Monday, May 11, 2015

ACT A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing?

Though ROPE wants to see an end to the practice of EOI's altogether, unfortunately (and as usual it appears, sadly) ROPE does NOT agree with the Oklahoma Public School Education Establishment (aka #OKlaEd). Recently, Jason James, a member of the #OKlaEd community posted a blog singing the praises of the ACT - for a second time.

I'm not going to cover all the different reasons why we disagree - five are written on the meme and we've written/published four separate blogs detailing our reasoning and outlining the research undergirding those reasons (1. 2. 3. 4) - so there's simply no point to bang our shoe.

Beyond our studied, researched reasons, however, lies another, less quantifiable concern about ACT.

Most everyone who reads this blog or knows anything about ROPE has read about the organizations that attempted to override the will of the taxpaying public and cement Common Core State Standards here in Oklahoma last year. Of those, we've written exclusively (and often) about Stand For Children, the Chamber of Commerce (national, state and city), and CCOSA to name a few (to find these, just search the blog using those key words).  Just recently, these groups - and other pro-CC organizations - have joined together as a coalition (as they did against CC) to push for the adoption of the ACT.

This flyer was sent out to both legislators and individuals very recently. For the most part, the groups listed on the flyer pushed to keep Common Core in Oklahoma law. The groups listed are PRIVATE organizations sustained by PRIVATE donations and dues that lobby for public policy in some capacity, utilizing these resources.  

Here's the rub; though these groups may use their collective voice and money to lobby the legislature, our government is "By the PEOPLE, of the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE". I fact, if our elected officials were to respond solely to the 'collective voice', we'd not be a Representative Republic, we'd be a socialist republic instead. This is absolutely true, yet I've heard the disdain echoed in the voices of coalition members following last year's Common Core defeat as they wondered aloud why the legislature 'listened' to 'the people' instead of their 'group/s'.

If I sound frustrated here, it's because I am. So often, organizations and groups with considerably more money than individual tax paying citizens for whom the government is to work, drive public policy for that reason alone. This is maddening because especially in public education today, these groups don't represent PARENTS, STUDENTS or TAXPAYERS, but 'systems' designed to perpetuate themselves at all cost to taxpayers and parents whether it works for them or not. Here's the crazy thing - these groups aren't independent entities at all. Half the groups represented on this flyer are made up of members from the other groups! In fact, there's so much political incest among these groups that their gene pool is more like a puddle. Get this:

  • Oklahoma School Boards Association (OSSBA); membership consists of state school board members and superintendents
  • Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators (CCOSA); comprised of 5 separate associations (Oklahoma Association of School Administrators, Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals, Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals, Oklahoma Middle Level Educators Association, Oklahoma Directors of Special Services), supported by Renaissance Learning, Scholastic and CTB/McGraw Hill, to name a few. Ryan Owens is listed as the Executive Director.
  • United Suburban Schools Association (USSA), run by superintendents for independent school districts with more than 3000 students. (Shawn Hime listed as legislative Assistant - Ryan Owens listed as Executive Director) Supported in part by Renaissance Learning.
  • Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition (OBEC); Executive Board includes Kaiser, all three Chambers, and Inasmuch
  • Oklahoma PTA; a blog I wrote about PTA
  • Oklahoma Education Association (OEA); has their own coalition comprised of most of the members listed on the flyer
  • Stand For Children; Government Affairs Director Gwendolyn Caldwell has worked for the Oklahoma State Chamber previously, Great numbers of issues have surfaced with stand from misrepresenting signatures on a petition to funneling dark money into political campaigns. In fact, the Oklahoma GOP voted for a resolution condemning Stand for Children due to their poor business practices.

Shocking really, when you put it all out there for everyone to see. These organizations are formed in order to advance public policy, period - to make laws that benefit their organizations. In order to advance public policy, they form coalitions with one another to make themselves look bigger in number than they are. This technique works well initially because when you look at them individually, it looks as though there are a lot of different entities. Only when you research them do you find out they're the same people/organizations creating new coalitions under different names, the magic dissipates.

So why do we consider it important to really study those organizations supporting ACT? Because when you look below the surface, you find them to be essentially the same groups that pushed Common Core; groups that organize together in order to influence public policy in a way that benefits them - not necessarily the public. Public education is NOT for the perpetuation of jobs, it's for educating children in a way that will allow them to grow and develop and become mature adults that can excel in any vocation they choose - not jobs picked for them by the Labor Department or businesses looking to fill vacancies. 

ACT is not the panacea described by the OKlaEd community. Putting anything into law without any real study as to consequences (like Common Core), is a set up for failure. Let's wait for Oklahoma's new educational standards to be developed before we move on. It only makes sense.