don’t just blame the OEA/NEA. Ask the Oklahoma Republicans who control the state legislature why they continue to preserve the union’s grip on local schools.

Parents justified in student privacy concerns

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Recently, thousands of Oklahoma students’ names and home addresses were obtained from the Oklahoma State Department of Education and used for mailers. Parents were understandably upset.

In Arizona, the state Department of Education released parent names and individual account information for more than 7,000 student-beneficiaries of a school-choice program. Parents were understandably upset.

But now Oklahoma lawmakers are telling parents not to worry about student privacy, even though newly passed legislation mandates reporting requirements that experts believe could allow identification of individual students.

House Bill 1230 imposes new regulations for the Lindsey Nicole Henry (LNH) Scholarship Program that include releasing LNH data by school site and recipient demographics including race, income, and disability. Families are rightfully concerned by those requirements because the legislation did not include student-privacy safeguards typically included in other reporting mandates.

It’s not unreasonable for parents to worry that it won’t take long for people to identify students by name if a report shows a private school has just a handful of LNH recipients and one is a low-income black child with autism.

Children served by LNH private-school scholarships either have special needs, such as autism, or are foster and adopted children. Many are survivors of abuse—including, at times, severe bullying in public schools that prompted suicide attempts before the LNH program provided an alternative. Why should the state make it possible for those children’s former tormentors to identify them and their new school? And why should the state allow anti-school-choice radicals to identify specific families? If you don’t think there’s reason for concern on that front, you have not seen the vitriol school-choice opponents aim at low-income families online.

LNH recipients are not unreasonable in expecting privacy to be safeguarded because those protections are given elsewhere to other students. For example, when state testing results are released by school district, the data is withheld in instances where the number of test-taking students is so low that reporting on results could allow identification by inference.

The children with special needs targeted by HB 1230 deserve comparable protections.

The Republican Party often presents itself as a champion of deregulation in the name of individual liberty and job creation. President Trump has slashed regulations at the federal level, which experts agree has contributed to strong economic growth. At the state level, Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to cut regulations by 25 percent. So why has a GOP-controlled Legislature chosen to head the opposite direction when it comes to a program that serves needy children?

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs believes in accountability. But the troubling provisions of HB 1230 do nothing to deter or identify potential fraud. They only create potential hardship for families that already face more than their fair share of challenges. To make Oklahoma a place where more families can thrive, Oklahoma policymakers should stand up for those families, not add to their burdens.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Oklahoma teacher arrested on sexual battery, blackmail complaints

KOCO has the story.

Jenks students fight while others egg them on, capture the fight on video

"Jenks Public Schools issued a message in regards to a fight that occurred on Wednesday at Jenks Middle School," KJRH reports.
"Many students who were not involved in the fight were recording the fight on their phones or encouraging students to continue fighting. This behavior also violates Jenks Public Schools' policy, as it can compromise student safety. All students have been reminded of the expectations for appropriate behavior," said Jenks officials.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

'Necessarily'

"Tulsa Public Schools is addressing sex at school, after an incident at Booker T. Washington High," KTUL reports. "Administrators say three students went into a bathroom and had sex. ... 'It's normal for young people to be exploring and like figuring things out. I can't say it is normal to have sex at school necessarily,' explained Stephanie Andrews, director of student engagement."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Charges filed against Mid-Del teacher accused of body slamming his own student

"A Jarman Middle School student is recovering after allegedly being body-slammed by his own teacher," KFOR reports.
“He was crying. You could tell that his body was hurting. Mr. Heffington put his hands on my son and body slammed him to the ground,” said the student’s mom. 
Court documents just filed in Oklahoma County District Court Friday back the claims up. Forty-eight-year-old Blaine Heffington is now charged with assault and battery of a school student. Midwest City police say he picked the student up by his rib cage, threw him to the ground and then laid on top of him. 
“It’s just sickening,” said his mom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Crossover Prep featured at Governor's Prayer Breakfast

School choice is transforming lives in north Tulsa. And Crossover Prep founder Philip Abode acknowledges frankly, "Our school doesn’t exist without the tax-credit scholarships." 

Here's a video that was shown yesterday at the Governor's Prayer Breakfast.

Man accused of making threats against Edmond schools years after bomb plot conviction

KOCO has the story.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Unnecessary and burdensome, HB 1230 raises privacy concerns

Some thoughts on HB 1230, which places more strings on the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program.
  • Accountability is vitally important, but it makes no sense to impose upon a market an accountability system designed to regulate a monopoly. Government regulations are a pale imitation of the true accountability system—accountability to parents. As political scientist Greg Foster says, "there is no real need to regulate private schools, in choice programs or otherwise, for anything other than health and safety."
  • This is especially true when one realizes that public schools are not accountable. Indeed, as one retired public school teacher puts it, "there is no entity in America that is less accountable than a government-run school system."
  • Republicans believe in reducing, not increasing, red tape. President Donald Trump boasts of a “record number of regulations eliminated” while Gov. Kevin Stitt is aiming for a 25 percent reduction in regulations by the end of his term.
  • Submitting extensive data to government officials to publish online raises serious privacy concerns:
    • Just last month, for example, we learned that the Arizona Department of Education handed over a spreadsheet containing private data on participating school-choice families to a group that wants to shut down school-choice programs. "The sheet gave the names and email addresses of more than 7,000 parents, the grades their children are in, and the children’s disabilities (if any)," Dr. Forster writes. "While the private data had been superficially covered, mandatory steps to prevent the process from being reversed—revealing the data—had not been taken."
    • The Oklahoma Department of Education (OSDE), similarly no fan of school choice, has also demonstrated a recent willingness to cooperate with the organized left.
    • Oklahoma Watch reported on Feb. 14 that thousands of Oklahoma students received recruitment flyers in the mail from a virtual charter school and that "parents are furious about the school’s access to children’s names and home addresses." The school’s attorney, Drew Edmondson, said the school got the information from the OSDE website. "This is a violation of privacy and safety," says one Noble Public Schools board member. "We have received alarming complaints," says state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
  • The only failed example of private-school choice in U.S. history is school vouchers in Louisiana, Dr. Forster writes, where, because of overregulation, participation rates by private schools were catastrophically low. "The problem was not any one obviously bad regulation. There was no 'poison pill.' Each individual regulation, by itself, was not a dealbreaker. The problem was the accumulated weight of many intrusive regulations, whose combined burden was far greater than expected. One important aspect of that was the clear signals that the schools got from the government that more regulations would be coming in the future. Private schools told the program’s evaluators that they didn’t want to sign up to be subject to unpredictable future creation of regulatory liabilities."
  • Dr. Donnie Peal, executive director of the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission (OPSAC), reminds us that Oklahoma private schools are already accountable to state and federal governmental entities as well as to OPSAC, which works in collaboration with and on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Dr. Peal says HB 1230 is unnecessary.

UPDATES:
  • "Legislation imposing new reporting mandates on a school-choice program has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives," Ray Carter reported Feb. 19, "even though the legislation does not include specific student-privacy protections that ensure compliance with federal law."
  • The day after HB1230 passed the House, the bill's author, state Rep. Mark McBride, flipped off and verbally attacked OCPA president Jonathan Small in the state Capitol building. As Small recounts the incident, McBride's words "included saying I was the 'f' word at least twice, calling me a piece of 's----' twice, saying I was worthless twice, twice referring to me as a derogatory word for male genitalia, and twice telling me to 'scat' like I was some sort of animal."
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt signed HB 1230 into law.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

OKC teachers alarmed and exhausted as fights escalate

"Oklahoma City Public Schools reports 1,959 students were involved in fights at school the first semester of this school year, up 438 from the first semester of last school year," Brett Dickerson reports. "The first semester of last school year (2018-2019) 1,521 students were involved in some sort of fight according to the district’s spokespersons. And, the constant struggle of violence in Oklahoma’s largest and most urban of school districts with around 35,500 students is wearing down its teachers."

Friday, February 14, 2020

Stark difference in views of children

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell are pictured here outside the state Capitol with students and staff from Crossover Preparatory Academy after the State of the State address on February 3, 2020.

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

In education debates, some people see children whose lives can be immeasurably improved, while others see children only as tools to gain political power. This sad contrast became glaringly apparent during Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent State of the State speech.

Stitt urged lawmakers to raise the cap on the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program in order to “provide additional incentives for donors, resulting in more public-school grants and private-school scholarships.”

In attendance were Alegra Williams and her sons, Sincere and Chaves. When Sincere attended a local public school, he struggled and officials told Williams he had learning disabilities. But when a tax-credit scholarship allowed Sincere to attend Crossover Preparatory Academy, an all-boys private school in north Tulsa, Sincere jumped two-and-a-half reading levels. Crossover officials found he has no learning disabilities. Similarly, Chaves jumped three reading grade levels. Tax-credit scholarships allowed both boys to attend Crossover.

In touting his support for raising the cap on the tax-credit scholarship program, Stitt called on lawmakers to “join me and their mom in applauding” Chaves and Sincere’s “hard work this year.” When he did, the official Twitter account of the Oklahoma Education Association complained that Stitt had “called for a standing ovation of a family that left public schools for a private.”

For the OEA and similar entities, the success of children like Chaves and Sincere cannot be cheered. They view such children’s success only as a loss of political power. The OEA’s action was reminiscent of congressional Democrats’ refusal to applaud record-low unemployment for racial minorities and blue-collar income gains during President Donald Trump’s recent State of the Union address.

Trump, by the way, echoed Stitt and endorsed a federal version of Oklahoma’s Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act in his speech, saying the “next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

Supporting tax-credit scholarships and children like Sincere does not mean abandoning efforts to improve traditional public schools. Given that Oklahoma’s educational outcomes remain among the nation’s worst, we cannot afford to ignore those schools. But neither can we afford to squander children’s lives by telling them to expend their limited school years waiting for traditional schools to get their act together.

Like the Soviet Union’s old “five year plans,” the “turnaround” efforts of many local districts lead only to calls for more multi-year improvement programs. In the meantime, all 13 years of a child’s K-12 experience fly by and those youth are robbed of a quality education.

Even if the OEA doesn’t understand this, Governor Stitt and President Trump realize we are talking about children’s lives and Oklahoma’s future. For both to be brighter, Oklahoma lawmakers must side with Stitt and Trump, not the OEA.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Concerns growing that lockdown drills may traumatize students

"Ninety-five percent of American public schools conduct some form of regular active shooter safety drill—sometimes called a lockdown or active threat drill—according to the National Center for Education Statistics," Anya Kamenetz reports over at Public Radio Tulsa.
But concerns are growing that these drills have not been proven effective in preventing violence and that they may even traumatize some students. Now the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety is joining with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—the nation's largest education unions, with several million members—in calling for schools to reassess the use of lockdown drills.

Monday, February 10, 2020

How much money does a government school monopoly need?


"In Oklahoma as elsewhere, there is no upper limit to demands for more money from a government school system that has consistently squandered regular spending increases," Greg Forster writes. "It’s been the same story year after year, for decades. However much we spend, it’s never enough; however big the spending increase is, it’s still so small that expecting to see any results from it is unreasonable. 'Adequate funding,' like Neverland, is always somewhere far beyond the horizon, no matter how far we travel."

Jury trial begins for former Broken Arrow Teacher of the Year

"The jury trial for former Broken Arrow elementary teacher Edward Lee Hodge starts on Monday at the Tulsa County District Court," KJRH reports. "The 55-year-old Hodge is accused of seven counts of lewd molestation for allegedly touching female students inappropriately."

UPDATE: "Hodge was found not guilty on all seven counts of lewd molestation charges," the News on 6 reports.

Most teens experience mostly negative emotions at school

"It's supposed to be the best time in your life, but a new study finds that U.S. high school students have mostly negative feelings throughout their school day," UPI reports. "Surveying nearly 22,000 students nationwide, researchers found about 75 percent expressed boredom, anger, sadness, fear, or stress. Girls were slightly more negative than boys, according to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center researchers."

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Seemingly harmless choice regulations compromise families' privacy

"The more private, personal data the state collects—or requires schools to collect and send it—the less privacy we all have," Greg Forster writes.

Test monitor, bus driver gives inappropriate note to Edmond seventh-grader

"An Edmond mom says her son was sent home with an inappropriate note written by his school bus driver," KFOR reports.
“News Four is concealing this mother’s identity to protect her son, a seventh-grader at Cheyenne Middle School. She says he came home Friday with a note in his backpack written by his bus driver. 
She read aloud some of the note: 'I’m writing this note to you because as you know when school is out, there’s really no time to talk, just a quick hug. For some time, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about spending time together with you and I. Maybe with some other friends of yours? What do you think? I really want to be friends with you and every once in a while, hang out together to play, talk, etc. Yes! I am a grown up, but I like friendship with kids like you. Tell me what you think, no pressure though.' ... 
"I am very worried that he’s going to go to other districts," she says.

Four-day week advocates blame Hofmeister for 'unfair' requirements

"A group calling for an end to the state’s new four-day school week criteria will rally at the Capitol Friday morning accusing the state’s education leader of masterminding a plan that could lead to the closure of dozens of rural districts," News 9 reports.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Vinita teacher suspended after sharing nude photo

The News on 6 has the story.

Trump is right to call them 'government schools'

"'Government school' is the most accurate term to use," Corey DeAngelis writes. "The schools are government-run and government-funded. This fact makes people who defend the government-run school system very uncomfortable."

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Trump, Stitt both support tax-credit scholarships

"President Donald Trump urged Congress to advance a federal tax-credit scholarship during his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, just one day after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt urged state lawmakers to expand Oklahoma’s version of the same program," Ray Carter reports.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Bixby, Deer Creek continue to siphon money from public schools


Broken Arrow, Owasso, Edmond, and several other school districts are guilty too, according to the latest enrollment-growth data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE). For shame!

Saturday, February 1, 2020