Monday, June 30, 2014

ROPE Hires Attorneys To File Amicus Brief In Support of HB3399



As of Friday, June 27, ROPE has hired two different attorneys to represent the PEOPLE in the lawsuit against HB3399.  If you would like to help us raise money to fund these efforts, you can do so here.

At the time of our associations with either set of attorneys, we had no idea who would represent the respondents (the state) in the lawsuit.  Today, after speaking with Emily in the Attorney General's office, we have found the AG's office will be mounting the defense.  I would like to point out, however, the AG's office is defending the respondents - the State Department of Education, Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman, Pro Temp Brian Bingman and the State of Oklahoma.

However much confidence we have in the ability of the AG's office to defend the state (and our hard work to Stop Common Core in Oklahoma) against this silly lawsuit, I ask you to turn your attention toward the Hobby Lobby religious liberty case.  Today, Hobby Lobby won a major fight for the cause of religious liberty in the United States, however, there were many lawsuits filed in many different courts before this final verdict was reached today.  In fact, though, the Green's attorneys represented them ably, many Amicus briefs were also filed in support of the original lawsuit to give the court other perspectives and information to consider. 

So what is an Amicus brief?  An Amicus brief is also called "friend of the court".  Only the respondents in any lawsuit are given 'standing' in a lawsuit - it is up to those being sued to mount a defense.  An Amicus brief allows people NOT a party to the original lawsuit to bring their voices into deliberation on the action.  In other words, though the state is defending the state, no one is defending the PEOPLE.  The state's interest and the people's interest are not always the same, as we found when the lawsuit was originally filed.  Filing one or more Amicus briefs in response to this lawsuit help the voice of the people to be heard...yet again.

Here is the information I provided today on our Facebook page.  If you have further questions or concerns, please either respond to the post here, on our Facebook page or feel free to message me personally through our Facebook page.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING ROPE's REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE IN FILING AMICUS BRIEFS IN SUPPORT OF HB3399.

Please, rest assured we are not attempting to gain anyone's personal information in using the Go Fund Me site to collect money to fund our Amicus briefs on behalf of the people and HB3399. ROPE was the first organization in all of Oklahoma - and one of the first in the nation - to research, educate others and attempt legislation to stop the State Longitudinal Database. We will not use anyone's email addresses supplied to the Go Fund Me effort, period.

The Oklahoma Attorney General has agreed to represent the respondents in this case, yes. This is a good thing, however, again, the state is being represented and not the people.

Here is a statement from one of our attorneys, Don Powers, of Powers At Law, law firm in Edmond, Oklahoma (http://powersatlaw.com/
), 

"An Amicus brief provides a venue into the case, allowing us to present facts on the side of the people that can be helpful to the Attorney General and the Supreme Court in deciding the case in our favor. It simply allows the people to have more ammunition on our side."
We have also secured the services of John Paul Jordan in Yukon, Oklahoma (http://www.jpjordanlaw.com/). Mr. Jordan replied, 
"We have seen time and time again where an Amicus brief has helped to sway a court to have a more clear understanding of the issues. In addition, given the confinement of the briefs, an Amicus brief helps to get more information to the court that a party may not be able to include. We can't take for granted what information is presented to the court. For example, many Amicus briefs were filed in the Hobby Lobby case. This is a common legal practice."
Please visit the websites for both sets of attorneys if you are concerned that our request is without merit, simply political or for any other reason than a pure representation of the people who fought so hard to STOP COMMON CORE in Oklahoma.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

State School Board Members and Others Sue State Over HB3399


I told you in May that the national Associations of State Boards of Education (NASBE) had sent a letter to Governor Mary Fallin explaining they would sue Oklahoma over the Constitutionality of having the state legislature sign off on the standards.  I poo-pooed the whole letter as nonsense - how in the world could NASBE - an out of state lobbying organization have standing in Oklahoma to sue us over a law our own legislature passed?

Well, apparently they didn't, so they got Oklahomans as Plantiffs and had them file a lawsuit.  Here are the willing accomplices:  Heather sparks, teacher of the year, Leo Baxter, Amy Anne Ford, William F. Shdeed and Daniel Keating, Oklahoma State School Board members.  Also Nancy Kunsman, Elizabeth Luecke, Leonardo DeAndrade (doesn't he drive formula one race cars?), Mara Novy and Charles Edward Pack, II.  I don't know anything about the last two - apparently they are either teachers or parents as described by some of the recent news stories about this.


This is the Section with which they are alleging HB3399 conflicts:

Section XIII-5: Board of Education.The supervision of instruction in the public schools shall be vested in a Board of Education, whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be President of the Board. Until otherwise provided by law, the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General shall be ex-officio members, and with the Superintendent, compose said Board of Education.
The lawsuit alleges that the legislature is encroaching on the right of the state school board to supervise instruction in public schools by allowing the legislature to review and modify state educational standards if that is deemed necessary by the citizens of Oklahoma.  Let's review a few reasons this is ridiculous.
  • What did the legislature do when they passed SB2033 in 2010? That was two whole sets of standards passed together before they were even in finalized form. So it was ok for the legislature then and not now? 
  • Where does it actually say that only the state school board can oversee standards?
  • The way I understand it, the legislature can already vote down the rules the state board makes to accept the standards in the first place, basically negating the standards - we just did that with the National Science Standards re-named Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science.
Here are a few other observations:
  • Isn't it interesting our own state board members are filing this suit? 
  • Isn't it interesting they are appointed by Mary Fallin - current chair of the NGA? 
  • Isn't it interesting this lawsuit would be filed the day after the historic election in which Janet Barresi - the incumbent, the Chairman of the Board and a Common Core proponent - came in dead last in a primary? 
Does anyone wonder here whether Governor Fallin signed the bill knowing they were going to bring action against it, hoping to stop the oversight process and therefore slip Common Core back into the standards?

Yes, these are all fascinating questions upon which to ruminate.  Sadly, they all make some kind of sense in a statist, sour grapes kind of way!  The Board were Barresi supporters.  Why?  Because Governor Fallin is a Barresi supporter.  The Board serves at the pleasure of the Governor, therefore the Board does as the Governor - NOT THE PEOPLE - wishes.



Here's another gem: The filing attorneys are saying the lawsuit must be heard quickly because school starts in several months and it will create havoc for schools and teachers if it's not promptly heard. That's GARBAGE! This particular issue doesn't even apply until the standards are re-written and that can take up to two years.  Teachers are not going to be inconvenienced if this lawsuit isn't settled before school begins in the fall.  It has nothing to do with the standards themselves, just the process of completing them.  We've gone back to PASS and nothing will change that now until new standards are written.  You know lawsuits are full of garbage and hot air when they affix so much unnecessary drama to them.

It's awfully fun to point out here that our Oklahoma Constitution SPECIFIES that Oklahoma will only provide an education to children until they are 16.  

Section XIII-4: Compulsory school attendance. The Legislature shall provide for the compulsory attendance at some public or other school, unless other means of education are provided, of all the children in the State who are sound in mind and body, between the ages of eight and sixteen years, for at least three months in each year.
Why aren't high school parents suing for warehousing their kids until they're 18 or older?  Kids, you don't have to attend public school once you turn 16!  Make sure to tell your principal and superintendent you'll sue them if they call you in truant after that time.  

Not only that, but Pre-K and Kindergarten programs HAVE TO GO!  Until your child is 8 years old, the state cannot educate them!  We need to go back and remove all that money we're spending on Pre-K.  That will be an outstanding way to free up some extra cash for teachers and classrooms!


But wait!  The state doesn't have to provide Special Education classes either.  How about if taxpayers begin to sue the state for using taxpayer money to fund Special Education classes?  
What would this do to legislation such as the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship which most certainly falls under the category of special education?  What would it do to school choice?  Well, never mind,  I think it's a grand idea!  I'm with the state school board!  Let's follow the Constitution!  Let's just play this game all the way out.

I think ROPE should go on a campaign to make parents aware of the Constitution immediately.  Thanks for the idea of sticking to the state Constitution Fellers/Snider/Blankenship/Bailey and Tippens law firm!  Too bad our points are actually spelled out in the text of the document and yours are contrived to make a point and stymie parents that were simply trying to make their voices heard on behalf of their children and families. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Teachers, Parents Boot Barresi


There are several sayings that come to mind tonight..."When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", and "You can't win 'em all".  Actually, I think the latter is because of the former.  As Dr. Barresi found out, you simply can't win an election as State Superintendent of Public Instruction if you don't have the support of parents - and most of all - YOUR teachers.

My dad has been in advertising - except for a tour in the Navy after college - his whole adult life.  I remember him telling me early on, that you could get people to buy even the most repugnant stuff if you just sold it right.  Well, Dr. Barresi couldn't have sold hand warmers to Eskimos. 

Honestly, I think that's the main reason she lost; she has no real leadership abilities.  Oh, yes, she was able to tell people where to go alright, but not in a constructive way.  I remember the first meeting I had with Janet after we had helped her win the general election in 2010.  I met her at her campaign office and I said, "Now that you've been elected, we've got to stop this Common Core nonsense".  She looked right at me, cocked her head in that, "oh never fear little person, I'll handle this" kind of condescending manner and said, "Common Core is just the framework we hang curricula on - it's not that big a thing, we've always had standards."  I think I mumbled something about loss of control and federal involvement, to which she says, "I can control this.  I can control the feds". 

I remember thinking at that moment, "Oh cr*%, can I have my vote back?"  But it was too late - and it only got worse from there.  

Over her very short tenure, I've created a long list of Janet's 'missteps' (to be super charitable) in several of my blogs, so I don't need to beat that dead horse, but I think it's entirely fair game to point out that her loss wasn't just about Common Core.  Dr. Barresi's historic (according to my sources, never in Oklahoma history has an incumbent come in last in a crowded primary) loss to Joy Hofmeister was - just as I've characterized the repeal of Common Core in Oklahoma - a perfect storm.  Barresi
  • had a problem telling consistent stories to everyone from teachers to parents
  • appeared to have contempt for everyone from lawmakers to teachers to parents
  • wasn't interested in consensus of any kind unless it was going to turn out in her favor
  • made it clear regularly that it was her way or the highway
  • name-called those who weren't 'on her team' - example; you were a liberal if you didn't agree with her positions
  • became a Chief for Change and worked with Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Educational Excellence on many education 'reform' plans
  • fought for Common Core to the bitter end
  • consistent blame shifting/shaming cycle perpetuated on school administrators and teachers
So many teachers left their jobs in the four years she was in office she herself had to call a task force to study how to bring in more teachers to the Sooner state.  In fact, I remember going to the capitol one day and walking upstream to some of the task force participants leaving.  I wanted to rush up to the group of them and scream, "Until you get rid of our Super, you're not going to bring in more teachers."  Between the testing and the Common Core and the IEP silliness and all the paperwork they were being required to fill out in order to satisfy Federal and state mandates, teachers have left the profession in Oklahoma in droves.  It needn't have taken a task force to figure out why.

Hopefully politicians have learned a thing or two from this race;

Common Core + statist overlord masquerading as state superintendent = big, big primary loss


Congratulations Joy Hofmeister and Doug Cox, we look forward to continued work together not as liberals or conservatives, but educators and parents interested in improving public education for our children.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Joy Hofmeister - In My Opinion - Jenni White


Seriously, who doesn't love Three Dog Night?  Who doesn't love Jeremiah the Bullfrog?  Yes, I am dating myself, but seriously, you're humming the song right now, I know it!

Though I could wax philosophic about late '60's music, we need to discuss Joy Hofmeister.

In late summer of 2012, ROPE decided that, since our Superintendent had no intention of listening to a word we had to say on Common Core, we would try to speak with each State Board Member.  Consequently, we drove to Enid to see then-member Brian Haden, we traveled to Lawton to speak with General Baxter, I personally drove downtown to Bill Price's law office and met with him and then-ROPE Board member, Danna Foreman and I met Joy Hofmeister at Starbucks in Edmond near one of her Kumon franchises.  (We never seemed to be able to catch up with Bill Shdeed and from our observations at State Board Meetings, we believed a meeting with Amy Ford would simply be a waste of time for all of us.)

Bill Price is as intractable in his opinions of school 'reform' as Amy Ford.  Brian Hayden listened, but we didn't believe he really understood our concerns (he has since left the Board).  General Baxter was a lot of fun to talk to and we thought maybe he was hearing our concerns, but it became obvious he served "at the pleasure of the Governor" and not long after our meeting , it seemed clear he had done his due diligence and moved on.

Joy Hofmeister was another story.  As Danna and I met with her that day, I found her instantly likable.  She listened, took notes and asked questions as we talked.  She took our materials gratefully and warned us she didn't know much about Common Core at all - a fact clear from our chat.  It was also clear she was an independent thinker - she wasn't on the school 'reform' train - she seemed as though she wanted to do what was best for kids, not simply what was expedient or trendy.  We talked about local control of education and how she had seen the effects of parental involvement through her work at Kumon and how important it was to engage parents in their children's education directly.

To me, Joy appeared warm and open and willing to listen.  Consequently, we kept in touch.  She would call or text asking my opinions about various issues the board was addressing or to ask questions about Common Core and other 'reforms'.  Not long after we met, I found our youngest son had a type of mathematical dyslexia.  Among other things, he was reversing his numbers (90 became 09), making it very frustrating for he and I to do math at home.  Knowing Joy owned several Kumon franchises, I called and asked her opinion.  She gave me several ideas, we chatted for a bit and hung up.  Three days later, a learning tool Kumon uses to help kids get their numbers straight appeared in my mailbox.  Sam and I used it, he showed improvement quickly and Joy and I developed a friendship.

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have watched Joy change.  When I met her, she was fairly ignorant of a lot of the new 'reforms' our superintendent, governor and legislature had adopted for our state, but she knew she didn't like the imperious nature of our superintendent or the adversarial feel of the board/superintendent relationship.  She never balked at any education we attempted to give her, but instead read our materials and frequently contacted me with follow-up questions, seeking to broaden her view.

No, Joy did not come out whaling away against Common Core when she began her campaign for superintendent.  This frustrated many of our ROPE friends.  I understand their perspective, but it's important to remember what perspective is and that there are frequently multiple views of the same issue.  As I talked to Joy about Common Core, it became very clear she was not going to move the way a group wanted, she was going to continue researching until she could make the decision on her own.  The implied hypocrisy in the statement "She was for it before she was against it" is completely ridiculous.  I was an atheist at one point in my life.  Now I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  So, I can't grow into a relationship with the Lord?  This argument is sound for anyone who considers themselves to be an educable individual on any issue at any level.

Our current superintendent has shown she is not educable.  She knows what's right and by Hell or high water, she's going to do that/those thing/s.

That is not Joy.  Joy will study, deliberate, debate and discuss before she comes to a conclusion.  In my experience she's not going to be led around by the nose, or decide she has the only solution, she's going to work to find her true north and move in that direction.  This is why I was so disappointed to see Charlie Meadows of OC-PAC repeat misinformation about Joy in his latest "Charlie's Picks" email.  He said the following:
Let me suggest the differences, when Janet ran 4 years ago she was a strong advocate for school choice. Much of her ideas for school choice are charter schools, a form of school choice for which I am not a huge fan. However Janet is also favorable to home schooling and other forms of school choice. On the other hand I believe Joy was encouraged to run by many in the education establishment, especially the Tulsa area school superintendents who most likely despise Janet. I believe Janet is more committed to school choice and thus children, while I believe Joy is more committed to school systems. I have a trust problem with both of them and may not vote in this race. If I decide to vote, I am leaning toward Janet. 
He "believes" Joy was encouraged to run by Tulsa area school superintendents.  So?  As ROPE followers know, I'm not necessarily a fan of administrators (certainly on the Common Core issue), but what difference does that make?  The education of children isn't about ideology, it's about finding practical solutions to help all children learn the most they are able in the best environment we're able to provide as Oklahoma taxpayers.

The ladies of ROPE are not 'school choice' proponents per se.  We don't support charter schools (schools with private boards using public money), but we like Education Savings Accounts - FOR EVERYBODY not just minorities and those below the poverty line.  To us, this is true school choice - choice that will bring about real competitive market results.  I have talked this out with Joy.  Joy is committed to education competition and local control - not school systems or state systems or out-of-state systems.  In fact, she has LOST funding since coming out against the Common Core and a restoration of local control - yes, she has had donors request their funds to be returned.  THOSE would be the 'education establishment'.

When I chose to support her in 2010, I knew  Dr. Barresi was authoritarian and brash - I had worked under her long enough to know that.  I simply hoped those traits would be used to clean up the State Department of Education as she promised during her campaign.  Obviously, the brash authoritarianism turned against us as she strove to implement the programs statist Republicans (the 'education establishment'?) ordained in lockstep with their counterparts in the Obama Administration.

Charlie says he doesn't trust either Republican candidate for state superintendent.  Well, many of us 'trusted' Janet and look where that got us - Common Core, A No Child Left Behind Waiver, 3rd Grade Reading Retention; more and more and more 'edicts' with which state schools can shove parents out of the picture. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting different results.  If you've been unhappy with the last two years, further supporting Dr. Barresi then, seems insane.

If you're a voting Republican in the Oklahoma primary elections on June 24, that leaves Joy Hofmeister.  Joy is not authoritarian or brash - she has shown herself to me to be just the opposite.

Instead of repeating hearsay and 'believing' a candidate to be one thing or another - either talk to the candidate themselves or to someone who knows the candidate - as a person will, at some point, reveal their true selves during the course of a personal relationship.  Joy has revealed nothing to me that indicates she doesn't deserve a stab at the job of State Superintendent, and I for one, am willing to give her the chance.  Wouldn't you rather have a listening, learner than a know-it-all?  I know I would.                                                    

TW Shannon And The Common Core (Updated 6/18/14)



Come election time, everyone has a story.  Some are better than others, but the most important thing to voters should be whose story is true.

Because there has been much said about T.W. Shannon and the Common Core fight in Oklahoma, I thought I would spend a few minutes detailing what I know.  Now please know, I realize there are two sides to every story.  I'm telling mine.

In December of 2012, just after T.W. Shannon had been announced as the historic new Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Lynn Habluetzel and I met with him in his tiny office.  We had tried to schedule the meeting several times, but it just so happened, that today, a mere week before Christmas, he was in town and had time to visit.

At that meeting, Lynn and I provided the new Speaker with a run-down on Common Core, complete with a folder of written materials to read.  T.W. was attentive, took notes and at the end of the meeting, assured us he would look into the issue further.  We smiled, shook hands, wished him a Merry Christmas and said good-bye.

Representative Gus Blackwell introduced HB1907 the next session; a bill to provide a task force to study the costs of Common Core in Oklahoma.

The bill was heard in the Rules Committee which Blackwell chaired and passed unanimously.  In determining when we could plan for the bill to come to the Floor of the House, Calendar Committee Chair, Pam Peterson told us all Task Force bills were being held until all other bills could be heard.

The whole story can be found in my original blog, but suffice it to say, we were then told by Representative Blackwell that Speaker Shannon had killed the bill because the Governor had said she would veto it.   The Speaker then offered Representative Blackwell an interim study to be conducted over a number of days and over which Representative Blackwell would have free reign. (The study was conducted in October.  Few legislators - including T.W. Shannon - were present.)

From there, a series of events occurred in 2013:
  • ROPE had a rally in the hall of the Supreme Court against Common Core that was well-covered by the media.
  • Speaker Shannon had a change of heart, does a 180, says he believes Common Core is "federal intrusion into our education system", and will write a bill to help stop it.
  • Speaker Shannon is a guest on the Glenn Beck Show (Dana Loesh was subbing that day)
  • While he is gone, Representative Dennis Casey apparently authored a piece of anti-Common Core language that was attached to HB1719 (which we never saw but in draft form - it was never officially filed apparently as there is no record) which then died because it was 'accidentally' (?) sent to Senator Clark Jolley's Appropriations Committee (Senator Jolley helped author the legislation placing Common Core into Oklahoma State Law - SB2033 in 2010)
  • Representative Blackwell authors HJR1011 to stop implementation of Common Core unless several categories of inquiry are met - the bill is not filed
  • Legislative Session 2013 ends without a bill of any kind passing either Oklahoma legislative body
During 2014:
  • Speaker Shannon authors HB3331, to stop the federal overreach of Common Core into Oklahoma
  • Speaker Shannon leaves his Speaker's post to run for Senator Coburn's seat
  • HB3399 is authored by Representative Jason Nelson after meeting with a number of grassroots activists prior to the beginning of session
  • Holly Gerard, from the Oklahoma State GOP Executive Committee, Carolyn McLarty, National Committeewoman and I begin to work with Representative Nelson and others (also Senate author Josh Brecheen) to develop, discuss and study HB3399
  • Holly, Carolyn, Lynn, Ronda Vuillemont-Smith (Tulsa912Project) meet with Representative Shannon about his bill - he says he will keep it to make sure we have a vehicle if something happens to HB3399
  • HB3399 goes to the floor after Speaker Jeff Hickman takes over authorship - Representative Shannon is absent for the vote
  • HB3399 goes to senate, conference committee and back to the floor for a vote, T.W. Shannon votes YEA
Now, once the bill passed the Senate - during the time it is waiting to be signed by the Governor - a veritable slew of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors of the bill: Kern, Bennett, Ortega, McCullough, Cockroft,
Brumbaugh, Sears, Echols, Walker, Derby and Shannon.  It is a very political move to sign on as a co-sponsor once the heat is off and you know the bill is going to pass.  However, it must be said that Sears, Kern and Shannon actually did do more than virtually anyone on the list historically and this year alone.

Did T.W. Shannon stop Common Core in Oklahoma by himself?  Absolutely not.  Did he move the conversation?  You'd have to say he did.  Was he a key player in stopping Common Core in Oklahoma?  He was one of the first legislators to speak publicly against it, but with the two twists of stopping Blackwell's bill and putting repeal language on a Jolley-bound track - I've always wondered how much of this was rhetoric simply because nothing came out of all the talk.

I like T.W. Shannon.  Face it, the man is likable, articulate and has a great 'cool' factor.  The only problem is that it takes more than a 'cool' factor to create a strong legislator that can stand FOR conservatism in the face of everything AGAINST conservatism at the federal level.  In fact, you need to look at his voting record.  I've never seen so many YEA's in my life.  My goodness he's agreeable, but not every bill can be a yes - only those that limit government, and many times that means a 'nay'.  T.W. Shannon is a very nice man, but I need more action and less talk.  I need more results and less attempts.  While I absolutely appreciate the efforts on T.W.'s part to change the discussion on Common Core, I'm not ready to send T.W. to Washington, D.C.

Via call from TW Shannon (6/18/14):  T.W. explained that he told Gus he was concerned his bill wasn't going to pass the House, let alone the Senate and that the Governor wouldn't sign it.  By offering Gus the interim study on Common Core instead of allowing the bill to come to the House floor for a vote, Shannon believed he would give the fight against Common Core a chance to develop.  Shannon was concerned that  if the bill made it to the floor and was voted down, it would do more to hurt the cause against Common Core than simply denying the bill a hearing and allowing Gus an extended period of time to bring Common Core issues to the public through an interim.
I asked him about the attempt to add Common Core language to Representative Osborn's bill after that, but he didn't remember the specifics and indicated he would contact someone in his office at that time who might know.  If I didn't have trouble remembering my kids birthdates, I could call that statement into question.
It was also interesting to me that he admitted being 'agnostic' on the topic of Common Core until after Lynn and I visited with him and he began to study the topic further.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Setting the Record Straight On Janet Barresi - OK Supt. Of Public Schools


During the local KFOR-TV show, FlashPoint (approx. minute 2) which aired on Father's Day, Dr. Barresi clearly uses me personally (Jenni White) as a pawn in her political game of tall tale telling by explaining to the audience that she has met with me/us (ROPE) to hear our concerns.  This made me angry enough to respond.  In the following blog, you will find the history of Jenni/ROPE and Superintendent Janet Barresi.  I hope you will come away with a clear understanding of why ROPE could never support her as State Superintendent again.

In the spring of 1999, I accepted a job at Independence Charter Middle school teaching 7th grade science on the same team where my mother taught 7th grade English.  Dr. Barresi had created the school and maintained a supervisory capacity, having worked very hard to create an environment where students (including her two sons) would be provided a rigorous curricula (we used E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum - not Common Core) and parents would be accountable for their children's behavior.

By the time we left in 2002 (my mother formally retired after decades of teaching and I left to stay home with our first son), we believed our voices no longer appreciated in the present and future plans of Independence.  Nevertheless, I was impressed Dr. Barresi could work so hard and organize so well as to create an entire school.  ROPE fully backed Dr. Barresi believing she could provide the accountability our former Superintendent had not seemed to do.  I personally staked out campaign signs, wrote blogs, marched in parades and spoke across the state to help Dr. Barresi's campaign for election.

My thought process changed immediately after Dr. Barresi won her election and by December 2011, I had written the following blog,  Marveling at The Nuclear Fallout Of Partisan Politics.  I urge you to read this post.  It details how Dr. Barresi used partisan politics and her friendship with Governor Mary Fallin to create a situation in which she could gain complete control over the Department of Education - neutering the State Board.  

Here are specific reasons ROPE will NOT support Dr. Barresi again:
  1. The week (or so) after her election in November 2010, I was granted an appointment with Dr. Barresi at her campaign headquarters.  At that time, I told we needed her help to stop Common Core.  In a very domineering tone, she told me she was moving forward with Common Core (begun under DEMOCRAT Brad Henry).  I shouldn't worry because she could "control it".  She would control the Feds.
  2. Though I tried to engage her via email, continuing to make my case against Common Core - even after she took office - I got the same 'assurances' for a few exchanges and then no further correspondence.
  3. In 2011, Representative Sally Kern wrote the first bill to stop Common Core in Oklahoma, which was blocked by both the Senate and House Education Committees.  ROPE engaged in a letter writing campaign to Dr. Barresi asking her to help give the bill a hearing.  In attempt to solicit the superintendent's aid, Representative Kern made an appointment to see Dr. Barresi and took me along because she had not responded to my requests for a meeting.  I clearly remember sitting across her desk from her as she gestured to her computer screen and said with great exasperation, "Why are you having these people email me? You are not even giving them correct information. They don't even know what they're talking about."  That was followed by further assurances she had it covered - she knew what she was doing when it came to implementing Common Core.
  4. That fall (2011) Representative Kern was allowed an Interim Study on the Common Core.  She asked ROPE and Lindsay Burke of the Heritage Foundation to speak.  Dr. Barresi and a Senator from Arizona were allowed to speak following our presentations.  As she took the microphone, the first words out of her mouth were, "We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts."  A clear insult aimed at moms - moms with advanced degrees there on their own dime and their own time.
  5. Dr. Barresi was asked to refute our comments to the Interim Committee after the 2011 study.  Representative Kern had to ask repeatedly for the response
Since that time, there have been continuing efforts to belittle our organization and demean mothers and others interested in public education, making nearly every battle partisan - as though she personally represents every Republican in the state and we all want exactly what she wants.  While Joel Robison, Barresi's Chief of Staff, has made several attempts to stay in contact over the last several years, Dr. Barresi herself has gone out of her way NOT to.
  1. During the March 2013 Board Meeting, several of us went to speak against the A-F grading system. I was cut off rudely though I was finishing a sentence.
  2. During the June 2013 Board Meeting, we were told we couldn't speak at all - we were not even allowed our 3 minutes because we wanted to address the board on Common Core and it wasn't on the agenda - though Common Core testing was addressed in the meeting.
  3. During the July 2013 Board Meeting, I began to give my thoughts on Common Core and Dr. Barresi left the room.
  4. During the August 2013 Common Core Forum in Tulsa, Dr. Barresi stopped taking questions as soon as I got to the mic. 
  5. Dr. Barresi has had any number of times made available to her in which to debate me if she had really wanted to 'listen' or engage our concerns.  She has never taken one.   True, there are scheduling issues, but if she really wanted to debate me, she could have made time in four years to do it.
In closing I would like to create a list of reasons why ROPE asks you to vote AGAINST Dr. Barresi June 24th.*
  • Though seemingly determined to frame every argument about education in a partisan issue where she is a "conservative" and everyone who does not agree with her is a "liberal":
  • Hires John Kraman - a previous employee of Achieve (the offspring organization of parent National Centers on Education and the Economy started by known liberal Marc Tucker - which produced "Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring US Students Receive a World-class Education" - the precursor to the CCSS), further cementing into place a 'liberal' agenda
  • Actively, personally fought allowing parents to voluntarily put their kids into kindergarten two months later in the year. Barresi fought such a change based on the perennial liberal argument that such legislation, "would discriminate against low-income families 
  • Instead of working with parents, has fought parents
  • Fought changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act that would bring parents into the graduation decision from 3rd to 4th grady by saying,  "It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach a child to read", implying that government knew better than parents as to whether a child was prepared to read. 
  • During the End of Instruction Exam appeals in 2012, Dr. Barresi opened the private records of those students requesting an appeal to public scrutiny over the State Department of Education's website.  In addition, the entire EOI process - Dr. Barresi's requested legislation - cuts out the role of parent, reducing graduation from high school to a series of tests.
  • Made excuses for her Chief of Staff, Jennifer Carter, calling superintendents in Union and Jenks, "dirtbags". Carter, though possessing no experience in classroom education on any level, was instrumental in state Department of Education budgetary issues such as the removal of National Board Certification as alleged by the Oklahoma Truth Council.
Honestly and sadly, I could go on.  I feel like one of the Founding Fathers enumerating the various acts of tyranny by King George.  No public official is 'perfect'.  That's not the issue.  The issue here is, does the candidate respect the authority of those she serves?  In this case, I believe the facts show the answer to be NO.  

*Though ROPE can not endorse candidates for public office or support their campaigns, I personally will be voting for Joy Hoffmeister for State Superintendent on June 24th.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

David Beats Goliath! Political Success, Meet The Underdog


Anyone remember this meme?  This meme was our absolute, hands down, most viewed of all our memes.  I think we had something like 20K views, and hundreds of shares from our Facebook page - including a post on The Five's Fan Page when uploaded to social media last year.

Why?  Because this is a true story.  David DID defeat Goliath with nothing but a rock...and great FAITH that God would return his courage in action with blessing.  For those of us professing Christians, every victory should be understood in those terms, but most everyone enjoys stories in which the underdog wins!

It is a particularly sweet victory for all us moms and dads, however - underdogs without a tenth the monetary resources of the Oklahoma City and Tulsa Chambers of Commerce, the National Governor's Association (for which Governor Fallin is the current Chair), PTA and Stand For Children.

Many Conservatives have felt increasingly disenfranchised over the years - not only by party politics - but by our inability to move our government toward that of a smaller, less intrusive footprint more in line with the Constitution and our ideals.  For many years now, we have watched those in our own party (ROPE board members have been involved in the Republican party) who, at the federal and state level, propose and enact legislation that infringes upon our freedoms and impacts our ability to live our life in the "pursuit of happiness". I know many of us have felt as though we were David's confronted by a heavily financed and funded Goliath over which triumph seemed impossible.

As I wrote this week, citizens across Oklahoma (parents, educators, grandparents...) made thousands of phone calls and sent thousands of emails and letters to our Governor asking her to sign HB3399 which would repeal and replace Common Core in Oklahoma and we won.  True, grassroots efforts - individuals working together - effected a change few would have thought possible.

I believe the momentum may be shifting.  Yesterday, Eric Cantor, a leader in the House of Representatives since 2001, lost his job.  His opponent, Dave Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College beat the heavily financed Cantor (1.5 million in campaign funds) with 300,000 dollars by benefit of grassroots support.  The National Review Online characterized his message:
Brat criticized increasing centralization in education policy (such as Common Core), crony capitalism and the skyrocketing national debt.
Monday, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing with Sam Sorbo - Hollywood conservative, wife of actor Kevin Sorbo - who has taken over for Andrea Tantaros.  Toward the end of our interview she spoke about working with director Haing Ngor - a resident of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror. She pointed out that, Cambodia, just as in other Communist countries, the start of communism began with elitism - elevating individuals with money and/or power in stature over others as a way to neuter the masses.

It's not hard to find examples of elitism in America today, sadly, and Common Core presents a very good example.  Bill and Melinda Gates, Arne Duncan, President Obama - all pushing the concept of Common Core (a nationalization of education ) using their money and positions as a basis - though none are willing to enroll their children in schools teaching Common Core (in the same way our federal legislators are not bound to participate in ObamaCare).  In other words, they believe the 'masses' should be placed under rules and regulations that needn't affect those "at the top".  If this isn't elitism, I truly see no other way to define the word.

The defeat of Cantor and the passage of HB3399 are powerful beacons of hope in our fight against elitism and the re-institution of Federalism in the US.  These recent actions should give Oklahomans and Americans hope the tide is turning, but it won't continue without effort.

To be part of the tsunami, you must get involved in the political process and stay involved.  You must be willing to do more than wring your hands and pray, you must write emails and letters, make phone calls, research political candidates and then support those of your choice with your time and effort.  Don't use a lack of money as an excuse to call in sick to the fight!  Together, we can make our government work for us as President Lincoln so eloquently stated, so "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Arne Duncan Reveals His True Colors


This blog was published in American thinker under this URL:  http://americanthinker.com/2014/06/arne_duncan_vs_oklahoma_comments.html

What’s A Win Worth If We Learn Nothing From It?


Thursday, June 5th, Governor Fallin signed HB3399 – the strongest anti-Common Core law in the nation currently – into law.  Oddly, though fighting the fight against Common Core since 2010, the win was a bit anti-climactic.  It might have been because there was no time for celebration – exhausted, I had two boys to get to two different baseball games that night after having been out of town at an anti-Common Core rally in Ohio for two days – but I also think it’s because I know the process isn’t finished.

The week before Governor Fallin signed the bill, CCOSA (Cooperative Council Oklahoma School Administration), OSSBA (Oklahoma State School Board Administration), PTA, Stand For Children, The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, The Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and an organization called, “The Collaborative For Student Success” (funded in part by the VERY politically liberal New Venture Fund), released two full page ads full of scare tactics, in both the Tulsa World and the Daily Oklahoman.  After finding a rate card for both publications, it didn’t take long to decipher the group had spent over 30,000 dollars for these ads.

Wait.  So your school board member is against you if you want to get rid of Common Core?  What about your Superintendent and/or Principal?  So they are against you if you don’t want your child to be educated using the Common Core State Standards?  Yes.  They are against you to the tune of 30K.  Do you parents have that kind of money?  I know we don’t, and we’re an organization who could probably beat the bushes and still only find a tenth of that for a newspaper ad AGAINST Common Core.

Over the years, I’ve written about the various organizations named here, such as the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce (here’s another good one!). I think many of us know the national Chamber of Commerce is not a friend to the Conservative.  With their lobbying for the healthcare law, immigration ‘reform’ (I put ALL reform’s in ‘air quotes’ because I see the word ‘reform’ as a euphemism for ‘more government necessary to give you something only we want’) and other anti-Constitution/big government ‘solutions’ in search of a problem.  In fact, most likely the only real trustworthy chamber is the Chamber in your individual town who cares more for the growth of the township than the State/National Chamber’s big government favoring big business agenda.

One wouldn't necessarily think that true of school administrators, but alas, they have turned against parents as well.  I wrote a blog recently where I enumerated the pro-Common Core organizations that ‘sponsor’ CCOSA.  Of course CCOSA wouldn’t support Common Core because they are financially backed to do so, right? (snark)

Interestingly enough, I have had numerous teachers report to me that their superintendents are saying they will follow Common Core no matter what.  One woman who posted on the Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education Facebook page said, “The district’s stance was that if the state could change their mind, then the district could just do what they wanted.”  Sadly, it wasn’t “the state” it was THOUSANDS of parents and teachers that wanted the ruling reversed – it was thousands upon thousands of parents and teachers who wrote the Governor letters and made phone calls pleading with her to sign HB3399 and stop Common Core. 

Apparently, as an OPEPE administrator told me moments ago, when a group of parents consulted this same school district for help on the third grade reading assessments, they were told that the district couldn’t break the RSA law.  I guess in administrator land, it’s all just whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it – parents be damned.  This would be simply fall on the ground hysterical if it weren’t for the fact that parents pay property taxes for those services and the administration are there to SERVE parents, not demand the parents serve them on their terms.

What about NASBE (National Association of State Boards of Education)?  Well, NASBE wants to sue the state over HB3399 saying it was against the Oklahoma Constitution to allow the legislature to sign off on the new standards rather than the state school board.  Can you imagine the veritable gall of these people?  Coming into another state and threatening a law suit over a state law proposed and enacted by the people of the state?  Seriously, solid silver guts here.

Why would NASBE act this way?  Simple, because they are Bill Gates shills like most of the rest of the pro Common Core factions.  This fight has always been the big money corporate elitists against parents.  Sad the OSSBA (Oklahoma State School Board Association) has had to get into the fray as well, signing on along with these other groups to keep Common Core.  This organization is made up of your local school board members.  You ELECT your local school board members to represent YOU.  Why would they counter parents?

Two separate school board members in the state have told me they never received a survey from OSSBA asking them if they wanted Common Core or not; the OSSBA leadership apparently decided that for themselves.  Well, as the OSSBA website says, “The OSSBA is a player on the national scene as a member of the powerful National School Boards Association”, and we all know where they get their money!  Oklahoma law stipulates that ALL Oklahoma school board members – though elected by the citizens of their district – must succumb to school board training.  Several school board members have told me this training ends up being accomplished through NASBE.  Recap: parents vote for school board members who then go to training with NASBE who then come back to the board with Bill Gates inspired ideas that move the school further and further away from parental control.
(NOTE 6/10: Shawn Hime of the OSSBA corrected me here.  NASBE isn't the NSBA - National School Boards Association.  OSSBA is affiliated with NSBA NOT NASBE.  NSBA has received money from Bill Gates, but not in any way to the extent of NASBE. That needs to be kept straight)
Then there’s the PTA. If you didn’t know, the PTA is really an offshoot of the National Education Association (NEA).  Consequently, though the name include the word “PARENT”, this organization left that idea behind in 1968 when leadership voted to support teachers in the event of a strike, leaving parents behind for their unholy league with the NEA.

Two other groups identified on the newspaper ad, are Expect More and Stand On – oops, I mean – For Children. 

Stand, has a tainted reputation here in Oklahoma.  First we find they are bankrolled primarily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and therefore have no voice of their own, other than a parrot of Gates.  Second, we find they sent in a petition to our state’s legislature including 7000 signatures – just like a petition in Colorado – which was misrepresented to the press and contained  a large number of false names.

Expect More is simply a hodgepodge of organizations – mainly the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’ - who have come together “in support of higher standards” for education. Not only have they spent large sums on advertising FOR the Common Core, they recently paid for a very slick video to be shot declaring the wonders of the standards.  So, again, this is a re-brand of Bill Gate’s money and that’s about it – period.

Here’s the takeaway.  We need to pay attention to the organizations and groups we support.  While parents may support them – they don’t support parents.  The fact that the OSSBA doesn’t support the parents that elect them to their positions should cause people to stand up in arms.

School board elections are in February.  Here is all the necessary information to run as a school board member.  Parents from across Oklahoma should plan NOW to sign up to run for school board against the NASBE-trained members currently working against them in their district.  The ONLY way you’ll take your school district back, is through the board – the board that in turn hires the ADMINISTRATION of the school! 

If you don’t like the research I’ve provided you on these organizations, STOP SUPPORTING THEM.

Instead of PTA, have your school move to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).  PTO’s don’t take parent money and then lobby the legislature against parents.  PTO’s are individual associations within districts that have only an informational website for educational materials.

Look, public schools were instituted alongside the parent for the education of their children.  Somewhere along the line, however, parents deemed it more of a babysitter, than a give-and- take relationship where the two parties worked TOGETHER for the education of that child.  If this last year has taught us anything, I hope it has taught every parent to become an engaged fighter for the education of their children.

As Edmond dad, Matt Wilson, so eloquently opined on the ROPE Facebook page after the passage of HB3399, “…I know our work is not done and thank you for encouraging me to take a more active role in my children’s education and lives.”

Matt’s words mean more to me personally than I could possibly express.  No matter what we set out to accomplish with Common Core, Matt hit the heart of the matter – the one thing we truly wanted after all was said and done.  I hope EVERY parent can – and will – echo his sentiments and work to truly put themselves back in the driver’s seat of their child’s education in as many ways as humanly possible.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Governor Fallin Signs HB3399 - Repealing Common Core in Oklahoma

The board of Restore Oklahoma Public Education would like to express our appreciation to Governor Mary Fallin for signing HB3399 into Oklahoma law today.

After many years of educating the public and legislators on the issue, ROPE was gratified to see the strongest bill against Common Core across the nation this year come from Oklahoma Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman and co-authors Representative Jason Nelson and Senator Josh Brecheen.  We were then pleased to see it pass the House and the Senate with such overwhelming numbers this May.

We truly thank Governor Fallin for her deliberation on this issue and hearing the voices of Oklahoma parents individually and through our legislators.  The tireless work of Representative Nelson, Senator Brecheen and other legislators on HB3399 will forever be appreciated.

Oklahoma now has the opportunity to lead the nation as never before in creating new education standards to propel Oklahoma students onto a path of excellence.  ROPE looks forward to assisting in that journey in any way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Response To Brickman (Fordham) and Hudeyki's Six Reasons for Gov. Fallin NOT To Sign HB3399




Monday I was ecstatic to find that, while I was leaving for Ohio to participate in an anti-Common Core rally, Michael Brickman from Fordham Foundation (located in Ohio) was coming to Oklahoma to give Governor Fallin 6 reasons why she should not sign HB3399 - the repeal and replacement of the Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma.

I feel it important to address each one of their points:

1.    The Fiscal and Educational Costs of Repeal

This is particularly vexing.  When was there EVER any notion of cost mentioned with the establishment of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in any state?  In fact, that’s been one of opponents largest concerns – how much will this cost.  The National Conference of State Legislators doesn’t know.  Governing magazine doesn’t know.  In fact, even Oklahoma’s own legislators couldn’t have known what it would cost to implement the CCSS because they were passed into state law before they were even fully written and prepared for public view. You can’t estimate cots of an initiative for which you’re not fully familiar, but now we’re going to cry foul on costs?

Oh yes, there were a number of organizations which provided some reasonable estimates early on in the process – one even locally adapted – but these got very little discussion – as though it seemed easier to just ignore the thought and see if it would go away.  Representative Gus Blackwell attempted to bring a Task Force to bear for study of the costs of Common Core in Oklahoma during the 2013 legislative session, but that bill was blocked from a hearing on the floor after passing the rules committee resoundingly.

2.    Avoid A Shortsighted Political Takeover

Truly, this is rich.  The Common Core were installed in Oklahoma by Governor Brad Henry (D) in order to get State Fiscal Stabilization Funds and a Race to the Top Grant from the Obama Administration.  Republicans were willing participants in this initiative, Senator Clark Jolley and former Speaker of the House, now Secretary of State Chris Benge chief among them.  What in the world could be more shortsighted than a Republican legislative majority allowing the takeover of Oklahoma education via a set of education ‘reforms’ being offered by the Obama administration as carrots for federal education control – especially when they hadn’t been studied or reviewed.  Yes, the Jeb Bush-backed Foundation for Excellence in Education provided talking points for many ‘reform’ ideas, and maybe that was just enough to pacify Republican legislators into following their lead, but there is no doubt nary a single legislator did, or could have, known exactly what was in the standards when they were placed CCSS into Oklahoma state law.

3. Ready to Compete Through Higher Standards

I will concede this if anyone will please, please find me where any specific study (not paid for by Bill Gates) has shown these to be higher standards than Oklahoma’s.  In addition, please find me specific studies that point to even the notion that the use of Common Core standards are going to be the deciding factor in how well Oklahoma students compete in the global economy.

Though certain you will, you will also find studies that have concluded that the factor making the largest difference in a child’s education is his/her TEACHER.  The Fordham Foundation graded every set of educational standards in the country and compared them to the CCSS (thanks to a fat check from Bill Gates) – including Oklahoma’s.  It speaks directly to the political football the CCSS have become that the Fordham Foundation – after grading Oklahoma’s previous educational standards (PASS) to be on par with CCSS – is now printing a retraction and providing various reasons and excuses as to why they now wish to change their mind and throw Oklahoma standards under the bus.  Well, of course they want to make that analysis go away.  Anti-Common Core forces have used that analysis to show how silly it is to say that PASS aren’t appropriate for College and Career readiness and won’t prepare students to compete in a global economy – as if that’s all important in the education of a child anyway.

4.    An Opportunity to Demonstrate Political Courage

Yes, it is VERY courageous to do exactly what nearly every state in the country did all at the same time for the same initiatives to get a shot at the same money.  How many times did your mother tell you, “If Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”  This is yet another argument that drives right at the heart of the Anti-CC argument.  It actually takes political courage NOT to do the same thing the majority of the country is doing.  It actually takes political courage to say, “Whoops, sorry, we didn’t research this initiative very well and now we realize we’ve made a mistake.  Please forgive us and let’s try to work together to go in a different direction.”


5. A Political Advantage with Most Voters
           
Interesting.  The candidates for 2014 office in Oklahoma to whom I have spoken and who have commissioned a poll on Common Core have reported results showing public support for CCSS is nearly nil.  Oh yes, there is supposedly a new poll that says four star Republican voters are for CCSS, therefore any political candidate opposing CCSS could be summarily tossed, but the questions doesn’t ask, “How do you feel about the Common Core State Standards?”, it says, “How do you feel about higher standards?”   Only the truly delusional candidate and/or most out of touch policy wonk could spin that to mean Common Core.  Good grief, even despite the fact our Secretary of Education is out explaining to the public that us white moms are mad because we’ve found our kids aren’t as brilliant as we think they are, most parents WANT higher standards for their children. 
Tony Bennett was the first CCSS casualty.  He was beaten by Glenda Ritz, an unknown Democrat candidate, losing his bid to be re-elected as Indiana’s State superintendent in 2012.  Republican governor/possible presidential candidate Bobby Jindal has changed his tune on CC because his state GOP has made it an issue (just like Oklahoma and other states) – same thing with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.  A recent race in Ohio saw a long-time establishment Republican lose his seat over CCSS and Common Core supporter Governor Nathan Deal is behind his Democrat challenger in Georgia’s gubernatorial race.
           
Establishment Republicans can sit in their Ivory Towers and pray to the Gods of the polls to save their elections should they continue to beat their chest about Common Core, but that is exactly what they have been doing and why the ‘brand’ has become tarnished enough to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming POTUS in 2012.  There are moms all over Oklahoma – and the nation – who, after seeing their kid in tears at their kitchen table are prepared to vote like they may never have voted before.  These votes are wildcards that can’t be determined by voter roles and the establishment candidates know this – at this point it’s safe to say Common Core supporters are simply blustering for effect.

6.    Opponents Will Not Be Satisfied

Here is another fascinating view from the edge.  Is there a way to even rationalize this ‘reason’?  We crazy ‘opponents’ won’t be happy with anything.  Never mind that we have said we want standards – high standards – it doesn’t matter because we want them to be created inside the state where we live by actual state citizens.  Apparently Oklahomans are too moronic to create something College and Career ready for our own kids.  That job is reserved for national non-profit organizations not populated by educators or parents!  Never mind we local plain Jane parents have a vested interest in creating the highest standards in the nation in order for our kids to be the best they can be – we’re just ignoring laundry and cleaning and husbands to wage a political fight – to cry about having higher standards because our kids weren’t as smart as we thought they were after all.