Thursday, October 6, 2022

As radical teachers complain, HB 1775 author says it is ‘doing what it is supposed to do’

"When Oklahoma lawmakers voted to prohibit the teaching of racial superiority and other concepts broadly associated with Critical Race Theory through the passage of House Bill 1775, opponents argued such instruction was not occurring in state classrooms," Ray Carter reports. "But some teachers—including one self-described radical—are indirectly indicating those concepts have been routinely infused into classroom instruction by declaring the law is now impeding their work. One of the bill’s authors views that as a sign of success."

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Hypervigilance is not the price of liberty

When it comes to resisting government encroachment, eternal vigilance is important. Hats off to the many libertarians, liberty-loving homeschoolers, and others who are always diligent about emphasizing this point.

But they can take it too far. Yesterday on The Tom Woods Show (at the 34:30 mark), Corey DeAngelis gave an answer to those on the right who oppose school choice out of fear that government strings will accompany government money.

My simple response to that is that we can’t make perfect the enemy of the good. … Because whether we like it or not, in the current situation we don't have utopia. We have 9 out of 10 kids stuck in government-run schools today that are totally controlled and operated by the government. And out of the 60 or 70 existing school choice programs in the nation, and throughout U.S. history, there’s never been a school choice program that forces any family to take the money. … 

If you were forced to take the money and the regulations, I’d be against it. But there is no program, from what I can tell, that has ever existed that has forced families to take the funding.

So it’s a cost-benefit decision that each individual family should be able to make for themselves. But at the same time, you shouldn't be able to tell another family that they can't make that cost-benefit decision for themselves.

And the other part of this is that, look, the government can regulate private and home education already.This is not a school choice issue; this is an issue of electing the politicians who are going to trample on your rights or not. I mean, look at Oregon in 1922: they outlawed private education in Oregon. Thankfully, three years later the U.S. Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters ruled that “the child is not the mere creature of the State” and thankfully overturned that authoritarian law. …

But there's another doomsday scenario that is I would say more likely than what is being argued by some libertarians who say that school choice could lead to government control of private education. And that scenario is that we have 9 out of 10 kids going to government schools today. They're being indoctrinated to grow up to vote like little socialists later on in life. And when they go through that process they're more likely to vote to regulate private and home education in the future. We should be more concerned about that than giving families the choice to accept the money or not today. And the benefit of doing that and having school choice and giving families that option is that you've built a broader coalition to fight back against those future calls for regulation: You get more people experiencing private education, you'll have a bigger “special interest,” if you will, to fight back against tyrants’ calls to regulate private and home education. And then the other benefit is if more people are using private and home education in the short run, then the idea will become more mainstream. If the concept is more mainstream, the rest of society should be less likely to call to regulate it. So both of those things work in our favor and those are arguments as to why we should support school choice and allowing families to have the choice to take the money or not.

Look, I’m with you. I’m an anarcho-capitalist. I don’t want any government involvement in anything, particularly in education. But if we’re going to spend the money, and if we're in a scenario where we already are spending the money, then we’ve got to make decisions about incremental reforms that are going to work in our favor to reduce government control of our lives. And a policy reform that's working right now that we're winning on is school choice. My takeaway is that we should take the W or else we're going to be stuck with the L.

And what's funny to me is, we've mentioned Randi Weingarten a couple of times already, is that she's repeated the same argument on Twitter: oh, you know, school choice is going to control private education. Do you think Randi Weingarten is some anarcho-capitalist libertarian who just hates government involvement in private education? No, absolutely not. Randi Weingarten loves big government. And she’s only repeating this argument because she knows that if it gets more traction and is successful in blocking school choice, well then she's going to keep her gravy train going and kids are going to continue to be stuck in government-run institutions that are controlled by her union. So when you're on the side of Randi Weingarten in this debate and the teachers union, you're probably on the wrong side and you’re probably overthinking things.

And by the way, every single policy reform (and so does the status quo) has a set of costs and benefits associated with it. As Thomas Sowell once said, “there are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.” And there are trade-offs with every policy solution that's proposed and the status quo has trade-offs as well. And what people are doing when they're fearmongering about school choice policies is they are focusing on potential future costs of the school choice policy while ignoring all of the huge guaranteed costs that already exist today of cementing the teachers union monopoly. We’ve got to make these types of decisions and I think parents are in the best position to make these decisions for their own kids. And because they're not forced to take the money and families can make the cost-benefit decision to accept the funding or not, I think we should allow them to have that choice.

Vigilance is healthy and reasonable. Hypervigilance, not so much.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Eternal vigilance needed—with or without school choice

"Private school advocates were shocked by two federal court decisions this summer declaring that private schools with tax-exempt status must comply with federal Title IX regulations," the Council for American Private Education reports.

These entirely unexpected rulings—one from Maryland and one from California—represent a stark departure from the previous understanding of the situation. Until now, it was widely understood that private schools were only subject to Title IX if they accepted federal funds. In order to be free of such federal obligations, many private schools have long declined to accept federal funds. Under these new rulings, however, private schools that claim tax-exempt status would have to comply with Title IX even if they do not take federal funds. Such a state of affairs would have enormous implications for private schools, and indeed all nonprofit organizations.

As I never tire of repeating to school choice foes on the right, the government can and does pile on regulations whether or not school choice programs are involved. 

Tulsa mother says son is suffering mentally after allegedly being attacked by a school dean

 FOX 23 has the story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Numerous allegations, 'but the conduct continued'

"A former Union High School theater teacher has voluntarily surrendered his teaching certificate after state officials received troubling allegations from nearly two dozen current and former students," the Tulsa World reports.

Tranned Books Week is finally over

Trent England and I discuss the made-for-media pseudo-event here.

Oklahoma testing results continue to disappoint

Despite record-high levels of funding, Ray Carter reports, a large majority of Oklahoma students in all grades and subjects are not proficient in academic performance.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Tulsa student says he was jumped for being transgender

 FOX 23 has the story.

Tonkawa student facing charges after fight

"A fight that broke out is now landing a Tonkawa Mid High School student in the state’s Juvenile District Court as she faces assault and battery charges," KFOR reports. "Leading up the fight, the victim’s mother, Bridget Ward, said her daughter has been constantly bullied by a group of female students."

Loaded gun found at Putnam City North, student taken into custody

News 9 has the story.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

School-driven suicide: How to break the cycle

"A new analysis shows that children’s risk of suicide increases by as much as 43% during school months," Mary Hall reports.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Oklahoma parent sounds the alarm on teacher directing students to 'pornographic' books

"I am not championing a cause against anything other than the dissemination of pornographic materials to children," the parent says.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The effect of private school choice regulations on school participation

"Private school choice programs’ success depends partly on the supply of private schools," a new paper reminds us.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Friday, August 5, 2022

Pro-LGBTQ Oklahoma teacher says 'we have big, big plans ahead'

“A high school teacher who’s established himself as an ally for LGBTQ+ students said he’ll refuse to comply with the [transgender bathroom] law if he’s required to monitor bathroom use by his administrators,” Ari Fife reports.
Putnam City North High School teacher and Gender and Sexuality Alliance faculty advisor Aaron Baker said he’s seen most of his trans students opt to use private bathrooms in his three years at the school. Still, he acknowledged that this method of bathroom use isn’t ideal for those students. Baker said if there aren’t legal repercussions for doing so, he plans to refuse to report students to administrators, even if classmates claim they’re breaking the law. While he said he’s unsure whether it will be possible, he hopes that teachers, parents, and students at his school can come to an agreement that refusing to comply with the law is the right thing to do. “As a building and as a student organization, we’re seeing more success than ever before,” Baker said, citing a $10,000 grant from the It Gets Better Project that the school recently received to expand the reach of its Gender and Sexuality Alliance. “So we have big, big plans ahead regardless of what the legislature is planning on our behalf.”

Monday, August 1, 2022

Pornography in Oklahoma public schools

"Unless the parent constantly checks their child’s iPad or Chromebook," UnWokable asks, "how would they know if their child checked out a pornographic book during the school day on their school device?"

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Putnam City school gets Gay-Straight grant

"Putnam City North High School has received a $10,000 grant from the It Gets Better Project to expand 'the reach' of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance," Ray Carter reports.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Lankford denounces NEA as union touts its Oklahoma influence

"U.S. Sen. James Lankford has denounced a National Education Association (NEA) proposal to compile what he calls an 'enemies list' of groups that have opposed Critical Race Theory in schools and similar left-wing agendas," Ray Carter reports.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Eternal vigilance needed

Private schools are already subject to all manner of state and federal requirements. And as recent news from famously-school-choiceless Texas and New York reminds us, the government can try to pile on more regulations whether or not a state has school choice programs. "States already can and do regulate private schools," Matt Ladner and Ginny Gentles remind us. New York's proposed new regulations come "despite the absence of any choice program in New York."

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Tulsa school board votes to continue Chinese Communist-funded program

School board member E'Lena Ashley, a black single mom with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, was the lone "no" vote.

Tulsa blogger Michael Bates provides some valuable background information. "You may have heard of the Confucius Institute," he writes, "which established centers for the study of Chinese language and culture, funded by the Chinese Communist Party, on dozens of American college campuses, including the University of Oklahoma. Confucius Classroom is the K-12 arm of the same initiative: To plant Chinese Communist agents in schools across America to propagandize on behalf of the butchers of Beijing and shape the rising generation's perspective of the totalitarians that crush political dissent in Tienanmen Square and Hong Kong, enslave Uyghur Muslims, persecute Christians and other religions, and unleashed a deadly virus that shut down the world's economy."

At teacher union conventions, indoctrination eclipses education

OEA members are pictured here in 2019 with NEA president Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a.

"As a teacher, I attended the National Education Association convention last week, and my worst fears were confirmed," Brenda Lebsack writes this week. For example, Mike Antonucci adds, convention delegates committed the NEA "to take a number of specific actions in support of abortion rights."

Meanwhile, "proposed resolutions under consideration at the annual convention for the American Federation of Teachers this week include vows to support critical race theory, classroom discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation, and demands for student loan forgiveness," Jeremiah Poff reports. Or as our communist friends over at People's World report: "Impeach three Trump Justices, and kill filibuster, AFT resolutions demand."

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Mother sues Miami Public Schools for alleged violent actions against son

"A mother sues Miami Public Schools claiming an employee violently grabbed her son and dragged him across a classroom by his head," KOAM reports."Kendra Parker is suing the school district on behalf of her son. ... Court documents state her son was 7 years old and was previously diagnosed with autism. According to court documents, Parker alleges her child suffered severe and serious injuries while at school. She claims an employee 'negligently and recklessly used unreasonable and inappropriate discipline' against her child 'while he was entrusted to her custody, care, and control.' As a result, Parker alleges her son suffered severe and serious physical and emotional trauma."

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Former Marlow teacher pleads guilty to sexual battery of student

The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma is here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Parents have questions after incidents at Carter County school

Healdton police began an investigation last month, Lexy French reports, after a 25-year-old school employee "was found in a cleaning supplies closet with a 16-year-old special needs student."

Friday, June 17, 2022

'To them, apparently, only rich people should have school choice'

"Dozens of elected Democrats at the state and national level, who have publicly criticized or actively opposed private school choice measures, have personally benefited in some way from private schooling," Jessica Chasmar reports. "Fox News Digital has highlighted some of the most notable private school choice opponents who either attended private school, sent their children to private school, or both." 

They include President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

With education ‘on the wrong track,’ Oklahomans support parental choice

Only 40% of Oklahoma parents say they would choose a regular public school if given the option—while 56% would choose something else.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Tackling the 'exodus' claim

"Critics of education choice claim that introducing and expanding choice programs will lead to a massive exodus of students," Martin Lueken and Michael Castro write

It won't.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Oklahoma House supports new school standards promoting abortion?

"Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have approved legislation that would force the State Board of Education to adopt new academic standards for health education," Ray Carter reports. "Critics are concerned the proposed replacement standards may allow school officials to promote abortion in a classroom setting."

Friday, May 20, 2022

Lawmaker says 'rape is happening' in Tulsa schools

“Rape is happening right now in today’s schools,” says state Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa). “They go unreported, right there in Tulsa.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Deer Creek hires pro-CRT group

"The Deer Creek school district has hired the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice (OCCJ) to provide up to 13 workshops whose objectives include a focus on 'diversity, inclusion, implicit bias, and inclusive leadership,'" Ray Carter reports. "Notably, a blog post on OCCJ’s website touts Critical Race Theory (CRT) as an important 'means of learning and education that acknowledges our country’s history of colonization and enslavement.' The OCCJ blog also appears to tout Marxism."

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

School spending surge brings complaints, not improvement

Oklahoma public schools “have more money than they’ve ever had in the history of the state," one House leader notes, "and it’s not even close.”

Monday, May 2, 2022

Let’s appreciate homeschool teachers

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to celebrate the 3.6 million school teachers in this country, including some 421,000 working in private schools.

But there are many other teachers who also deserve our gratitude, including one who lives under my own roof. The very picture of unselfishness, for years Susie Dutcher has gone about her work each day with a quiet strength and dignity, often toiling into the wee hours over essays and worksheets and lesson plans for our homeschooled children.

“She looks well to the ways of her household,” as the proverb says, “and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

“I respect your public service,” she once testified in the nation’s capital before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. “And I hope you respect my public service, which consists of providing the public with one healthy family, comprised of well-adjusted, productive individuals.

“Because of the time and money and energy I invest in their lives,” she said, “I believe my children will grow up to do great things.”

Economists tell us the difficult work of childrearing provides a benefit to society (I believe the term is “positive fiscal externality”). “Everyone benefits from having a next generation in place to sustain the society and keep its institutions going,” writes Jennifer Roback Morse. “In modern developed countries, the family saves the state money by taking care of its own dependent young, rather than foisting that responsibility onto the taxpayers.”

Our political leaders should appreciate these parents, including those mothers who educate their own children. These teachers build human capital without making demands on budget-conscious appropriators already besieged with requests from competing interests.

After all, policymakers don’t have to provide my children’s teacher a salary, health and retirement benefits, and so on. Indeed, her family’s tax dollars help pay the salaries of public school teachers. She pays for school breakfasts and lunches, too—both for our own children and for the children of our fellow citizens. She buys her own school supplies (without the tax deduction, alas, that other teachers enjoy) and also buys school supplies for others.

When it’s all said and done, her hard work of educating our children will have saved our political leaders well over half a million dollars. That’s money they can use to build roads and bridges, incarcerate criminals, or pay schoolteachers.

Imagine how much money politicians would have to come up with—not only current expenditures but also construction costs—if a few million homeschooled students showed up at public schools nationwide tomorrow morning wanting to enroll.

My children’s teacher is not a professional. She’s an amateur, a word that traces to the Latin amare (“to love”).

“Rather than an exchange,” economist John D. Mueller explains, “love is best described in economic theory as a gift or voluntary ‘transfer payment’—that is, as a voluntary distribution out of one’s resources not made in compensation for useful services rendered.”

As she told the senators that day, “I used to be a schoolteacher, and certainly the salary and benefits I could earn teaching school would improve our material well-being. But some checks can’t be cashed at the bank: My son, when he was 3 years old, said to me one day, ‘I’m proud of you ‘cause you do the right things. Like take a shower, and fix my breakfast … Those kind of things.’

“I know it’s all worth it when we’re on the floor playing with blocks and I notice out of the corner of my eye that he has stopped playing and is staring at me like a smitten young man. ‘I love the way you talk,’ he said to me. ‘And I love the way you smell.’

“‘How do I smell?’ I asked.

“‘Like a mommy.’ ”

That little boy’s all grown up now, doing a residency in orthopedic surgery—thanks to his teacher, who very much deserves our appreciation.

[An earlier version of this article (now behind a paywall, alas) appeared in the Tulsa World.]

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Edmond teens could face charges after allegedly sexually assaulting girl

"Two teenagers in Edmond could face charges after police said they forced themselves on a 14-year-old girl," KOCO reports. "The victim said some boys stole her phone while they were on a school bus in late March. A police report says the suspects told the girl she could have her phone back if she did sexual things with them. The girl said they grabbed her by the arms and pulled her inside a house in a neighborhood near Edmond North High School, according to the report. She said the boys then sexually assaulted her."

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Did state superintendent candidate violate reporting law?

"The 2022 race for Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction may already be historically notable, but not for a positive reason," Ray Carter reports. "As voters consider the campaign pitches of the five individuals seeking the office, their evaluations will include weighing whether one candidate—current Shawnee Superintendent April Grace—committed a crime by failing to report to law enforcement that a suspected pedophile was on her staff."

Homeschooling skyrocketed during the pandemic, but what does the future hold?

"It may be less of an either-or option," Daniel Hamlin and Paul E. Peterson write, "as homeschooling is combined with online experiences, neighborhood pods, cooperatives, or joint undertakings with public and private schools."

Monday, April 25, 2022

Having school board elections on Election Day? Brilliant!

"The special interests that run Oklahoma's government school monopoly for their own profit are opposed to having elections on Election Day," Greg Forster writes.

Indoctrination in public schools continues even after legislation

"In the long run," Trent England writes, "the very best solution is to reduce the amount of political control over education; the best way to do that is with school choice."

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Court filing delay kept Tecumseh school bus driver accused of sex crimes on the job

"A Tecumseh man charged with sex crimes involving a minor kept working as a local school bus driver during a 17-month delay in a court filing," News 9 reports.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Police investigate alleged choking of OKC elementary student

"An Oklahoma City elementary school teacher’s aide was placed on administrative leave on Thursday pending the investigation of an alleged assault," News 9 reports. "A six-year-old student’s mother told police the employee choked her child."

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Mothers urge change to Stillwater bathroom policy

Ray Carter has the story.

Parents outspoken about bullying at Claremore Public Schools

KTUL has the story.

Pornographic materials available in Oklahoma school libraries?

"State Rep. Justin Humphrey is saying he brought this up in response to a former teacher's concerns over materials available in school libraries," KOKH reports. "According to the representative, 'I was shocked at some of the photos that were sent, the pornography that's going into schools. This material is pornographic, it is wrong, and it has no place being given to minors. And anybody who does say that it has a place is a sick sucker who's got problems.'"

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Teacher accused of giving cocaine, alcohol to a minor

"A former Bartlesville High School teacher is facing several charges after he allegedly supplied alcohol and drugs to at least one minor," FOX 23 reports.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

CRT's 'wicked woke stepsister' in Oklahoma

"CRT was the buzzword for last year," says Oklahoma state Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee). "SEL is its wicked woke stepsister that’s basically a good sounding name to bring in Marxist brainwashing ideology into the classroom."

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Stillwater transgender-bathroom policy in place ‘for years’

“Amidst pushback from parents about Stillwater Public Schools’ policy of allowing students to choose the bathroom facility that aligns with their self-proclaimed gender identity and not biology, the school’s superintendent recently announced that policy has been in place ‘for many years,’” Ray Carter reports.

Grand jury investigation sought for Shawnee schools

"State Sen. Shane Jett has asked Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor to conduct a multi-county grand jury investigation into the Shawnee Public Schools district following citizen reports of a 'systemic pattern' of school officials ignoring and covering up alleged student abuse by former coach Ron Arthur," Ray Carter reports.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Let parents (not the state) decide on pre-K

"Though it comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the evidence on pre-K programs, a blockbuster new study found that a state pre-K program long held up as a national model actually harms students both academically and behaviorally," Greg Forster writes. "It’s time to empower parents through school choice programs to make the right decision for their own children."

Oklahoma schools ignoring long-term staff abuse of students

Ray Carter has the story.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Allegations against Okay teacher turned over to FBI

"Federal law enforcement officials said they were 'actively working' Thursday to gather information about a former Okay High School teacher accused of surreptitiously capturing images of an underage girl preparing to shower at his home," CNHI News reports.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Still moving in the right direction

I joined the OCPA board in 1994 then left to join the staff in 1995. For nearly three decades now, I’ve been making the case in numerous publications and public forums that every parent should be empowered to take their child’s per-student spending to the school of their choice.

Fifteen years ago, before Oklahoma had any private-school choice programs, The Oklahoman asked me for a column on what I thought education in Oklahoma would look like in 25 years. My answer: “I don't know. The God of history—‘Divine Providence,’ in the words of the signers of the Declaration—stands outside of history and directs it without consulting me.” But with that caveat in place, I went on to explain why I thought Oklahoma would increasingly embrace parental choice in education.

“We should seek to restore the American tradition of educational freedom and consumer choice, a tradition that predates and lasted longer than our current practice of delivering education through a monopoly,” I wrote. “There’s good reason to believe we’ll move in that direction in the next 25 years.”

And indeed we have. Oklahoma now has two private-school scholarship programs, and most Oklahoma students are eligible to apply. We still have a long way to go—an Oklahoma Empowerment Account for any parent who wants one (still a possibility for 2022)—but it’s pretty clear to me that the momentum is on our side. Indeed, the destructive trends we’re seeing in the government’s system leave me more optimistic than ever that policymakers will eventually get it right.

Having lived through the history represented in the table below, I am unfazed by any one roll call in any one legislative chamber in any one year. In public policy, longtime Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner likes to say, “there are no permanent victories or permanent defeats, just permanent battles.” Year after year, the goal remains the same: We win, and they lose.


Major Private-School Choice Victories in Oklahoma


















Created a private-school voucher program for special-needs students


Created a private-school tax-credit scholarship program







Expanded voucher eligibility to foster children and children adopted out of state custody





Raised the tax-credit cap for private-school scholarships to $25 million






Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Oklahoma Constitution supports school choice

"Claims that the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits or even disfavors school choice are simply incorrect," Trent England writes. "The Constitution anticipates that there will be many forms of education and supports them by including them in the attendance requirement. While the Legislature must provide for free public schools, that is just the beginning. Lawmakers are free to go beyond that system in pursuit of the mission of creating an educated public."

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Moral insanity in Stillwater

"I know for a fact that today, at Stillwater Public Schools, there were girls who made a conscious decision when they woke up not to drink water, and not to drink water all day long until they got out of school, so they would not be forced to use a shared bathroom space," one Stillwater father says.

Woke teachers continue to out themselves

"In recent public comments, self-identified educators from across Oklahoma have vocally objected to a new law that bans teaching certain concepts broadly associated with Critical Race Theory (CRT)," Ray Carter reports. As one teacher put it, "teachers and parents of color have no intention of continuing to be lied to and turned out to die in classrooms of people who protect historic racism."

Duncan teacher says schools should be more 'woke'

"The administrator of a Facebook group whose supposed goal is to 'unite all educators, parents, and advocates for education' has declared Oklahoma schools need to be more 'woke,' attacked parents concerned about graphic portrayals of rape and incest in school library materials as 'extremists,' repeatedly declared conservatives are racist, and more," Ray Carter reports.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The solution to groomer schools? Parent choice

"Traditionalists are right that the government school system has proven that it can’t be trusted," Greg Forster observes. "That’s precisely why they’re wrong to think they can take control of it. The best way to cope with the challenge of sexualized schools is to put parents back in charge by letting them take the public funding that supports their children’s education to the school of their choice."

Friday, February 25, 2022

Bootleggers, Baptists, and school choice

Credit: Unknown photographer, Orange County Archives, "Sheriff dumps bootleg booze," CC BY 2.0

[Guest post by Robert Ruiz, executive director of ChoiceMatters]

In 1983, Federal Trade Commission executive director Bruce Yandle published a colorful essay entitled “Bootleggers and Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist.” In his piece, and subsequent works on the subject, Yandle explained:

Durable social regulation evolves when it is demanded by both of two distinctly different groups. “Baptists” point to the moral high ground and give vital and vocal endorsement of laudable public benefits promised by a desired regulation. Baptists flourish when their moral message forms a visible foundation for political action. “Bootleggers” are much less visible but no less vital. Bootleggers, who expect to profit from the very regulatory restrictions desired by Baptists, grease the political machinery with some of their expected proceeds. They are simply in it for the money.

In the Prohibition era, Baptists were the standard bearers in the charge to ban alcohol, railing against the evils of drinking and the obvious impact on physical health and well-being. But it was the bootleggers, who became rich when Prohibition granted them an (illegal) monopoly on booze, who were really pulling the levers of power, whispering into the ears of pliable politicians.

Yandle argues that most movements, not just the temperance movement of the early 20th century, have their Baptists and their bootleggers. This holds true in the debate over school choice and, most recently, the Oklahoma Empowerment Act (SB 1647), which seeks to give every parent a portion of their state education tax dollars to be used for either private school tuition or homeschooling expenses.

In this case, with due respect to teachers and superintendents who have important and noble jobs, the professional unions who represent their interests are the obvious choice for the role of bootleggers. The source of their wealth and influence comes directly from their monopolistic control of the public education system. In a world where 90% or more of students go to their assigned public school, where only the wealthy can “opt out,” the power and the revenue stream of these unions goes unchallenged and unchecked. If parents do not have the legal or financial means to leave a school they feel is a poor fit for their child, then the status quo will never change and the adults who make money off the current system will continue to make their money.

Homeschool parents, on the other hand, have often been the strongest voices opposing the status quo—mainly because so many turned to homeschooling only after it became clear that the current system was failing their kids. That is why it has been surprising to see at least some of these parents, who have been longtime school choice supporters, now being co-opted by teachers’ unions and campaigning against the Oklahoma Empowerment Act.

These parents believe, incorrectly, that allowing the state government to help support anyone’s homeschooling expenses would somehow expose their own homeschooling practices to increased government oversight. In their minds, they have opted out of a government-run system and don’t want any form of government involvement, even financial assistance.

These parents’ voices are now being shared and amplified on social media by the very people who have ridiculed them and worked to limit their options for decades: teachers' unions and other organized interests in the public education bureaucracy. As sad as it is to say, this vocal minority of homeschooling parents have become the Baptists in Yandle’s analogy, a righteous front group whose sincerely held beliefs are being co-opted by entrenched and nefarious special interests that do not share their convictions or selfless goals.

My plea to these parents is twofold: first, examine the substance of SB 1647. It does not compel any parent to accept any state funds for either private school or homeschool. It does not compel any homeschooling parent to adopt new curricula or to do anything differently than they do today. In fact, the rights and autonomous nature of those who choose to homeschool are protected in our state constitution. SB 1647 simply offers to return a portion of a parents’ state tax dollars—at least $3,500—to support homeschooling expenses. This is for parents who struggle to pay for textbooks, computers, and things like museum memberships to be able to offer those things to their kids. It is not a stealth attempt by the government to control how homeschool parents teach or how homeschool students think. To the contrary, SB 1647 serves as the ultimate form of deregulation and small-government thinking, taking money away from a highly regulated bureaucracy and placing it directly in the hands of parents.

Second, remember who your friends and allies are. In Yandle’s analogy, the bootleggers form an unlikely alliance with the Baptists until they get power over the very things the Baptists despise the most, laughing all the way to the bank. Similarly, teachers’ unions will discard homeschooling parents once they get what they want—a win for the status quo and another loss for those who believe in school choice and parental empowerment.

The authors of the Oklahoma Empowerment Act are fighting for the rights of all parents, especially homeschooling parents. The sooner these parents realize that, the more likely they are to be the beneficiaries of a decisive and impactful win for school choice.

Do Oklahomans want educational freedom?

“School freedom gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public school or private school which they believe best serves their needs.” 

Do Oklahomans support the idea? Click here.

Homeschoolers for school choice

"If we want to save our country," says my OCPA colleague Trent England, "we need to do something different."

More threats found at Norman High School, parents and students express concern

"A real list, with real names."

Thursday, February 24, 2022

More whistleblowers emerge from Bowring school district

Parents in the Bowring district continue to emerge with tales of school staff emotionally abusing students to the point of suicide, Ray Carter reports.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

School library concerns growing in Oklahoma

"Growing awareness of school-library content—including graphic depictions of rape and incest, along with behavior that would get students expelled in most districts—has prompted parental concern and associated legislative responses this year," Ray Carter reports.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Driving students away reaps benefits for public schools

"Data released by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) indicates that Oklahoma public schools directly or indirectly reap as much as $534 million annually for students they don’t serve," Ray Carter reports.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Broken Arrow students demonstrate against bullying after classmate commits suicide

KTUL reports:
"I had known him since kindergarten and he was my best friend," said 14-year-old Rory Morrell. She organized a demonstration to raise awareness of bullying after the recent suicide of a classmate. "I know there was people who were harassing [name withheld] and there was a bunch of guys who were telling [name withheld] to kill himself," Rory said. 

"I couldn’t think of any better way to spend my day today than this," said Angela Brewster. For Angela, the demonstration was very personal. Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of her 12-year-old daughter Makayla by suicide."For her, it was bullies among her group of friends because she wouldn’t send nude photos to a boy," Angela said.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Muskogee student stabbed in school

"Muskogee Police said a 15-year-old boy is in the hospital after he was stabbed at Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee," the News on 6 reports. "The superintendent said it happened inside a classroom around 11 a.m., causing a school lockdown."

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Friday, February 4, 2022

Child abuse, cover-up alleged at Bowring school

Two Bowring school employees say students have been abused by staff, leaving multiple students suicidal, Ray Carter reports. The whistleblowers are now facing termination. One is facing eviction and even had her water cut off at the order of the superintendent.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Sand Springs mother pleading for help as daughter struggles with bullying at school

"Jocelyn Uebelhart says her daughter, a first-grader at Anderson Elementary, has been coming home saying that she’s being bullied for months," KTUL reports. "'Honestly, all I really want to do is just go home and grab my daughter and sit there and hold her and cry,' said Uebelhart. 'Because I don’t know what else to do.'"

Parent says Mid-Del teacher scolded and separated her daughter for not wearing a mask

"Mid-Del does have a mask mandate in place currently," KOKH reports, "but parents can opt out for health, religious, or personal reasons. Jana says she turned the form in months ago after Kylie complained she was getting headaches and feeling light-headed."

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

OSU Writing Center seeks ‘antiracist’ tutors who will ‘accept all Englishes’

"Among some Oklahoma teachers and professors, emphasis on proper grammar and standard English is now decried as a form of white supremacy," Ray Carter reports.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Stitt proclaims Oklahoma School Choice Week 2022

Watch a short video here.

Oklahoma Senate leader seeks school choice for all families

"Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat has filed legislation that would provide school-choice opportunities to all Oklahoma families," Ray Carter reports, "allowing parents to use state funds to pay for their children to attend any school, including private schools."

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Oklahomans’ support for school choice is becoming difficult to deny

[This post is updated when new survey data are released.]

Since 2014, numerous scientific surveys of Oklahoma voters have measured Oklahomans’ views on various forms of private-school choice (vouchers, tax credits, education savings accounts, et al.). And time after time, they have found support. Here is the survey research that has shown support for parental choice:
  • News 9 / News on 6 survey (likely Oklahoma GOP voters), August 2022 
  • Morning Consult (general Oklahoma population), rolling 12-month results
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2022
  • WPA Intelligence survey (likely Oklahoma voters), November 2021
  • CHS & Associates survey (registered Oklahoma voters), September 2020
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), August 2020
  • Amber Integrated survey (registered Oklahoma voters), December 2019
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), August 2019
  • WPA Intelligence survey (registered Oklahoma voters), April 2019
  • WPA Intelligence survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2019
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), May 2018
  • Cor Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), August 2017
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), July 2016
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2016
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates survey (registered Oklahoma voters), December 2015
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma GOP primary voters), July 2014
  • Braun Research survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2014

And here is the survey research showing that Oklahomans oppose school choice:
  • Tarrance Group survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2022
  • Public Opinion Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2015

Like the film critic Pauline Kael, who couldn't understand how Nixon beat McGovern (given that everyone she knew had voted for McGovern), many in the public education community’s epistemic bubble simply cannot come to terms with the reality that most Oklahomans favor educational choice. But a fair reading of the evidence shows pretty clearly that Oklahoma parents want options and they want the money to follow the child.

So why doesn’t the money follow the child? Political scientists can explain why—government employees are able to pick their politicians and keep kids trapped in an iron triangle—but that’s small consolation for the children who need options right now.