Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Does Our State Want A Museum, Or Education For Oklahoma Children?


In 2002, George W. Bush took Bill Clinton's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (created by Lyndon Banes Johnson in 1964), the Improving America's Schools Act, added a little something called AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and renamed it No Child Left Behind.  This graphic is wonderful in showing that, although the federal Department of Education has no Constitutional authority to act within states in any capacity, states have spent FIFTY YEARS kowtowing to the federal government on education policy,


all the while American educational performance has plummeted, never to recover.


In December of last year, Governor Mary Fallin issued Executive Order (2014-40) that said, in part,
...in order to safeguard against any threat of federal intrusion
Oklahoma would use Oklahomans to create Oklahoma public education standards and tests.

It is apparent Oklahoma has 'federal intrusion' in Oklahoma education today - No Child Left Behind and Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind Waiver.

NCLB under George W. Bush was simply a re-gift to the American people of Bill Clinton's ESEA with one twist - the addition of something called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  Bush's NCLB said that by 2014, ALL children would be proficient in Math and English as decided by federally mandated yearly testing that would be used to create a 'grade card' for schools.  If schools were labeled failing under AYP (it is estimated that 90% of Oklahoma schools would be thus labeled), and/or if states weren't 'proficient' in Math and English by 2014, schools would be forced to take 20%  of their Title 1 funds (created by the first ESEA) and re-direct it to the federally mandated categories of supplemental educational services (such as reading programs) and school choice efforts.

In Oklahoma, our State Department of Education has said this figure would amount to $27,198 million dollars plus $3.8 million dollars for additional staff to administer the red tape associated with becoming a 'failure'.

We are also told by the OSDE that if we don't test students as required in grades 3-8 and 10-12, we will lose ALL federal funds from the USDE totaling $361,396,105 so the loss of the Waiver only amounts to 8% of all the federal funds we currently take.

Currently, many in our state legislature are concerned about losing our NCLB Waiver and providing the extra money necessary to perform federally mandated services that Oklahoma has already said - through our Governor - we don't recognize.

Why not use the state Unclaimed Property Funds designated to complete the Indian Cultural Center (40 million) to offset any loss of flexibility in spending Title 1 funding? 

Though Oklahomans have been clearly reticent to complete what has become another improperly funded project, the Governor has pushed for its completion.  Despite what Oklahomans want, Mary Fallin wants BOTH Common Core and the Indian Cultural Center.

Clearly she should prioritize CHILDREN over a museum.

Our Governor also needs to follow her own Executive Order and tell the federal government to take a long walk off a short pier. In fact, our Governor and legislature should be on the same page on this issue.  What in would happen if we lost the waiver?  What would happen if we just stopped following NCLB in the first place?

1.  Texas has an account (the Permanent School Fund) they use to offset the need for federal funds, allowing them (when they desire to) hold the federal government at bay and stand on the 10th Amendment. Oklahoma can and should work toward doing the same - now.  The unclaimed property money could seed that account.
2.  Washington State has lost their waiver over TLE.  In a recent blog post, Washington's Policy Center (similar in nature to Oklahoma's OCPA) has said this opens the door to another program that could allow for better implementation of school choice.  How can the argument be Oklahoma will have greater federal control if we throw off federal control?
3.  Indiana is at risk of losing its waiver now that they have attempted to redesign their 'College and Career Ready' standards.  So are Kansas, Arizona and Oregon, according to EdWeek's analysis.  How can Common Core be state led then? Doesn't that invalidate that entire argument?
4.  Gosh, if parents decided they were going to finally take back their parental rights and stop subjecting their kids to unnecessary and punitive testing, our state would break NCLB altogether.  What does that say about federal intrusion into Oklahoma education?
5. The federal government only has the powers the STATES allot it.  Why is it that when we bring up this fact with many legislators, there is eye-rolling (ostensibly, "nobody cares about that", "that's just silly") and/or a discussion about all the federal money we could lose for other projects like roads - again, all unconstitutional.
6.  Oklahoma is already adjusting our NCLB waiver for other issues, if we must pretend the Constitution doesn't exist, we can always amend/adjust the Waiver further.
7.  Much anecdotal evidence exists to indicate that Title 1 monies are not spent as required.  Maybe a loss of Oklahoma's waiver would actually provide desperately needed financial accountability.

It is apparent; NCLB is not appropriate for states, schools, parents, or kids. Why would Oklahoma continue to attempt to support NCLB when there are ways to circumvent it and our Governor indicates her disdain for federal involvement?  These are important questions to ask that should be clearly delineated election items in November.