I am writing this blog today because I understand people believe Oklahoma has passed a Common Core bill.When I first became involved in the legislative process, I knew NOTHING about how a bill was signed into law other than what I had heard on School H…
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March 31, 2014, teachers, administrators and community members will be marching on the Capitol to demand more funding for public education.
In all fairness, I have heard many excellent educators, such as Rob Miller in Jenks, talk about the fact that funding isn’t the only issue upon which they should base this march, however, I’ve also read comments from many others in our state who believe the solution to our current education nightmare is money.
Recently, two Oklahoma legislators got wind of the rally. Representative Jason Murphy (R), and Mike Turner (R) were quoted in the Daily Disappointment (sorry, Daily Oklahoman) providing their viewpoints on this civic exercise.
“It’s indefensible for government entities to use government resources to lobby government for more taxpayer money for more government,”
“This sort of behavior should not be tolerated by our schools or any other state agency participating in this gross abuse of your hard-earned money,”
These comments ignited a firestorm in the Oklahoma education blogosphere (What Does The Angry Mob Say, In Support Of The Teacher’s Rally, An Appalling Lack Of Respect, Marching For Kids, Marching For My Family) as many bloggers sounded off on what they feel is a put down by these Oklahoma legislators.
I like both Jason and Mike, and I agree with them that taking a day off of school to protest at the Capitol is not the way to deal with the question of education funding. However, I am of a very divided mind here. I don’t agree that schools should abandon their jobs to go lobby for more money, because I don’t agree with that issue. However, I desperately agree that citizens (educators) need to be in the Capitol lobbying their legislature – after all, there are PLENTY of lobbyists that don’t represent citizen (education) interests wondering around the Capitol on a daily basis. If these are the only people from whom lawmakers hear, then they’re the only people whose squeaky wheel gets greased! I also believe that, for years now, a majority of our lawmakers have been listening to the likes of Jeb Bush, the National Governor’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, over the protests of money-and-clout-poor parents and educators, especially when it comes to the contentious issue of education ‘reforms’ in Oklahoma.
ROPE has been lobbying the legislature since 2011 to repeal Common Core. It has taken us until the end of last year to get any real traction on this issue. Why? Because the POWERS THAT BE (described above) want it and they have the money to affect public policy/opinion in whatever way they desire. Heck, they have the marketing power of Exxon-Mobile and the Bill and Melinda Gates-backed Stand For Children behind them. I have some really madder-than-heck-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers in my corner. Needless to say, none of us in this latter group are going to come up with the multimillions of dollars it will take to overmessage the formerly named group, so there has to be another way to effect change in our favor.
For almost a year now, when I speak to a group, I have been informing listeners that their rights are being usurped by a growing government bureaucracy full of individuals that believe they know what’s better for children than their parents and/or teachers. In fact, I believe this so heartily and disagree with this sentiment so thoroughly, that I removed my children from public school to educate them at home. Consequently, when I’m speaking and parents ask,
What can we do? My school board can’t do anything, my principal can’t do anything, my legislator won’t help me, I don’t know what to do…what can I do?
I have begun to answer,
Become civilly disobedient. Simply say, “No thank you, I do not wish my child to participate in field testing achievement tests for privately-owned-for-profit testing companies.” or “No thank you, I do not want my child taking a test that will not accurately tell her teachers what she knows”, or “No thank you, I will not accept math standards for my child created outside the state by people who don’t have a clue about how she learns in her classroom in Oklahoma and that can possibly damage her ability to learn math”.
So, I do understand the need and desire to petition our government IN PERSON, for redress and I do think EVERYONE aught to do just that more often and sooner rather than later.
Truly, the only problem I have with this March rally is the idea that anyone should go pump the legislature to ply education with more money.
When Janet Barresi attempted to earn my vote four years ago, she told me she would conduct an audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education in attempt to eliminate waste and funnel more money back into the classroom.
Barresi said that one of her first orders of business will be to ensure that critical dollars are getting into the state’s classrooms. She said she will immediately direct a comprehensive division-by-division analysis of the Department of Education. And she’ll be working to contract with an independent auditor to conduct a financial and performance audit of the department.
So, Dr. Barresi, where is that audit? The only audit I know of at the OSDE was one conducted by State Auditor Gary Jones which found Dr. Barresi
“…utilized state personnel in a questionable and likely inappropriate manner,”
I also know that, unlike her promises to voters not to continually raise the education budget and be a sound steward of our education dollar, she requested a $158 MILLION dollar increase in budget for 2011-2012 (to bring Oklahoma’s public education budget to $2.4 BILLION dollars) and a budget increase of a $175 MILLION dollar budget increase in 2013-2014 (to bring total public education funding in Oklahoma to 2.57 BILLION dollars).
According to Data.ok.gov, Common Education,was again, in 2013 (I thought I had read health care had usurped the top spot but I guess not) sitting at the top as the LARGEST appropriation in all of the Oklahoma state budget at 37% (33.58% in 2014 – again the highest appropriation).
So, hopefully that begs the question,
How much money is enough money for Oklahoma education?
Hopefully that also begs the question,
Where is the currently appropriated money going? It’s quite apparently NOT going into the classroom.
At this point, I will say,
Glad you asked!
and give you the following answer:
Why would I say such a thing? Well, simply go to the website created by Senate Bill1633 (The School District Transparency Act of 2010), called OpenBooksOk.com.
SB1633 says this about the information that website should contain, in part:
The database shall provide information on school district expenditures of state, federal, and local funds, whether appropriated or nonappropriated, excluding payments of voluntary payroll deductions for employees to receiving parties.
Now, see if you can find any information about Common Education on that website? No? Neither can I. Interestingly, I remember that before Janet Barresi took office, I raided that website more than once for information on Common Education spending and found it there, very well described and in a manner even decipherable to me. This is an article from 2009 in which I used many links available at that time through the OSDE and OpenBooksOK.com for my research. Now, many of these links are invalid and/or now go to pages that have nothing to do with the references for which they were used!
This is the Financial Accounting page on the OSDE website. Go there just for grins and giggles. Start clicking on some links and tell me this is anything other than a system of links back to the same page upon which you clicked the original link. How bizarre. In fact, the one link I was able to identify as moving away from the finance page, takes you to OCAS (the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System) where I found the Common Education funding accounting. This page is NOT the Open Books website as specified by law.
Once on the OCAS page, it’s easy to see that 2012-2013 school year has yet to be entered. From there, the tabs are easy enough to navigate – Homepage, Statewide Reports, District Reports – but here’s the deal;
- There are total expenditures on that page over 6 BILLION dollars. Are you really saying that out of all 35 categories of expenditures there’s not some way to drag at least a million or two, or three back into the classroom?
- There are no descriptors for the expenditures so who only knows for what that money is really being spent. There is nothing there other than a near spreadsheet type report – no breakdowns, no graphs, no charts, no comparisons; nothing those paying for public education (taxpayers) can understand.
- There is a Revenue link down the page, but that opens up into an Excel spread sheet that is entirely populated with information NO ONE in their right mind can understand or identify! Though all funds are to be identified as per SB1633, it would take a PhD in finance to figure all that out.
I read SB1633. There is no mechanism for redress, should its edicts be ignored. In a discussion with Representative Jason Nelson, over this same issue on another bill, he told me that the law itself IS the mechanism for redress. I remain confused. So the OSDE has to follow the law because the law says they have to. Okay, but they’re not, so who’s going to make them? How are these laws enforced and by whom or what agency? The legislature routinely writes laws without assigning enforcement measures. What is the point of writing a law if no o is expected to follow it because no enforcement mechanism has been identified?
I also think it interesting here, that very early on in her tenure, Dr. Barresi fired Dr. Jack Herron, the Department’s Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services, after the Board would not approve Jill Geiger as her director of finance with Jack already in a similar position. Mere moments after Governor Fallin signed into law a bill to give the State Superintendent authority over the agency’s personnel, Barresi dispatched Herron. Geiger was later appointed as the state budget director at the Office of State Finance, leaving her without a Finance Director for some time. Currently, this position is filled by Mathangi Shankar, listed in CPA Focus Magazine (2009) as an Associate Member of the Oklahoma Society of CPA’s and the Finance Manager for the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
Clearly, the water of accountability is murky at the OSDE in more ways than one, but to close this post, I’m going to list the ways in which I think Oklahomans can come together to provide actual relief to schools and taxpayers on the issue of public education funding:
- DEMAND the legislature cease and desist shackling schools with unfunded public school mandates and DEMAND they rescind those currently in law.
- Tell the legislature to DEMAND a full and complete audit of the OSDE, since Dr. Barresi will apparently not make good on her campaign promise to do so.
- DEMAND the legislature stop writing laws which do not provide oversight or a mechanism for redress should the law not be followed!
This short video drives home a point ROPE has made year after year – really good education doesn’t come from a bank – it comes from educators willing to do what it takes to get students where they need to be regardless of the perceived price tag.
Today, the Oklahoma Republican Caucus released their Legislative Agenda for 2014. Following is the portion on Education:
In education, it will be important in 2014 to protect and fund existing education reforms in order to improve student achievement and accountability through high standards and expectations. Workforce development continues to be a problem in the state, and Senate Republicans will work to pass legislation to increase the number of students obtaining critical post-secondary degrees and industry certifications.
Finally, the caucus will work to empower parents, educators and communities as they help every Oklahoma student achieve his or her potential.
“For too long, our state’s education system has not kept pace with the changing times, hurting our students’ ability to compete for jobs in the 21st Century economy. In recent years, we have passed bold reforms that have increased standards and expectations to ensure every student—regardless of socio-economic or regional factors—can reach his or her true potential,” said Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, and Senate Education chairman. “We owe it to our children, their parents and all Oklahoma citizens to continue to press for higher standards and accountability and expect more.”
After reading this, I have no choice but to determine that AGAIN this year, the Oklahoma Senate Republicans will push Governor Mary Fallin’s vision of children either trained to work a job or pushed along a career path like the Europeans our country now seems to covet.
In fact, the caucus said as much in the first sentence when the word PROTECT was used in the same sentence with “existing education reforms”. Of course, the “existing education reforms” are the Four Pillars of Education ‘Reform’; Common Core (national standards), Turning Around Low Performing Schools, Teacher Accountability and the liberty-sucking, privacy-killing, State Longitudinal Database System – all of which tie Oklahoma directly to the federal government.
In a letter to Senators Brian Bingman and John Ford yesterday, I asked the question, “How can you be a Republican who supports Common Core when BOTH the RNC and the OKGOP have come out against the Common Core?” I hope to have the answer to that very soon, but it can’t be perplexing to only me that Mary Fallin solicited my vote in 2010 as a Republican by promising to protect me from the federal government – as did Janet Barresi – yet BOTH women went on to KEEP every single Brad Henry-adopted Obama-driven education reform. They even went on to apply for a failed (thank goodness!) Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge grant and ADD a No Child Left Behind Waiver and a 5 million dollar State Longitudinal Database System grant. How in the world can that make sense?
Well, one has only to look at this page on the White House website detailing the Clinton/Gore Educational plan to find the answer. Let’s see how far off the mark Oklahoma’s Republicans are from the Clinton/Gore plan;
- Raising Standards and Holding Schools Accountable for Results
- Improving the Quality of Education with High Quality Teachers
- Expanding Access to Technology in Schools
- Keeping Young People on the Path to Success
Now let’s look at the Oklahoma Republican plan:
- High Standards and Expectations (Common Core/national educational standards + A-F grading)
- Teacher/Leader Effectiveness (here is the TLE page on the OSDE website)
- All schools have had to add broadband in order to take the new Common Core tests. Recently, schools were mandated by the OSDE (more like threatened) to perform a ‘stress test’ on their computers to make sure they were ready for all the testing to be done on computers (in order to teach children critical thinking).
- Engaging education, business and government leaders in a dialogue about what governors can do to more closely align K-12, universities, community and technical colleges and workforce training providers with future labor demands. (A direct quote from Governor Fallin’s National Governor’s Association Education Initiative)
In fact, why is no one asking these questions, “Excuse me Education ‘Reformers’, why do you think YOUR program is better than Clinton/Gore’s – or any of the other near exact copies that have come before? Simply because you’re doing it under the Republican banner? Are you trying to tell me that failed programs somehow work better if there is an ‘R’ after them?”
Frankly, it matters not whether a Democrat or a Republican introduced these education ‘reforms’. What is important, however, is that they’ve never worked. NEVER. If these ideas produced such excellent results for Clinton/Gore, why are states still banging their heads against the wall wondering how to get their students to succeed?
Why, instead of doubling down on the arbitrary HIGH STANDARDS hogwash, aren’t we looking at factors like;
- Discipline. In this Politically Correct environment where every student has a perceived RIGHT to do whatever he feels to do at any given moment, is there really any wonder kids are learning anything anywhere? Self-discipline must be taught consistently, valued and modeled where kids spend a huge part of their day – school.
- The breakdown of the family. When kids can’t be sure if there’s food at home because mom might have used the money for drugs, or when mom’s having to work three jobs just to keep food on the table, kids could care less about the future – all they know is that the here and now stinks. How are schools meeting these individual needs?
- Real school leadership. Lecturing kids about consequences that never come tell them there are no consequences for their actions. If there are no consequences, there is little reason to do anything you don’t want to do.
- Unfunded mandates. Schools don’t need as much money as they think they do to adequately educate a child, but that fact doesn’t matter when they’re not getting half enough to do even a poor job because administrative costs suck money out of the classroom. There should be MASSIVE and widespread audits at the OSDE to find and yank back money better spent ON KIDS rather than FOR KIDS.
- A love of America. Whatever the circumstances in the world, students in past decades could at least agree on that ideal. An ideal broad enough to include everyone. An ideal that brought students together under a banner of agreement and pride. Today’s children are chopped into little groups under the banner of ‘diversity’ in order to make it easier for them to march over others while marching toward equality.
Yet, instead of looking at these very real, very important issues, our Republican leaders choose to run education in Oklahoma wielding a punitive STICK made of tired, ‘new’ education ‘reform’ wood – attempting to create consensus by force where individuality should be lauded instead.
Recycled programs forcing uniformity and micromanagement will NEVER provide students a well-rounded education.
Don’t forget; we put men on the moon while engineers still used slide rules. But then, these men and women were products of a broad-based classical style education, doled out in classrooms with discipline instead of political correctness, where real leadership was provided on a local basis and recognized the sovereignty of parents over their child’s education. How in the world can we recreate these individuals today using a one-size-fits-all, narrow-in-scope, standardized-test-based machination created by private organizations whose interest in profit-bearing educational products far outweighs their concern for individual students and families, or the propagation of the American way? The answer is simple; we can’t, and we won’t.
The 2014 election season has arrived in Oklahoma. In late
2013 it appeared the controversy over both Common Core and the A-F grading
system would make the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race the hottest
fire burning. With the resignation o…
Oklahoma R3 Alert – January 22, 2014 Stop Obamacare Penalties Now Rallies across Oklahoma in January, Capitol Rally February 4th, Town Hall Meetings on Common Core Bartlesville Event Jan 28th at OWU, Coburn steps down from Senate seat R3s ask if it is time for Bridenstine to step up?
Today the House took a significant step toward removing the federal government from the class room. The Student Success Act of 2013 will reauthorize and reform the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act that has not been reformed since the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.Bridenstine said, “This much needed legislation returns control to states and local school boards and parents who are better suited to know the educational needs of our children. “It allows states to share best practices while eliminating many of the one-size-fits-all dictates from the federal government that have been so objectionable over the past 12 years since the last education reform. The bill will limit the coercive power of the Administration and the U.S. Department of Education to force states to accept programs like Common Core in order to compete for federal funds.”
A personal report from the Clouds over America Conference which occurred in Oklahoma City February 8-9, 2013 by Gary Kilpatrick. Gary currently resides in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Gary retired from ConocoPhillips in 2004 where he served in a number of management positions. He is a Sunday School teacher, an ACT for America Chapter leader and has served on the Republican Party State Platform Committee. In the last several years he has become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and our nation.
OK-SAFE, Inc. – ROPE (Restoring Oklahoma Public Education) raises some valid points about whether party affiliation should make a difference to voters in 2014 when current State Superintendent Janet Barresi, advocate of the Common Core Curriculum State Standards (Fed-Ed), and proven friend of corporate education interests, is up for re-election. ROPE’s latest post: Education and […]