Tuesday, February 17, 2015

School Officials Want To Start Eliminating Their ESA Competition?


I know everyone has an ideology. I know everyone is able to express their opinions about their ideology thanks to the 1st Amendment. This is fine, but I want to set the record straight about some information published in a recent blog about Tuesday's legislative session.

HB2003 was Jason Nelson's ESA legislation. It did not pass the House Education Committee on a 9 to 9 vote - all Democrats and 5 Republicans (Coody, Casey, Nollan, Henke, Thomsen) voted against the bill. Senator Jolley's bill establishing ESA's (SB609) passed out of the Senate with 6 yea and 3 nay (1 a Republican, Sharp). Incidentally, Republicans do have a plank in their platform supporting school choice.

Within this last week, I have seen two separate instances of emails supporting Education Savings Accounts copied and pasted into Facebook pages or blogs by opponents of the plan in order to incite opposing action. One was ours - which is fair game since we provide a forward button - but another was a private email circulated among a number of members of a coalition for school choice. Assuming no confidentiality laws were broken, I guess that's certainly an option, however, the hypocrisy here is stunning. 

The email was published in a blog to make people aware of the "Powerful Forces in play inside and OUTSIDE of our state who are lobbying our legislators".

Odd, but the "powerful forces" listed in the email are mostly small organizations without tons of money (Public School Options.org? Really?). The only one that could even be considered "corporatist" (a label further down in the blog) would be the Walton Foundation. 

But then, what are CCOSA, OSSBA, Stand For Children, etc. if not POWERFUL 'forces in play inside' our state? In fact, so POWERFUL are these entities, they were able to FORM A COALITION and take out 2 FULL PAGE ads in the Daily Oklahoman and Tulsa World last year against the repeal of Common Core. Kind of hard for a handful of parents and taxpayers to have THAT kind of power, but I guess power is okay if it's in the 'right' hands.

We're also told that many of these groups aren't even in our state! How can anyone outside the state weigh in on an instate issue?

Really? The National Chamber of Commerce readily applied pressure INSIDE the state during the Common Core fight, as did Mike Huckabee, and the Fordham Foundation. I didn't hear Common Core supporters running them out of town on a rail then. Recently, CCOSA brought in a representative from ACT to sell legislators (LOBBY) on ACT. ACT is a 'non-profit', but it's an ENORMOUS out of state non-profit dedicated to selling a product, but that's okay, right?

These kinds of emails go on throughout the legislative session within 'coalitions' and among private individuals all across Oklahoma. In fact, I've been forwarded school administrator association emails castigating supporters of ESA's that are NO LESS ideologically-based than those penned by ESA supporters. Odd that emails about then-candidate Hofmeister and some educators in Jenks over the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship (LNHS) last year weren't mentioned. Weren't these emails among school officials talking about their attempt to lawsuit the Scholarship - already a law - to death? Yes. 

In fact, why publish this particular email then? School administrators already have legislators wound so tightly around their fingers they have them present in committee meetings as though they were on legislative staff. I've never seen parents/taxpayers be able to do that.

Several blogs have given reason after reason as to why legislators should stop Education Savings Accounts. My favorite one stated that children don't just belong to parents, they belong to the collective. EVERYONE that touches a 'human being' (they're not even called children) has a buy-in in their education. Wow. Apparently school officials believe parents are simply acting SELFISHLY if they desire to have control over their own children and how best to educate them. 

It is fascinating to note that this same blogger sang an entirely different tune about parental rights last year during election season. In fact, so fired up was he (like ROPE and others) to get Dr. Barresi to change the 4th grade retention process, he penned the words
Do parents only have rights to make educational decisions about their child if it's okay with you [Barresi]? REALLY!?!
Ah, but this doesn't apply to ESA's - or these school officials. It only applies to parents wanting to be on a 'committee' of school officials to determine if their child can pass to 4th grade. After all, an ESA would result in educational CHOICES for the PARENT outside the walls of the public school and parents can only have choice WITHIN the PUBLIC SCHOOL box

I reiterate - we all have the right to our worldview and our opinions - but when talk includes the need to 'eliminate' the opposition, while calling them wolves, methinks thou doth protest too much (can you imagine what would happen if I said something like that? Holy COW!). HB2003 proponents reported that school officials frequently called students 'funding units'. While I'm sure there are many school officials who care about the children in their charge, it is easy from this rhetoric to see how some don't - how education is more an ideology based on a physical model. Yet, the act of educating a child is not about the institution of PUBLIC SCHOOLS -  it's about parents and what's best for children and families. Period. Maybe if we were to keep this mission in focus, we'd sustain a long-term education vision. Though it seems impossible now, I certainly hope we can get there.