Costly Slight of Hand

I have been reading about this issue for some time - and this article actually presents one of the more 'conservative' numbers on the overestimation - but this article made me really feel the need to comment.

Please read, "Duncan's NCLB Failure Prediction Wrong, Overestimated by 30%" (it's short!), and then sit and digest my comment below. I'm sure you've heard me spout off about it before, but I felt the need to again, simply because there are some cold, hard figures out there now to support my 'opinion'. So, what do YOU want to be, MAN or SHEEP?

So, the government LIES about the way things are in order to FOOL legislators and the public into the "FACT" that there's an EMERGENCY at hand and therefore dispense with much of the hard earned cash and liberty of the citizenry in order to "fix it"! When caught at their game, they simply 'spin' it ("Whether it’s 50 percent, 80 percent, or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken,” he said. “That’s why we’re moving forward with giving states flexibility from the law in exchange for reforms that drive student success.") to fit their agenda!


Still Not On Board the Crazy Train

Well, I think this was a very responsible article by CapitolBeatOK.com about a very controversial hire by the State Department of Education (Consensus Building Vital to Fixing Common Education, Says New Barresi Chief of Staff).

I think Mr. Robison sounds sensible.

I believe that public education is a bi-partisan issue.

The only problem with the whole thing then, here, I guess, is the fact that ROPE does NOT AGREE with C3, the NCLB Waiver, Common Core, or the fact that our superintendent is not doing a great job doing what she said she would as CANDIDATE Barresi.

So, nothing personal Joel, but until the REFORM train turns around into positive territory by negatively impacting the budget AND federal entanglements in order to save the pocketbooks of the taxpayer, follow the Constitution and really provide children with opportunities for learning that provide results and not just test scores, we're not on board.


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Obviously, ROPE is beyond ecstatic that Oklahoma was NOT granted a Race to the Top grant for Early Childhood Education. As opposed to Governor Fallin, I do not feel ANY disappointment that Oklahoma was not chosen for the grant.

In fact, I STILL can't even conceive of the fact that Oklahoma would go begging to the ABSOLUTELY BROKE (meaning 'in debt', 'no working capital', 'owned by China', etc.) federal government (who takes money from the pockets of Oklahomans and then makes us beg to get it back) for money to fund programs that should absolutely, unquestionably be funded by private organizations and churches.

Interestingly, though Dr. Barresi made large cuts to her budget earlier this year, she must have climbed aboard her Unicorn and trotted out onto the rainbow bridge. Apparently, from there she discovered a money tree that can be accessed at will by the State of Oklahoma, because she has now asked for 158 million more dollars to be added to the State Department of Education in her first ever budget.

Of course, some of this will go to fund the things she UN-funded from the previously-mentioned activities budget. Interesting. They weren't necessary in June, but after significant public outcry, they are in December?

It is interesting to note that Dr. Barresi had this to say on her campaign blog,
“We must restructure Oklahoma’s State Department of Education to ensure that dollars are getting into the classroom, rather than concentrating critical funds on administrative overhead. I intend to transform the State Department of Education from being primarily a regulatory agency into a service organization for parents and children. I’ll also move quickly to conduct a financial and performance audit of the department.”

Was the promised audit conducted?

If so, why weren't the results presented before the budget was prepared?

If an audit was not accomplished, why move forward with the budget?

Upon what data were the figures originated?

Why is the department now asking the state to fund specific functions that the Superintendent chose to do away with in the OSDE activities budget?

Was an RTT application made because Oklahoma didn’t have enough money to fund the desired programs or was it simply because the grant was seen as “free” money for which Oklahoma could find a use? Either way, can Oklahoman's believe that our current state administrators have any kind of a grip on Oklahoma's part in this country's entirely real and looming economic Armageddon? I don't and that truly concerns me.

In fact, there are way too many unanswered questions here that I see Oklahoma taxpayers having to eventually answer out of their pockets - and no one I know has a Unicorn.


Polly Want A Cracker?

While writing my last blog, I found something so interesting I thought it was worth sharing. Earlier this week I had a class on propaganda. Propaganda is the method in which people are lead to believe something desired via specific methods.

Repetition is but one instance of propaganda (unfortunately, there are many!). In this case, the propagandizer simply says something over and over and over again ad nauseam until it becomes unconscious truth. No one knows where the "truth" came from or whether or not it's accurate, but they've heard it so often it simply becomes fact.

Since the Common Core initiative began, I have been simply fascinated by the fact that ALL proponents seem to utter nearly the exact same words and phrases every time you hear one opine on their fabulousness.

Please note the following quote taken from the Missouri Education Watchdog,

"No additional costs are anticipated for revising and maintaining the standards in Missouri. The current department budget and staff have been involved in ongoing activities related to standards, assessments and support for schools since the first adoption of the ShowMe Standards in 1996."


"The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led, not federal-led effort. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce."

Now, compare Damon Gardenhire's remarks on the Common Core found in the article, "State education department spokesman: Barresi anticipates low costs for implementing "Common Core" and this quote from the Common Core State Standards initiative website "About" page first paragraph,

"The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce."

Truly, I don't think I can say anything now, other than, "Polly wanna cracker?"

Janet Barresi Channels Scarlett O'Hara

Capitol Beat OK just released a great article, "State Education department spokesman Barresi anticipates low costs for implementing "Common Core".

Since ROPE's interim study for the House in October, ROPE, and others, have asked over and over again about the costs of implementing Common Core in Oklahoma. Thank goodness we now know what they are! They are "anticipated" to be low! As a taxpayer, I feel a great sigh of relief, since big government programs tend to cause tax increases for poor little taxpayers like me.

According to Mirriam-Webster, the definition for "anticipate" (verbatim) is; to speak or write in knowledge or expectation of later matter such as "The cost turned out to be higher than anticipated."

Is Janet Barresi channeling Scarlett O'Hara through her Communications Director? I can't help but see a parallel between his comments on the topic here and Scarlett's famous line, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow." Is the OSDE 'anticipating' in order to avoid 'thinking'?

Though I could counter Gardenhire in Capitol Beat OK's article point by point, I will simply ask the reader to acknowledge the fact that there are absolutely no solid figures even alluded to by the Department of Education in answer to the question posed by McGuigan. None. According to Mr. Gardenhire, everything's cool - they've got it covered and we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about the cost of the Common Core to the state.

Awe inspiring. Did the OSDE let all their number crunchers go with their first round of firings? Even the Federal Government has the GAO. Why are no concrete numbers available? Other states have them.

After reading “TPS: New teacher-evaluation system cost estimates misrepresented”, in the Tulsa World this morning, Gardenhire’s pat answers to McGuigan are off-putting.

The article addresses concerns by the Tulsa Public Schools that Dr. Barresi and the OSDE misrepresented the amount of money it would take to implement Tulsa's teacher evaluation system. In fact, Jana Burk of TPS has this to say,

"We are willing to give them everything we have free of charge, and Marzano (the company the Superintendent favors) has all kinds of things that would need to be developed, which would cost something. That's the way they make money is that they give away their evaluation framework but then they sell the professional development services, video libraries, on-demand technical assistance, software and hand-held devices for principals to use."

Well, that doesn't sound good. Did Dr. Barresi inflate the cost of the TPS system in order to make the system she preferred to use seem less expensive? Who knows, but the article didn’t particularly inspire confidence in Dr. Barresi's ability to ride the Common Core horse through the gate of "anticipated low" costs (or effectively evaluate programming).

Adding to our concern is an incident that occurred after Dr. Barresi publicly called into question our research at the Common Core Interim study. Frustrated by several of Dr. Barresi's remarks following the study, Representative Kern asked the Superintendent to specifically inform her as to which of our facts were incorrect.

Several weeks later, the department provided a paper critiquing our slide presentation, not the 21 page research paper with 9 pages of citations, given to herself and members at the study.

Consequently, not only had the OSDE questioned issues answered in our paper, but they provided absolutely zero references as documentation of their 'critiques', outside those to the Common Core website or Common Core-associated organizations such as Achieve.

This lack of academic rigor in the OSDE (does this fall under the category of supreme irony?) could end up costing tax payers millions of dollars. As with Marzano, the Superintendent favors Common Core. It certainly makes one wonder if she might then underplay Common Core's costs...

Although I'd rather she didn't, Dr. Barresi and company can continue to parrot the contents of the Common Core website until the budgetary cows come home, but by then, Oklahoma's taxpayers will be gone with the wind.


Go Tell It On The Mountain...

I stumbled across this post from Eagle Forum today and was SO excited I just had to republish the whole thing here in its entirety.

ROPE has an outstanding legislator ready to run a bill this next session preventing Oklahoma from using the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Basically, the bill will use the language presented to ALEC by their education task force during last summer's session. This issue was to be discussed at that meeting, but 'conservatives' such as Jeb Bush forced the issue to be tabled. There is currently no word on the status of the task force's legislative package on the Common Core, however, we still believe Oklahoma should have no part in the initiative.

This article outlines much of the reasoning behind our concerns. Please read. We will need you to be educated so you can contact both Representative Ann Coody, Chairman of the Common Education Committee and Senator John Ford, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee - NEITHER of whom would allow last year's bill to even BE HEARD in their respective committees last year - and tell them to HEAR THE BILL.

One would hope that after our interim presentation to the House in October, our legislators have done further research and realize that the potential for massive unfunded budgetary outlays is real and concerning - notwithstanding the loss of control for the parent, the taxpayer and the legislator over much of public education's brass tacks (kinda hard to legislate something you can't touch because it's owned over your head).


Empower Parents: Restore the Constitution
by Returning Educational Policy to the States by Jane Robbins

Presidential candidates in the 2012 election must be prepared to protect the interests of parents and children nationwide by rolling back the progressive education agenda and returning to the states their constitutional power to make decisions about education.

The federal government's most extensive foray into control of education, No Child Left Behind, is a failure. Not only has it had little effect on educational outcomes, but it is widely despised by administrators, teachers, parents, and students. This general disgust with the status quo has created an opportunity for President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to push a "reform" agenda that pays lip service to the concept of local and parental control but that actually promotes classic "progressive" policies. To protect our constitutional values and the rights of parents to exercise final authority over their children's education, this progressive agenda must be stopped.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution reserves to the states all powers not delegated to the federal government. For most of our nation's history, education was considered preeminent among those reserved powers, and for good reason. Teaching and learning are quintessentially local activities — the thought never would have occurred to our founders that a bureaucrat in Washington is more capable than parents or teachers of creating an educational plan appropriate for an individual child.

But President Obama seems to reject America's founding principles and embraces instead the belief that people must be managed, for the good of the country, by elites in government and other institutions. This was the philosophy of the early-20th-century progressives, and it is pervasive in the Obama administration. A prime example is the complete transformation of the American health-care system in a manner that has proven to be ill-founded everywhere it has been tried.

The progressive view of health care — that the system should be managed by "experts" for the good of the economy and society in general — is identical to the progressive view of education: the education of children is simply too important to be left, as the Founders intended, to parents, localities, and the states. This view is far more entrenched than most people realize. The progressive agenda threatens our constitutional system and parents' right to transmit their values to their children through education. It is an ongoing effort that predates the Obama administration and has been infiltrating American culture for decades. With a renewed effort in the current administration, it is no exaggeration to say that we are now at a critical point in the battle for the soul of America.

Progressive educators have long advocated sweeping national control of education. One prominent progressive reformist, Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), fleshed out this view in a now-famous letter he wrote to Hillary Clinton (then a member of NCEE's Board of Trustees) shortly after the 1992 election. Tucker laid out his vision, which, to conservatives, describes a dystopia of authoritarian control: "remold the entire American system for human resources development . . . [into a] seamless system of unending skill development that begins in the home with the very young and continues through school, postsecondary education and the workplace." Beginning with the creation of national standards of curricula and assessment, and then solidifying control of education from preschool through the workforce, this vision is being implemented by the Obama Department of Education (DOE).

The first step in this process is the imposition on the states of common educational content standards, so that every child in every locality will be taught content decided upon by "experts" affiliated with the federal government and special interests. Presidential efforts to develop such "voluntary" national standards in the 1990s collapsed under scrutiny, so this time around, the "common standards" advocates have realized the political necessity of presenting standards as generated by the states, not the federal government.

The result is the Common Core Standards (CCS), created and propagated under the auspices of the National Governors Association, with tens of millions of dollars in funding from the Gates Foundation and other corporate interests. The Obama DOE is determined to force these standards on all the states — not by direct diktat, which is forbidden by federal statute, but by showering federal funds on states that adopt the standards and withholding, and threatening to withhold, funds from those that balk. Not surprisingly, most states have fallen in line. And because the deadline for deciding on the CCS was carefully timed by DOE to fall when most state legislatures were not in session, the decision had to be made, in most cases, by state education officials without input from the people's representatives in the legislature. So much for parental control, or even parental notification.

CCS currently encompasses only English language arts and mathematics but in time will include science, history, and other subjects. But even these current standards have been criticized as deeply flawed: the math standards would put U.S. students two years behind students in other high-performing countries, and the language-arts curriculum radically departs from traditional literature, steeped in the classics, that equips young minds to appreciate and follow in the footsteps of the citizen-leaders who founded our country.

The DOE is also pumping money into developing assessments that will track the CCS. By the time these tests are finalized, probably in 2014, and the additional standards are imposed, states will find themselves locked into a rigid educational scheme that most legislatures never approved. Additionally, given the makeup and philosophy of the federal bureaucrats who will oversee the system, and their alliances with interest groups pushing radical agendas such as (to cite only one example) complete normalization of LGBT activity, the danger is very real that parents will see their children taught principles in conflict with their own. This is what inevitably happens when local control, as envisioned by the Founders, gives way to national control influenced by special interests.

Curriculum standards are only one aspect of the progressive effort to control education for the good of a managed national economy. Other activity by DOE reveals an intent to expand the concept of "education" to permit government oversight and tracking of a multitude of human endeavors, from cradle to grave, that might affect the national economy.

This intent is reflected in DOE's recently proposed amendments to the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), a statute that strictly limits the dissemination of a student's Personally Identifiable Information (PII). For example, the amendments would redefine "education program" under FERPA to include any program that could marginally be considered "educational," even if not conducted by an educational authority such as a public school or college. This radical change would allow nonconsensual access to PII compiled as part of practically any program, whether truly educational or otherwise.

It gets worse. DOE proposes to allow transmission of students' PII-without parental consent — to any governmental or private entity designated by DOE and others as an "authorized representative." If this amendment takes effect, DOE could share a student's PII with, for example, the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Labor (DOL). The student's parents would have no right to object; indeed, they would probably never know that such disclosure had occurred. HHS and DOL then would have access to all manner of personal data that would be invaluable in managing a planned economy.

What kinds of personal data might be included? According to the National Data Education Model, a myriad of information such as blood type, health-care history, birthmarks, family income range, and family voting status would be available. And DOE is encouraging and lavishly funding the development of statewide longitudinal data systems intended "to capture, analyze, and use student data from preschool to high school, college, and the workforce." Imagine how a progressive statist, armed with such technology and information, could manage a society for the good of its grateful citizenry.

In its proposed rulemaking, DOE asserts that "there is no reason why a State health and human services or labor department. should be precluded from. receiving non-consensual disclosures of [PII] to link education, workforce, health, family services, and other data" for the purpose of auditing or evaluating education programs. But there is reason, not least that it runs counter to our founding principles that aimed to protect privacy, limit government intrusion, and allow for local autonomy. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which is expert on FERPA compliance, describes this proposal as "a very radical policy shift" that overturns decades of settled interpretation.

The DOE rejects even the basic requirement that it demonstrate legal authority for its data disclosure. The proposed changes would expand the government's right to disclose personal data for purposes of research studies, audits, or evaluations, without having to identify express legal authority for that action.

What to do? The obvious answer is to abolish the Department of Education. This is a worthy goal; there is no Constitutional, and little practical, justification for DOE's existence. But given the deeply entrenched interests of the education bureaucracy, and the power of the special interests that created and continue to benefit from it, DOE may be impregnable for now. Even President Reagan, who campaigned on the issue, was unable to abolish it. Moreover, as illustrated by the willingness of leftist politicians and bureaucrats to evade the legislative process by stealth (see the attempted rewriting of FERPA by regulation), the objectionable functions of DOE might simply be transferred to a different department, where they can be exercised with even less transparency. (The discredited Head Start program, for example, is administered by HHS rather than DOE.)

Rather than stake everything on an immediate battle to abolish DOE, a more achievable and effective course would be to enervate the agency so that it can no longer impose its will on the states. The most pressing concern at this time is to roll back DOE's attempts to mandate acceptance of the Common Core Standards. The following steps could be taken to achieve this goal and prevent future mischief by DOE:

  1. Pass federal legislation releasing states from their commitment to adopt the Common Core Standards. In keeping with the Constitution and federal law, states should be free to devise and implement standards that satisfy the parents of the children they educate.
  2. Pass federal legislation prohibiting DOE from conditioning the grant of federal funds on a state's commitment to certain actions. Instead, to the extent that federal funds are spent on education, they should be awarded in block grants on an equitable basis. This reform would end the sly tyranny of DOE, which uses its considerable power of the purse to evade the current federal prohibition on directing curriculum.
  3. Withdraw the proposed amendments to FERPA, so that the statute will continue to protect students' Personally Identifiable Information from nonconsensual disclosure.
  4. Reauthorize the provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that prohibits the creation of a national database of student information.
  5. End all federal funding of development of curricula and assessments. Allow states to choose the curricula and assessment schemes that are best for them and acceptable to parents.

These proposals are designed to restore the vision of the Founders: that in all matters not properly delegated to the federal government, including education, the states should be free to craft and implement their own policies. Freedom works, in education as in most things. Allowed to choose what is best for their children, parents will gravitate to good public schools or private schools or charter schools or homeschooling: to whatever produces the best outcomes for their children. Competition among the states to maximize educational freedom — unencumbered by the federal government — will yield results far superior to those from top-down mandates imposed by "experts" in Washington. The best thing the federal government can do to facilitate this process is to get out of the way.

Jane Robbins is a Senior Fellow with American Principles in Action. This essay originally appeared in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ, and is reprinted here by permission.