Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why I Have NO CHOICE But To Support Paul Blair for Senate

This morning I saw a very slick, very expensive-looking ad on FOX News channel for current Edmond Senator Clark Jolley, extolling his virtues and cajoling viewers to vote for this very CONSERVATIVE legislator.

Fair enough.  Anyone who can afford to spend money on advertising should CERTAINLY be allowed to do so.  The thing I'm most concerned about here is the word "Conservative".  To be fair, Senator Jolley's ad was not the actual impetus for my reverie - no, that came in the 2010 election cycle when Governor Fallin and a host of other Republicans with accessible voting records, applied the term to themselves ad nauseum.  (This recent assessment of what Oklahoma Republicans say and what they actually do, might help you understand my confusion.)

So, what exactly does the term "Conservative" mean?  Let's do a little etymological study here.  According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary for children, the primary definition appears to be, "believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society".  In the adult section, we see that the word originated somewhere in the 14th century and is today given the definition, "of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism".  So what is "Conservatism"?  Webster says,
a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage). [emphasis mine]
Alright.  Agreeing to apply Merriam-Webster's definition from the standpoint that America has been using a Webster's dictionary since 1806, we can then make assessment of Senator Jolley's claims of "conservative".

I am going to use the mailer that was sent out to district 41 on behalf of Clark Jolley by the State Chamber of Oklahoma ("not authorized or approved by any candidate", but a contribution to the campaign by the Chamber as an 'in kind' donation, so it is definitely 'fair game' for use as a measure of his campaign).  Also, it is important to note that according to our State Chamber, "Strong public schools provide quality educations for our children, as well as prepare a qualified workforce for our city’s future."  Not only that, but the Chamber appears to haven't met an education reform they DON'T like!  Good grief, they want the state involved in EVERY aspect of education.  Color me stupid here, but I could have thought that it was the Communists that used their education system to educate 'workers'.  I thought we had public education in America to, as our Founders stated, teach American children the joys of our Republic and to learn our Constitution and impart it to the next generations.

This mailer, "Senator Clark Jolley - Champion for Education", "Promoting Common-Sense, Conservative Reforms", lists five bills referred to as conservative reforms for which Senator Clark Jolley has pushed.

1. HB1456 "increase(d) accountability to parents".  This bill was signed into law by the governor last year and contains no less than TWENTY-FOUR (24) requirements (mandates) for the State Department of Education (SDE) and local schools and districts.  The majority of the requirements satisfied the requirements of the federal government in order for Superintendent Barresi and Governor Fallin to apply for a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver.  HB1456 provides the BACKBONE of the NCLB Waiver with its prescription for a report card - to be issued by the SDE - for each individual school in the state using the familiar A-F nomenclature.  May 2, 2012, a Motion of Disapproval was submitted to the Rules Committee in the House for the A-F grading rules, which allowed for an inordinate amount of failing schools which would then be taken over by the SDE and out of the hands of local education officials as per the Waiver's specifications.  The fruits of the A-F grading also allowed Superintendent Barresi and Governor Fallin to collect nearly 7 million dollars in federal grants to "turnaround" D and F schools.
[FAIL: increases size of government, prevents local control, creates abrupt change]

2.  HB1380 "save(d) money for the classroom".  This bill was signed into law by the governor also last year.  Senator Jolley is not an author of record for the bill so I do not know why this was included.  1380 was a bill to remove Trial DeNovo for teachers, ostensibly saving money by prohibiting fired teachers wanting recourse from the courts to drag out a determination.  Yes, I'm sure this will save money for the state for those teachers who wanted to take their dismissal through higher levels of adjudication, but it also allows districts to more easily fire teachers who might want to add Intelligent Design to discussions of Evolution, or those who did not want to teach sex/health classes, for example.
[DRAW; considering a case could be made for usurpation of local control]

3.  HB2115 "strengthen(s) local control".  This bill was also signed into law last year.  Again, this is not an example of Senator Jolley's legislative hand, as he is not an author on the bill.  This bill allows the SDE to financially assist school districts who voluntarily consolidate.  Yes, this does provide incentive, if you will, for schools to consolidate, but the SDE still is able to consolidate schools by their own authority involuntarily, so how this amounts to strengthening "local control", I see not.
[DRAW; considering ANY further laws added rather than repealed creates more government]

4.  HB346 "ensure(s) quality education".  Another 2011 bill now law.  Senator Jolley is the lead author.  This is the much-lauded bill to prevent social promotion and requires children to be reading by 3rd grade.  Yes, ALL of us want Oklahoma children to be functionally literate and beyond, but it is ultimately the parent who must take responsibility for their children's education - not the school system.  Additionally, simply retaining non-readers by 3rd grade does not "ensure" a quality education.  What it DOES do is put more strain on teachers and schools who must constantly train to learn new teaching methods forced on them by continued mandates like the Common Core State Standards.  This phenomenon causes children to be taught to state tests, the results of which can help determine if the teacher is fired or not (SB2033).  It also opens the door to reasons for federal grant application such as the Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge under the argument that children need to be exposed to reading methods before public education starts at 8 (according to the Oklahoma Constitution).  My own daughter came home from public school last year in April crying because her teacher told her if she didn't pass her state tests this year, she would be left in third grade.  Yup, that worked out as planned!  Thanks Senator Jolley for creating at least one scared teacher and one equally scared child!
[FAIL; increases size of government, takes oneness off parent, opens the door to bigger government, creates abrupt (and painful) change]

5. SB969 "enhance(d) school choice". This is, again, not a Jolley bill, it was a bill by Dan Newberry in the Senate and Lee Denney of the house.  This provides a tax credit for individuals and/or businesses who donate money to "an eligible scholarship granting institution" for the purposes of providing an alternative education to disadvantaged (poor) and disabled students in failing school districts.  Yes, this does allow choice for a number of 'classes' of students, but not for ALL students.  No matter your opinion of the bill, it did force LOCAL school districts to yet again come under a mandate from the state and created a gargantuan controversy simply because of that fact.
[FAIL; increases size of government, usurps local control - actual choice can only be allowed when ALL mandates are removed from ALL public schools and they are allowed to operate as they should, through the jurisdiction of their boards]

I am adding SB2033 from 2010 and SB222 from 2009.

SB2033 was written by Coffee, Jolley, Ford, Rice and Leftwich of the Senate.  This bill was created as a vehicle by which to apply for federal Race To The Top funds.  The bill is 34 pages and codified into law the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System (as mentioned in #4), the Race To The Top Commission, The Common Core State Standards Initiative, and failing school intervention program - three of the four aspects of the Obama Administration's Race To The Top grant paid for with ARRA funds.
[HUGE FAIL; massively increases size (and cost - taxes) of government, usurps local control, opens doors for more federal control and federal money through at least 13 different grant application possibilities

Clark Jolley was the principle author on SB222.  This bill was 26 pages long.  It covered the fourth aspect of the RTT grant necessity - development of the P20 Council (and P20 Council REVOLVING FUND) to run the longitudinal database that collects educational 'data' from students Pre-K through 20 years of age.  The P20 database has resulted in egregious violations of student privacy and is becoming vilified in a number of states as parents catch on.  SB222 also created the Educational Quality and Accountability Board (and REVOLVING FUND), Quality Assessment and Accountability Task Force and many other provisions.  I won't go into all of these since I have provided a copy of the bill for all to read, but I will say that the Educational Quality and Accountability Board never met.  This created another gargantuan controversy because of the fact that state public school tests were never actually "properly assessed and calibrated according to law", making it legally impossible for the SDE to force ACE regulations.
[MASSIVE FAIL; enormous increase in size of government to the point that it effects privacy of students and families, usurps local control, opens doors for more federal control and more federal money through SLDS grant programs]

Now, since I have covered specific bills, I am going to take a minute to impart a personal story.  

During 2011, there was a bill of Senator Jolley's (SB264) with which we had issue.  It was advertised as a deregulation bill for schools, but there were an additional number of components - including a reference to the SLDS we didn't like - and we didn't want it passed.  Unfortunately, we found it late in its legislative cycle - after it was going back to the House a second time.  Three of us (Lynn Habluetzel, Danna Foreman and I - you can read about our board here if you don't know who we are), were walking the halls talking to Representatives, sharing our concerns about the bill, when Clark Jolley strides by us at a ferocious clip, points a finger at us and says, "I want to see you in my office" and marches off.  We felt as though we were to follow, so we shrugged our shoulders at one another not knowing what was going on, and followed dutifully. 


Senator Jolley strode into his office directly behind his desk, told us to sit down, sat down himself and immediately launched into a very thorough berating, replete with pointed finger.  Now, mind you, Danna Foreman is actually a constituent of the Senator and NONE of us on the ROPE board are paid in any way - we are all mothers and housewives (Danna and Lynn also run their own businesses) who take it upon ourselves to study the legislative process and become involved.  This fact, however, did not stop Senator Jolley from taking the time to tell us exactly how the cow ate the cabbage.  


We were NOT to go around behind his back, he explained vociferously.  If we had a problem with one of HIS bills, we needed to come to him first and not let him hear about it from someone else.  He wanted to make sure HIS bills get passed and he would work with us but he was not going to have us going around him taking matters into our own hands.


I have NEVER been such a combination of flabbergasted, annoyed and angry all at the same time.  I thought Senators were supposed to be public SERVANTS.  At one point I finally decided I'd had enough and told him that we weren't paid lobbyists and didn't know the system inside and out - heck one of us was even a constituent - we were simply doing what we felt was right.  It didn't require a lecture.


I have never forgotten that incident - and neither have Danna or Lynn. 


None of us can understand why a man who can berate three housewives over an education bill really needs to continue as a Senator as this behavior simply doesn't seem consistent with that of a 'servant'.  In fact, it makes me wonder if that's how he gets so many of his bills passed.  Well, who wants to stand up to a bully?


In closing, while I feel certain that many people will see this as a HIT piece (which it is not, as every assertion in this blog can be corroborated or is backed up by a direct citation) it might help to hear Senator Jolley talk about the legislative process in his own words as recorded during a visit to the High Noon Club last year during a celebration of Milton Friedman's birthday. 


I can believe that Senator Jolley (and the Chamber of Commerce) believes that he is conservative.  We don't, and we hope we have made a direct enough case for you to agree.  


Paul Blair is ROPE's choice for Senate.  We hope he'll be yours as well.