Thursday, January 29, 2015

Who Says Parents Can't Opt Out?

Today I received a copy of a letter sent to school districts by OSSBA (Oklahoma State School Board Association) entitled "Standardized Testing A Reference Guide For Oklahoma School Districts".

OSSBA is a private organization of education administration officers/officials and to us, it was an evident perspective. There's nothing wrong with this - OSSBA has a job to do. So do we. 

After reading the document, it seemed to us very geared toward having school officials believe that opting out of state tests was not a good idea. To their credit, this document did not at all attempt to pit school officials against parents - the state and federal government are doing that. Let's be VERY CLEAR on that topic. Though we have disagreed with OSSBA on occasion - especially where Common Core was concerned - there is a layer of oversight by the federal government through NCLB and via state law that automatically puts school officials on the opposite side of the fence from parents.

The 'Guide' speaks directly to the new Parents Bill of Rights law passed last year as "complicating" the issue of testing opt out. WE AGREE, but not in the way you might think. Here's the issue.

The state legislature mandates schools follow specific laws. The state school board - according to the Oklahoma State Constitution - has the right to promulgate rules based on the laws the legislature writes (and other items within their control) for schools to follow. Each individual district has a school board that also provides direction for schools. On top of this disastrous education dump cake, the state ALLOWS the federal government to become involved in the manner in which it educates its students by signing up for grants/programs that not only provide money to the state education coffers, but also tells us how to spend that money. 

Are you getting the point? TOO MANY LAYERS - TOO MANY LAWS.

Let me give you a very good example. We are told in the OSSBA document (page 3 Compulsory Attendance)
It is unlawful for a parent, guardian, or other person having custody of a child who is over the age of five (5) years, and under the age of eighteen (18) years, to neglect or refuse to cause or compel such child to attend and comply with the rules of SOME public, private or other school, unless other means of education are provided for the full term the schools of the district are in session.
Now, here's what the Oklahoma Constitution says about Compulsory 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. 
Did anyone notice anything odd? The Constitution says that we don't educate children under 8 or over 16, yet the piece of code cited by OSSBA says 5 to 18. Which is correct? The Constitution trumps code and the Constitution can't be changed without a Constitutional amendment process. Why hasn't anyone brought this to court? Why hasn't anyone appeared to even notice this disparity?

Here's the bottom line. Section 1B of HB1384 (The Parents' Bill of Rights) says,
This state, any political subdivision of this state or any other governmental entity shall NOT infringe on the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, EDUCATION, health care and mental health of their children without demonstrating that the compelling governmental interest as applied to the child involved is of the highest order, is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.
Section 2A of HB1384 says,
ALL parental rights are reserved to a parent of a minor child WITHOUT obstruction or interference from this state, any political subdivision of this state, or any other institution, including but not limited to, the following rights: 1. The right to direct the EDUCATION of the minor child.
And so it's true. This is not an easy issue - bureaucracy has seen to that - but it's one that must be dealt with and it's one that has been decided by the Oklahoma legislature. No matter how many contracts the state of Oklahoma has entered into with testing companies, the federal government or other entities, the RIGHT OF THE PARENT trumps. Certainly, the state - or private citizens - are welcomed to take any of these issues to court for decision, but I would simply adjure the state to recognize the right of parents and modify existing laws to meet that standard.