Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Open Letter to Oklahoma Senators Brian Bingman and John Ford

Dear Senator Bingman and Senator Ford,

I am writing you today because as a former public school teacher (and now a teacher in my own home school) I understand you desire high academic standards for Oklahoma's students.  I understand you desire Oklahoma to be economically competitive.  I understand you desire students stay in school, graduate and go on to be successful in college or a career.  I also understand you to be Republicans.

Republicans are a group of individuals that come together because of a generally shared ideology.  Historically, Republicans have been the party of smaller government and greater self-discipline; economic freedom and lower taxes; individuality over the collective; and state control over federal control.

Republicans have a platform that delineates these shared ideologies at both the state and national levels.  Oklahoma's platform is very specific regarding Education, outlining various methods by which we choose to educate our children.  Among these are;
  1. We support curricula that promotes national sovereignty and opposes one-world government and global citizenship.
  2. We oppose all un-funded mandates.
  3. We believe a public school should protect the privacy of any personal information or data collected by the school on a student or his family and we oppose data mining by a public school.
  4. The Federal Department of Education should be eliminated and defunded and its functions transferred to the States. We oppose the imposition of national curricula, testing and teacher certification, Common Core State Standards, and federally mandated programs such as “No Child Left Behind” or “Race to the Top, and PARCC testing.
  • We oppose participation by Oklahoma in the Common Core State Standards because it transfers control of local schools, student data and curricula from the local school boards.
So strongly do we as Republicans believe in this last point as documented in our platform, Republican Committee Men and Women from all 50 states came together at their annual meeting and voted for a Resolution repudiating the Common Core State Standards at the national level (April 2013).  Not only was this issue addressed at the national level last spring, but this winter, the State Republican Committee voted for a Resolution repudiating the Common Core State Standards (January 2014).

Quite apparently, the Common Core State Standards are an issue of exceptional interest to Republicans.

Why?  Let's look at the Common Core in direct relation to the pieces of the platform transcribed here, by number.

1.  Please note; on the Common Core State Standards website;

Individuals are not only going to compete globally, but whole communities will as well...
Quite apparently, American education is bad.  We must look to other countries to tell us how to improve our educational standards, even though no other country in the world has America's unique form of government or level of individual freedom.
2.  The Common Core State Standards were nothing if not an unfunded mandate.  
Agreed to as early as 2009 when Oklahoma took State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF), Common Core entered state law in 2010 in order to make more competitive our application to the federal government for a Race to the Top grant.  Oklahoma received no money from our RtTT application.  Common Core was not removed from law.  Consequently, every RtTT-related legislative item was left unfunded.
3.  From the very beginning, the Common Core initiative has gone hand in hand with the collection of individual student data.   
Shawn Bay, CEO of eScholar, made this fact very clear at last years' Datapalooza - a conference sponsored by the White House and the US Department of Education in Washington, D.C. - when he made the statement that, "Common Core is the glue that actually ties everything (student data collection) together.”  In fact, Mr. Bay created his company in order to use data to 'manage' student data and track children from school to career and college using the Common Core.  There is simply no way to do this without individual student data - tracking individual students from cradle to career, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is familiar with exclaiming.  All one has to do today, is search the words "education" and "datamining" and pages full of articles and papers documenting the use of data collection as an education tool by our federal government.
Though legislators and educators alike have been told that the unprecedented collection of data on school children is to prevent drop outs by following children longitudinally across their education arc, proponents fail to explain how interwoven into the fabric of educational data collection are President Obama's pollsters of the last election, Nate Silver and Dan Wagner - the men who created a  database the likes of which Maxine Waters has referred to as
“...a kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life...[which is] going to be very, very powerful.”
4.   Not only does the Republican party repudiate Common Core, but federal involvement in education as well.
While Governor Fallin's Executive Order addresses federal government intrusion into public education, her statements are equivalent to closing the barn door after the horses have run out.  Why?  Because in 2009, under Governor Brad Henry, the state took State Fiscal Stabilization Funds from the Obama Administration.  Inside the application for SFSF funds, Governor Henry agreed to 

Page 98 of the America Competes Act speaks specifically to what this "Improving Standards Assurance" is.  This is what ROPE calls the Four Pillars Of Education Reform; A State Longitudinal Database, College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core), Turning Around Low Performing Schools and Teacher Accountability Measures.
Essentially, Oklahoma became slave to the federal government for their education 'reform' package for taking millions of dollars in ARRA funds, a great chunk of which simply disappeared.
But that was just the beginning of the Federal strings to Common Core.  After the ARRA funds, there came the Race to the Top (RtTT) application.  Though Oklahoma got no money from that application, we did get Common Core cemented in state law (SB2033) because Oklahoma got 20 points on their RtTT application for providing "A description of the legal process in the State for adopting standards, and the State’s plan, current progress, and time frame for adoption." (pg 53)
Following RtTT, there was the No Child Left Behind Waiver.  Again, in order to get the waiver, Oklahoma had to agree (again) to the Four Pillars of education reform.
Not to be rude, but please, tell me again how Common Core is NOT a federal dictate.  Please tell me again how there are no federal strings, how these standards are 'state led' or how Governor Fallin's EO does anything to actually cut the federal strings to Common Core and Oklahoma's other education 'reforms'.
In closing, it is not too late to stop Common Core in Oklahoma, but any or all of the seven bills currently on file this legislative session must be heard.  Yes, it is true - many districts have spent millions of dollars on Common Core implementation.  This situation isn't untenable.  If Common Core is removed from law (and the testing that supports it put on moratorium until a better alternative than the current, expensive, Common Core aligned tests are decided upon), it would be possible for districts to truly exhibit the local control so many Oklahomans covet.  Some schools would most assuredly move forward with their implementation of Common Core, but others, seeking to please and appease their district parents, could scrap it and find something that worked better for that school, the students, the parents and the district.

Please allow any or all of these bills a hearing in committee and permit them to be moved to the Senate floor. One of the beauties of America's truly unique government is that Representatives, chosen by the people, have the voice of the people in their seat of government.  The people can't have a voice, if their representatives do not give them one by blocking bills from committees hence further discussion and vote.  Please allow the Oklahoma State Senate to represent its people.

Thank you for your time and patience

Jenni White
Restore Oklahoma Public Education


America Competes Act:

Oklahoma's SFSF Application:

Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind Waiver Application:

Oklahoma's Race to The Top Application:

Governor Fallin's Executive Order 2013-40: