Saturday, January 31, 2015

If policymakers would only grasp this one truth

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why are Tulsa school employees staying at the Venetian in Las Vegas?

Tulsa Public Schools officials would certainly have you believe that money was tight in the 2013-14 school year. Since that was the case, Steve Gunn asks, "how did district officials justify spending $223,887 on hotel lodging for employees that year, or $158,174 on air fare and other forms of transportation?"

The Tulsa district had 241 separate transactions in 2013-14 for accommodations at hotels throughout the nation, done mostly through Commercial Card Services. 

Some of the trips got pretty pricey, and involved stays at some pretty swanky hotels. A total of $2,722 was spent on four nights at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Another $3,394 went for five nights at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. 

Seven staffers went to the National Title 1 Conference in San Diego. Six of them apparently stayed at one hotel for $5,700 while one stayed at another for $1,130.

The district spent $5,216 on lodging for three staffers for three nights in New York. It also spent $3,609 for school board members to attend a National School Board Association event. 

Yet another $4,943 was spent for 13 staffers to spend one night apiece at the Wyndham Jade Hotel in Orlando. That equates to nearly $400 per employee. Were there any decent hotels around that charged less than that? 

Then there was the trip New Orleans for 11 employees to spend three nights, at a cost of $9,114. 

Those are just a few of the many pricey trips taken by school employees in 2013-14.
District records also show transactions for 163 transportation-related transactions, mostly for air fare, that year. 

Most of the hotel stays and transportation costs appear to be for staff members attending various types of educational conferences. Obviously educators benefit, to one degree or another, from attending conferences and networking with other educators. But the fact is that professional development is becoming much more accessible online all the time, at a fraction of the cost that it takes to travel. 

Was that fact considered in Tulsa? 

Even if much of the district’s travel was funded through grants – which is the case in many school districts – the spending is still questionable. 

If the feds want to give school districts that kind of money, they should allow school officials to spend it on their most pressing needs – which apparently have been many in the Tulsa district lately – rather than mandating year after year of expensive travel.

Student threatened with gun at Pauls Valley High School

KOCO has the story.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Educational freedom wiki

Great new resource from Cato here.

Progressive 'fairness'

"I am a stay-at-home, home-schooling mother of five," Kay Buccola of Kenmore, Washington, writes in a letter published today in The Wall Street Journal.

Though we relieve the public schools of five charges, we still are heavily taxed for them. Though I am not paid to teach, we fund the salary of others’ teachers. Though we pay for our own lessons, sports and books, our taxes pay for those for others. Though we require no day care, we are taxed to subsidize others’ day care. Though we feed our own children, we pay for others’ school lunches. 

To afford all of these obligatory donations, my husband works two jobs. And now President Obama asks us to carry more of a tax load so that working mothers can be relieved of some taxes, while we help educate their children. And this is “fairness”?

Well said, Mrs. Buccola. You remind me of another homeschooling mother I know.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Legislation seeks to curtail sexual abuse of students

State Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) has proposed legislation which would require school districts to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the state, Lisa Monahan reports for News 9.

If Senate Bill 301 becomes law, the [state board of education] would be afforded a full-time investigator to look into sexual misconduct allegations. A teacher proven to be involved in an inappropriate relationship with a student would be flagged statewide, and have his or her teaching license revoked.

"We want to make sure a person hasn't been moving around the state molesting or having sex with children," said Loveless.

And if you think this isn't a problem in Oklahoma, I would suggest you haven't been paying attention

Common Core, bullying spur homeschool growth in Tahlequah

Homeschooling is growing in the Tahlequah area, Cathy Spaulding reports in the Muskogee Phoenix. She quotes Tavia Fuller Armstrong of the Tahlequah homeschool group as saying her organization's membership has tripled in the last six months.

“A lot has to do with the Common Core,” Armstrong said, referring to a controversial curriculum that supporters say promotes rigor and higher-level thinking skills. Critics, however, have said Common Core Curriculum encourages cross-cultural relativism and sloppy conceptual thinking.

The Oklahoma Legislature repealed the state’s Common Core math and English curricula in 2014, mandating that new standards be prepared. 

Armstrong said people continue to be concerned about Common Core influence, even with its repeal. “The textbooks have already changed,” Armstrong said. 

Parents also are concerned about bullying in schools, she said.

Armstrong said School Choice Week is not about opposing public education. “We encourage parents to have the best options to pick for their children — public school, virtual school, private school, or home school,” she said.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Investigators say Okla. teacher had sex with student in teachers' lounge

"An Oklahoma high school teacher who teaches seventh grade and high school classes in marriage and child care has been charged with felony second-degree rape after police said she admitted having sex with a student," Jessica Miller reports. "At least two of the instances of sexual intercourse are said to have occurred in the school's teacher's lounge, investigators say."

Having sex with students is a no-no, of course, but sadly it's not at all surprising. What caught my eye in this particular story was the teacher's poor spelling ability:

I have made a horrible mistake. I have let my judgement faulter and I am embarrassed and mortified for the deasions I have made in the last two weeks.

OEA has lost almost one-fifth of its membership over the last 10 years

The Oklahoma Education Association has lost almost one-fifth of its membership over the last 10 years, Mike Antonucci reports. The OEA's total membership is now 22,307, which is down 925 from the previous year.

It's also worth remembering that the OEA just lost "November's most important election."

Wesleyan Christian School student receives OSF scholarship

Rocky Clark, superintendent of Wesleyan Christian School in Bartlesville, receives a scholarship check from Charlie Daniels, vice president of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, as WCS development director Jan Boomer (left), state Representatives Earl Sears and Travis Dunlap, and state Senator John Ford look on. 

Wesleyan Christian School in Bartlesville received a $3,500 scholarship check this week from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF).

“We’re excited to get this scholarship,” said Rocky Clark, Wesleyan Christian School superintendent. “It will go to a student who couldn’t have enrolled at our school without it. He’s an honors student, and is active in sports and fine arts. This scholarship will really help him.”

Jan Boomer, the schools's director of development, says OSF scholarships will allow more lower-income students to attend Wesleyan Christian. “Wesleyan Christian now has over 320 students, pre-K though 12,” she said. “It provides a safe, Christian learning environment and excellent academics. Our average ACT score last year was 26.”

Boomer and OSF vice president Charlie Daniels expressed gratitude to state Senator John Ford and state Representative Earl Sears for supporting legislation in 2011 that enabled the creation scholarship-granting organizations like OSF.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Democratic polling firm finds Americans support school choice

According to a new national poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Beck Research, nearly 70 percent of Americans support school choice. Here's the text of one of the questions:

Generally speaking, would you say you favor or oppose the concept of school choice? School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs.

Fully 69 percent say they support school choice, while just 27 percent oppose. Read the American Federation for Children news release and the entire survey here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lawton families to discuss homeschooling

Here's the text of news release provided today by the folks at National School Choice Week:

Homeschooling families from across the Lawton area will gather to provide more information to parents about their educational choices available for their children on Thursday, January 29, 2015, organizers announced today. This event is timed to coincide with National School Choice Week 2015.

Families will gather at the Lawton Public Library from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. After the meeting and discussion, parents will be able to visit open houses of homeschool co-ops and classes.

The event will include a discussion of Oklahoma homeschooling laws; national, state, and local resources; learning styles and homeschooling methods; and curriculum, sports, and socialization.

"We look forward to connecting Lawton families with the best resources possible for their homeschooling education," said Kirsten Belh, homeschooling leader. "We look forward to celebrating the freedom for families to choose how to educate their children and the resources our community can offer any family that chooses homeschooling."

The event is jointly sponsored by Classical Conversations of Lawton, Lawton Christian Home Educators, and Lawton/Fort Sill Homeschool Association.

National School Choice Week (January 25 – 31, 2015) will be America's largest-ever celebration of opportunity in education. Featuring more than 11,000 independently organized events across all 50 states, the Week shines a positive spotlight on effective education options for children. National School Choice Week is independent, nonpolitical, and nonpartisan, and embraces all types of educational choice – from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.

Friday, January 16, 2015

'Not all children will be admitted to the schools of their choice'

Demand for school choice is strong in Tulsa, Channel 8 reports.