The News on 6 reports.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
[This letter to the editor from OCPA's Brandon Dutcher was published Sunday, August 29 in the Tulsa World.]
I appreciated Wayne Greene's well-written column on the Henry Scholarships ("Vouchers lite," Aug. 22). Greene says that "public funding could start flowing into private schools pretty quickly," but I don't see that as reason for concern because, indeed, it's been flowing for quite some time now. Whether it's Oklahoma preschoolers attending private daycare centers, or school districts paying private companies to provide online education, or students using Pell Grants to attend private colleges, public money flows to private organizations all the time.
Greene says "education is a public task," but just because the government provides services doesn't mean the government has to produce all of them. Just as Medicaid patients can go to private hospitals, and food-stamp recipients can shop at privately owned grocery stores, students should be able to go to privately operated schools.
"The right of parents to choose the schools that children attend is an internationally accepted norm," says Boston University education professor Charles Glenn, a former education bureaucrat for Gov. Michael Dukakis. "Every country in the world except North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba allows parents to choose schools. Every Western democracy except the United States provides public funding to support those choices."
In short, "public education" simply means producing an "educated public." And that requires all sorts of different schools. Policymakers ought not view the government as the default setting, as some sort of privileged player when it comes to educating children.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
"Contracted workers are laying artificial turf on the Alcott Middle School football field after finishing the same task last week at Norman North High School," The Oklahoman reports. "The synthetic turf purchase and installation, along with the removal of old turf at each school, was budgeted at $1 million."
Friday, August 27, 2010
The parents of special-needs students in Oklahoma can now apply for scholarships that allow their children to attend private schools, state Rep. Jason Nelson said today.
"The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act became law today, and it's very important that the families of special needs children are aware of this opportunity and take advantage of it," said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. "This program creates new opportunities for many children who would otherwise be unable to obtain educational services truly tailored to their unique needs."
Under House Bill 3393, children with disabilities who have an individualized education program (IEP) qualify for a scholarship to attend any private school that meets the accreditation requirements of the State Board of Education.
The legislation, authored by Nelson and by state Sen. Patrick Anderson, had strong support from many families of children with autism.
The state Board of Education finalized the rules allowing implementation of the scholarship program on August 26, and parents can now contact their resident school district to apply for the program, Nelson said.
"Having visited with many parents of special-needs students, I know how important this scholarship program is to those families," Nelson said. "It will allow those parents to provide the best education and best future possible for their children beginning this school year. Every parent interested in this program should take advantage of it."
The scholarship program created through House Bill 3393 does not require new spending, but merely redirects existing state funds that are currently spent on the student.
Other states with similar laws include Florida, Georgia, Utah, Ohio and Arizona. The Florida program has been in place since 1999 and now serves approximately 20,000 students with special needs. House Bill 3393 closely mirrors the Florida and Georgia laws.
The legislation has been named the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act to honor the memory of one of the Gov. Brad Henry’s daughters, who died of a rare neuromuscular disease as an infant.
Lawmakers will soon conduct a legislative study on the new law to seek ways to increase its benefit for Oklahoma families. The first meeting will be held Aug. 31 with a second study date to be scheduled later.
State Rep. Jason Nelson has the details here.
"For the second time in two days, the Edmond School District is defending itself after a school bus mix-up," KOCO reports. "An Edmond mother said her sons were dropped off in the wrong place on Wednesday. The boys were later found wandering around an apartment complex about a half-mile away from their home."
I wouldn't worry about it. Nothing much ever happens at Edmond apartment complexes.
"A Craig County school district’s online learning program aimed at students whose parents prefer to opt out of traditional bricks-and-mortar schools was accredited Thursday by a sharply divided state Board of Education, which also placed the district on probation with strict requirements," the Associated Press reports.
Dinosaurs and lefties on the state Board of Education, apparently unaware that the world is changing, look silly as they cling desperately to the status quo. There's no putting the genie back in the bottle. Indeed, none other than the superintendent of the Union Public Schools in Tulsa is boasting that her district is working to give students more virtual learning opportunities, making virtual courses available from E2020 and the Florida Virtual system.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
According to "Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Black Males and Education," two-thirds of Oklahoma's black male students score "Below Basic" in 4th grade reading.
Only 52 percent of Oklahoma's black males graduate from high school.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
"It’s the hot new public-sector trend," Cato's Adam Schaeffer writes: "massively expensive K-12 school buildings." Fortunately, voters in the Guthrie School District overwhelmingly rejected an $89.8 million (not a misprint) school bond issue yesterday that would have raised property taxes almost 24 percent.
After thrice being named New York City Teacher of the Year, and then New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto took to the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal to quit his job, claiming he was no longer willing to hurt children. Lew Rockwell interviews him here.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World are the two largest newspapers in the state. What's third? The Lawton Constitution? Norman Transcript? Good guesses, but the correct answer is The Baptist Messenger, now under the capable leadership of executive editor Douglas Baker.
"As the 2010 academic year begins," Baker writes in a new article ('A nation still at risk'), "there is little doubt that the United States cannot sustain itself with the current educational apparatus in place." And the shortcomings of the current system have spurred some noticeable changes:
Almost 2 million students are now homeschooled (almost 3 percent of the entire school-aged population) and there is no sign of decline. School choice, charter schools and vouchers dominate discussions of education reform. The need is so critical that even politics is often put aside to address the root of the problem. Adapting educational opportunities and delivery systems to the free market of supply and demand has resulted in shocking discoveries for many government and business leaders. When given a choice as to where their children will go to school, most parents prefer options that are not determined by the federal or state government. Rather, they prefer to choose for themselves who will teach their children.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
"With the number of Tulsa Public Schools sites sanctioned to the Oklahoma School Improvement List likely to double, the district is fielding many more school-choice requests from students' parents," the Tulsa World reports.
Friday, August 20, 2010
The Oklahoma House of Representatives will soon begin an interim study of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Students with Disabilities Scholarships Program. The first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 31 in Room 412C of the state capitol building. The study, requested by Rep. Jason Nelson, will probably begin around 10:30 AM. (Rep. Joe Dorman's study regarding generators for assisted-living facilities is first on the agenda, at 9:30 AM.)
The next hearing is scheduled for September 14.
The Oklahoman reports that Ken Levit, executive director of the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, told an audience of 350 state and community leaders yesterday that the U.S. education system is in need of reform.
The nation is facing an education crisis, Levit said. The U.S. has doubled per-pupil spending during the past 37 years, but 15-year-olds in the United States still rank behind students from 22 other countries in science and 31 countries in math, Levit said.
"We need to fund innovation first, not business as usual," Levit said.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
State Sen. Clark Jolley, vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, recaps Gov. Jeb Bush's recent visit to the Sooner State and offers his own thoughts. (As a constituent in District 41, I took the opportunity to leave a comment.)
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (pictured here at a press conference in the Governor's Blue Room) was in Oklahoma last week touting school reform. In conjunction with his visit, OCPA teamed up with the Foundation for Educational Choice and the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition to release this study.
The Associated Press report of Gov. Bush's visit is here, and the CapitolBeatOK report is here.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
It's no secret that Oklahoma's literacy levels are abysmal. And today in The Journal Record, April Wilkerson reports that "the leaders of several Oklahoma organizations are asking people to consider the effect of literacy levels on health care."
"Nearly 1 million children may have been misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, not because they have real behavior problems, but because they're the youngest kids in their kindergarten class," USA Today reports today on the front page.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The state's largest newspaper editorializes on Gov. Jeb Bush's recent visit to Oklahoma.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
The Oklahoman's Michael McNutt and Julie Bisbee reported yesterday that in his trip to Oklahoma this week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush "said he was skeptical of State Question 744, a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that, if approved, would require Oklahoma to increase per-pupil spending to that of surrounding states." They quote Gov. Bush as saying:
"The question ought to be, is more money spent per student in an unreformed system going to yield rising student achievement? There's absolutely no evidence that more money per student yields higher student achievement."
Where in the world did Gov. Bush get a crazy idea like that?
For two years now I've been writing and speaking about the HOPE initiative (later christened State Question 744), and I've been telling any legislator who will listen that one way to cope with HOPE would be to enact school choice. Simply put: if 744 passes, legislators are going to be faced with enormous budget pressures; one way to ease the strain would be to get as many students as possible off the appropriators' dime and onto the parents' dime. As I observed last summer,
"Whoever digs a pit will fall into it," the proverb says, "and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him." Wouldn't it be ironic if the teacher union's irresponsible ploy forced legislators to save money via school choice?
Comes now Mickey Hepner with a terrific new post on his economics blog, "OKonomics." Dr. Hepner is an economics professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and, significantly, a member of the executive committee of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Academy, a venerable think tank founded in 1967. A self-described "centrist Democrat," Dr. Hepner was (is?) an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. In short, he is not a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (at least he's never at the meetings).
The debate over State Question 744 is all about per-pupil funding, Dr. Hepner wrote yesterday, and there's a way "to raise per-pupil funding without impacting other government programs or raising taxes -- by instituting a school voucher program."
In 2008-2009 Oklahoma education funding averaged $8,006 per student. This figure though, is based only on the number of students enrolled in public schools. If Oklahoma was able to shift more students from public to private schools, state funding would be spread out over fewer students, thereby raising the per-pupil average. Of course, the only way to shift large numbers of students from public to private schools is to help pay for private school tuition ... a cost that offsets some of the gains. However, if structured correctly, a voucher system could still generate cost-savings for the state, allowing it to raise per-pupil spending.
In short, "the numbers don't lie: if education proponents really want to increase per-pupil spending, they should embrace a school voucher program."
Yes and amen. My only suggestion would be to phrase it this way: "they should embrace a school voucher or tax credit program." There's nothing wrong with vouchers, of course, but until Oklahoma can solve its Blaine Amendment problem (preferably through repeal), tax credits are going to be a much cleaner way to go. In any case, Dr. Hepner's blog post is excellent and I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Neal McCluskey on the biggest federal takeover you've never heard of.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In the current issue of The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson reflects on some poll results that are "more bewildering than they let on—not merely contradictory but nonsensical." He concludes:
A paradoxical people, these Americans: eager to have an incompetent government that they don’t trust do more of the things that they don’t want it to do.
So true, and strangely reminiscent of some recent SoonerPoll results here in Oklahoma. Nearly two-thirds of Oklahomans (65 percent) want to raise public school spending to the regional average, yet a nearly identical number (64 percent) don't think more money will cause students to learn more.
What to make of these sorts of contradictions? Ferguson, hearkening back Seymour Martin Lipset, calls them "inevitable artifacts of polling in a country where people are expected to have considered opinions even when they don't."
Monday, August 9, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
In stories for CapitolBeatOK.com, senior editor Patrick B. McGuigan of The City Sentinel has detailed devastating national investigations finding that Oklahoma’s Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is horribly underfunded. For Oklahoma taxpayers, a financial crisis of unimaginable proportions lies waiting in the wings, unless the economy grows robustly and/or benefits are cut.