Friday, July 31, 2020

Stitt addresses real need with education plan

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]

Governor Kevin Stitt’s background as a businessman is often apparent in his understanding of financial realities that traditional politicians ignore. Hence, the governor’s willingness to save, rather than spend, much of last year’s budget surplus.

But Stitt’s “Stay in School” initiative highlights another benefit of his private-sector expertise: the governor’s understanding that Oklahoma cannot afford to squander human capital.

Stitt’s plan uses $10 million in federal COVID funding to help low-income families served by private schools. More than 1,500 Oklahoma families will be able to access $6,500 apiece to attend private schools.

Contrary to teacher-union wailing, Stitt isn’t “starving” public schools in the process. The $10 million is a small share of the state’s overall $360 million in federal funding designated for education response to COVID-19.

But even if that wasn’t the case, there’s good reason to praise Stitt’s bold leadership. A longstanding problem in Oklahoma (and nationwide) is the existence of a huge academic achievement gap between low-income students in the urban core and their counterparts from higher-income households.

That gap is often a canyon. To cite just one brutal example, just 22 male African American senior students finished Tulsa Public Schools college-ready in 2015, based on ACT testing. Not 22 percent, mind you, but 22 young men—period.

That gap exists not because those children are somehow incapable of learning, but because the system fails them. And experts agree the COVID shutdown last spring made things worse. Across Oklahoma, many schools effectively stopped teaching in March. Higher-income families could afford to offset that loss with private tutoring or the purchase of quality online programing, but lower-income students were often left to fend for themselves.

Often—but not always.

Some of Oklahoma’s private schools had stepped up to the plate long before anyone had heard of COVID. Crossover Preparatory Academy serves mostly working-class minority male students in grades six through nine in north Tulsa. Those students continued to learn even after public schools effectively shut down. So did homeless children served by Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City and the low-income, predominantly minority students served by Cristo Rey OKC Catholic High School.

Students at all three of those schools are expected to benefit from Stitt’s “Stay in School” initiative.

In contrast, many of Oklahoma’s urban schools are expected to remain closed and offer only online learning for at least nine weeks of this school year. An analysis by consultants at McKinsey and Company estimated that if in-class instruction does not resume until January 2021, low-income students will lose more than a full year of learning because of poor quality or non-existent online instruction.

The “COVID slide” has been called the “summer slide on steroids.” Stitt’s plan provides real hope to needy families who would otherwise be dragged down by that academic avalanche.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Generation Citizen disapproves of Trump directive on illegal aliens

A directive from President Trump bans the counting of illegal aliens for the purpose of congressional apportionment. The inaptly named Generation Citizen, a liberal nonprofit active in Oklahoma classrooms, disapproves of the president's action.

OKC public schools training equates racism to COVID-19

"A mental-health training event conducted this week by Oklahoma City Public Schools declares that violence against racial minorities is a pandemic comparable to COVID-19," Ray Carter reports. "The event—“Back to School 2020: Mental Health in the Dual Pandemics of COVID-19 & Systemic Racism”—is being conducted on July 27 and 28."

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Bee can really sting

Oologah-Talala's response to student abuse raises questions

"Officials from the Oologah-Talala Public Schools, recently rebuked by the State Board of Education for failing to take seriously repeated accusations of sexual misconduct by teachers, provided an update to state board members during the group’s Thursday meeting," Ray Carter reports. "But details of that update, combined with the sometimes-defiant tone of the presentation, may have raised additional questions about whether the district is taking the sexual-abuse-allegations issue seriously."

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Are teachers unions' reactions to coronavirus accidentally creating school choice?

"Paradoxically," writes Lindsey Burke, "the teachers unions may be enabling the free-market, parent-driven reform of K-12 education to unfold."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Education opportunity to increase statewide under Stitt plan

"In an announcement that gained praise from national education leaders, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday he will use millions of dollars in federal COVID funds to increase educational opportunity across Oklahoma, boosting financial resources for students, families, and schools across the state," Ray Carter reports.
Among other things, Stitt’s plan will boost online course offerings in rural schools, close the digital divide for low-income families by assisting with technology purchases, and provide scholarship assistance so low-income students who already attend private schools can continue doing so. ...
Stitt’s plan will use $30 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, authorized by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to pay for three new programs. GEER funds represent a portion of total federal COVID-19 funding provided to the state of Oklahoma and are controlled by the governor. Oklahoma received $360 million total in federal funding for Oklahoma’s public education systems to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, of which $39.9 million was directed to the GEER Fund.

Thirty million dollars will be divided between three new education initiatives: Learn Anywhere Oklahoma, Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet, and Stay in School Funds.
Here's a primer on how to use the digital wallet: