Thursday, February 6, 2014

What is the Senate GOP Caucus Saying About Education for the 2014 Session?

Today, the Oklahoma Republican Caucus released their Legislative Agenda for 2014.  Following is the portion on Education:
In education, it will be important in 2014 to protect and fund existing education reforms in order to improve student achievement and accountability through high standards and expectations. Workforce development continues to be a problem in the state, and Senate Republicans will work to pass legislation to increase the number of students obtaining critical post-secondary degrees and industry certifications.
Finally, the caucus will work to empower parents, educators and communities as they help every Oklahoma student achieve his or her potential. 
“For too long, our state’s education system has not kept pace with the changing times, hurting our students’ ability to compete for jobs in the 21st Century economy. In recent years, we have passed bold reforms that have increased standards and expectations to ensure every student—regardless of socio-economic or regional factors—can reach his or her true potential,” said Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, and Senate Education chairman. “We owe it to our children, their parents and all Oklahoma citizens to continue to press for higher standards and accountability and expect more.”
After reading this, I have no choice but to determine that AGAIN this year, the Oklahoma Senate Republicans will push Governor Mary Fallin's vision of children either trained to work a job or pushed along a career path like the Europeans our country now seems to covet.  

In fact, the caucus said as much in the first sentence when the word PROTECT was used in the same sentence with "existing education reforms".  Of course, the "existing education reforms" are the Four Pillars of Education 'Reform'; Common Core (national standards), Turning Around Low Performing Schools, Teacher Accountability and the liberty-sucking, privacy-killing, State Longitudinal Database System - all of which tie Oklahoma directly to the federal government.

In a letter to Senators Brian Bingman and John Ford yesterday, I asked the question, "How can you be a Republican who supports Common Core when BOTH the RNC and the OKGOP have come out against the Common Core?"  I hope to have the answer to that very soon, but it can't be perplexing to only me that Mary Fallin solicited my vote in 2010 as a Republican by promising to protect me from the federal government - as did Janet Barresi - yet BOTH women went on to KEEP every single Brad Henry-adopted Obama-driven education reform.  They even went on to apply for a failed (thank goodness!) Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge grant and ADD a No Child Left Behind Waiver and a 5 million dollar State Longitudinal Database System grant.  How in the world can that make sense?  

Well, one has only to look at this page on the White House website detailing the Clinton/Gore Educational plan to find the answer.  Let's see how far off the mark Oklahoma's Republicans are from the Clinton/Gore plan;
  1. Raising Standards and Holding Schools Accountable for Results
  2. Improving the Quality of Education with High Quality Teachers
  3. Expanding Access to Technology in Schools
  4. Keeping Young People on the Path to Success
Now let's look at the Oklahoma Republican plan:
  1. High Standards and Expectations (Common Core/national educational standards + A-F grading)
  2. Teacher/Leader Effectiveness (here is the TLE page on the OSDE website)
  3. All schools have had to add broadband in order to take the new Common Core tests.  Recently, schools were mandated by the OSDE (more like threatened) to perform a 'stress test' on their computers to make sure they were ready for all the testing to be done on computers (in order to teach children critical thinking).  
  4. Engaging education, business and government leaders in a dialogue about what governors can do to more closely align K-12, universities, community and technical colleges and workforce training providers with future labor demands. (A direct quote from Governor Fallin's National Governor's Association Education Initiative)
In fact, why is no one asking these questions, "Excuse me Education 'Reformers', why do you think YOUR program is better than Clinton/Gore's - or any of the other near exact copies that have come before?  Simply because you're doing it under the Republican banner?  Are you trying to tell me that failed programs somehow work better if there is an 'R' after them?"  

Frankly, it matters not whether a Democrat or a Republican introduced these education 'reforms'.  What is important, however, is that they've never worked.  NEVER.  If these ideas produced such excellent results for Clinton/Gore, why are states still banging their heads against the wall wondering how to get their students to succeed?

Why, instead of doubling down on the arbitrary HIGH STANDARDS hogwash, aren't we looking at factors like;
  1. Discipline.  In this Politically Correct environment where every student has a perceived RIGHT to do whatever he feels to do at any given moment, is there really any wonder kids are learning anything anywhere? Self-discipline must be taught consistently, valued and modeled where kids spend a huge part of their day - school.
  2. The breakdown of the family.  When kids can't be sure if there's food at home because mom might have used the money for drugs, or when mom's having to work three jobs just to keep food on the table, kids could care less about the future - all they know is that the here and now stinks. How are schools meeting these individual needs?
  3. Real school leadership.  Lecturing kids about consequences that never come tell them there are no consequences for their actions.  If there are no consequences, there is little reason to do anything you don't want to do.
  4. Unfunded mandates.  Schools don't need as much money as they think they do to adequately educate a child, but that fact doesn't matter when they're not getting half enough to do even a poor job because administrative costs suck money out of the classroom.  There should be MASSIVE and widespread audits at the OSDE to find and yank back money better spent ON KIDS rather than FOR KIDS.
  5. A love of America.  Whatever the circumstances in the world, students in past decades could at least agree on that ideal.  An ideal broad enough to include everyone.  An ideal that brought students together under a banner of agreement and pride.  Today's children are chopped into little groups under the banner of 'diversity' in order to make it easier for them to march over others while marching toward equality.

Yet, instead of looking at these very real, very important issues, our Republican leaders choose to run education in Oklahoma wielding a punitive STICK made of tired, 'new' education 'reform' wood - attempting to create consensus by force where individuality should be lauded instead.

Recycled programs forcing uniformity and micromanagement will NEVER provide students a well-rounded education.  

Don't forget; we put men on the moon while engineers still used slide rules. But then, these men and women were products of a broad-based classical style education, doled out in classrooms with discipline instead of political correctness, where real leadership was provided on a local basis and recognized the sovereignty of parents over their child's education.  How in the world can we recreate these individuals today using a one-size-fits-all, narrow-in-scope, standardized-test-based  machination created by private organizations whose interest in profit-bearing educational products far outweighs their concern for individual students and families, or the propagation of the American way?  The answer is simple; we can't, and we won't.