Testimony For Ohio's House Rules and Reference Committee - HB597 Repealing Common Core

I thought I would publish the remarks I made to the House Rules and Reference Committee this week in the event it might help someone in another state.  Please feel free to use/modify anything you see here if it will help.

COMMON CORE TESTIMONY: Ohio State Legislature 8/20/14
Jenni White, President: Restore Oklahoma Public Education

As Oklahoma began the effort to repeal Common Core in our state, we were confronted with numerous reasons (created mostly by think tanks and dues-paid organizations – some outside our state borders) why we should not repeal Common Core and develop our own standards.  I’m sure you’ve heard numerous of these yourselves.  I’m going to attempt to discuss a few this morning.

1.    Our state Chamber of Commerce pushed numerous false claims indicating that Common Core was better than Oklahoma’s previous standards (PASS) and that Common Core were ‘proven’ standards.
a.    They put together several mailers pointing to the ‘fact’ that Kentucky had seen higher results from using Common Core
b.    Dick Innes from the Bluegrass Policy Institute in Kentucky, was able to provide all the information I needed to show that the Chamber was, according to Innes, making “outrageously wrong” claims about Common Core.  (http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-oklahoma-chamber-of-commerce-makes.html)
c.    False information will be used to attempt to sway public opinion; it can and should be debunked.
d.    It’s also important to remember that the US Chamber of Commerce was given a tidy sum by the Bill Gates Foundation to push/message the Common Core.
2.    The Fordham Institute frequently attempted to provide our legislature with ‘proof’ that Common Core were better than Oklahoma’s standards, though Fordham actually graded Oklahoma’s PASS as an A- in Math and a B+ in English in comparison to Common Core.
a.    When we addressed this issue, we were told Fordham had graded an earlier version of PASS, not the current version.
                                          i.    Consequently, we had Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Wurman both review the latest PASS in comparison to Common Core and both were in agreement that even the most recent PASS were at least equal to Common Core.  (http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/05/this-week-is-important-in-life-of.html)
3.    Oklahoma was constantly assailed by allegations that Oklahoma would lose our NCLB waiver should we repeal Common Core.  We were able to make several cogent arguments against this prevailing theory.
a.    First of all – if any state is in danger of losing their NCLB waiver for repealing Common Core, how can Common Core be a ‘state-led’ issue?  In fact, that one query invalidates this often used claim and should, therefore, be a major talking point for repeal.
b.    If the waiver is the issue, the ‘assurance’ made to the federal government in the waiver is that the state’s standards be “college and career-ready”.  There is a provision for states not signing on to Common Core, to use their higher ed/career tech system to validate the state’s current standards – certifying them as “college and career-ready”.  Oklahoma is undergoing this process currently.
c.    The state of Washington lost their waiver due to an inability to come together over their teacher grading system.  After speaking with Liv Finne with the Washington Policy Institute, parents are finding they have more flexibility to get those students who need it, help in reading, as the state must give the money to the parents to find appropriate programs to help their children. (http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/05/does-our-state-want-museum-or-education.html)
d.    No state will LOSE MONEY with a loss of their waiver. They only lose the ability to direct 20% of their Title 1 funding.  In Oklahoma, we found this amounts to only 0.50% of total education spending.  A percent of a percent would be the loss – not of money, but of DIRECTION of money.
e.    NCLB waivers are crumbling as states discover they are losing more and more of their autonomy in state education to the federal government in exchange for flexibility from a law that demanded 100% proficiency of American children in math and reading – a pie-in-the-sky ideal if ever there was one.  Many states other than WA have had to abandon ‘vital’ parts of their NCLB waiver for one reason or another, and several didn’t even take a waiver.  It is nearly impossible for the US Department of Education to seek reckoning from all the states which have desired to, or had to, buck their waiver.
                                          i.    CA did not get a waiver – though several districts have – but they say they’re happy to having to satisfy federal regulations for school turnarounds, teacher evaluations and standards.  In addition, Vermont and North Dakota didn’t take a waiver because they said they wanted more flexibility over their spending and policy.
                                        ii.    In fact, Margaret Spellings, an architect of the original NCLB law under George W. Bush, has said, “The Waivers were a mistake.  It’s a crazy quilt of a system which I think will die [on its] own.” (http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/05/hb3399-why-are-we-arguing-over-percent.html)
4.    In a last ditch effort to stop Oklahoma from repealing Common Core, the Fordham Institute sent a letter to Governor Fallin and the members of our legislators addressing a wide range of topics – all of which we refuted for legislators, but I’d like to address two quickly (http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/06/response-to-brickman-fordham-and.html)
a.    The Fiscal and Educational Costs of Repeal:  Common Core costs have largely been left unmentioned.  In fact, I was not able to find record of associated costs in any state prior to the fact.  I just performed a recent search on the topic and found that the  National Conference of State Legislators doesn’t know.  Governing magazine doesn’t know.  In fact, Oklahoma’s own legislators couldn’t have known what it would cost to implement the CCSS because they were passed into state law before they were even fully written and prepared for public view. You can’t estimate cots of an initiative for which you’re not fully familiar, yet now cost has become an issue to prevent repeal?  A number of organizations  provided reasonable estimates early on in the process – one researcher even adapted these for each state - but they got very little discussion time – as though it seemed easier to just ignore the thought and see if it would go away.  In Oklahoma, Representative Gus Blackwell attempted to bring a Task Force to bear for study of the costs of Common Core in Oklahoma during the 2013 legislative session, but that bill was blocked from a hearing on the floor after passing the rules committee resoundingly, seeming to indicate that the answer to the question wasn’t really an issue.
b.    A Political Advantage with Most Voters:  A new poll has apparently shown four star Republican voters are for CCSS, but the questions in the poll don’t ask, “How do you feel about the Common Core State Standards?” they ask, “How do you feel about higher standards?”   Only the most out of touch policy wonks could spin that inquiry to mean Common Core specifically.  The candidates for 2014 office who have commissioned polls on Common Core in Oklahoma have reported to me results showing nearly nil public support for CC.   Though our Secretary of Education may be out explaining to the public that white suburban moms are mad because we’ve found our kids aren’t as brilliant as we think they are, most parents WANT higher standards for their children.  Moms all over Oklahoma – and the nation –are prepared to vote like they may never have voted before simply because they’ve watched their children cry over homework and become more and more frustrated with the whole notion of school.  Polls don’t catch these voters – these are wildcard votes spurred by emotional voters that only want to see the best for their children.
                                          i.    A new Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll has been released that indicates much more opposition for Common Core than previously.  In fact, 60% of respondents oppose CC because they think it will limit the way teachers teach.  Partisan opposition breakdown: R=76%, I=60% and D = 38%
5.    We’ve often been told that we can only compare students if states have the same educational standards, but doesn’t it seem at least plausible that people in their own states would best know that definition of a ‘right’ education for their own state? If not, then why have states at all? Why don’t we just open up all borders and allow every state to be ruled by one central government that knows the best definition of ‘right’ for the entire country?
6.    The argument has also been made that Common Core repeal is political – that policymakers are trying to stop Common Core because of pressure from opponents.  This one notion should probably be most offensive to everyone involved because I think it points to a certain amount of derision for the regular citizen.  Somehow, parents have become ‘opponents’ – saboteurs – reactionaries.  In fact, this argument seems to undercut the notion of personal liberty by indicating parents/citizens are not smart enough to understand that the state knows what’s best for us.
7.    Accountability has been another issue used to denounce state standards in favor of Common Core, but the truth is that the only ones to whom ANY school needs to prove educational relevance and accountability are those parents and students actually served by that school in that community. That was the greatest notion in all the ideals during the creation of America – the fact that no one was going to have the definition of ‘right’ for any state or individual. That the individual first, and then the state, had the best idea of ‘right’. (http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2014/05/whats-fight-against-common-core-really.html)

In closing, no matter what argument we faced for keeping Common Core in Oklahoma, we were able to debunk every single concrete, factual argument (as in the Kentucky issue with the Chamber) and provide sufficient ideological argument to refute any political or philosophical complaint.  If that can happen in Oklahoma, it can certainly happen in Ohio.  There is no magic “Common Core bullet”.  Ohio – like Oklahoma - has your own unique arsenal for educational excellence; you just need to arm yourself with what works for you, aim and fire.

News Media Complicit With Ed 'Reformers'

I have come to believe all educational policy today is created on the scale of cognitive dissonance.  For example, it never ceases to amaze me that our Governor has said - in no uncertain terms in an Executive Order - that Oklahoma's education should not be federally controlled, yet we go constantly to the feds for money in order to support our spending habits.  

It's not just education policy however, that is full of this psychological theory.  The news media is tasked - ostensibly - with REPORTING news.  Note that report does not mean, "create", "stylize", "censor" - yet, the typical news media of today is doing exactly that, in every area of our lives.  

Take KOCO-TV, for example.  Monday, they added to their website this article, "Oklahoma Seeks Federal Waiver Over Common Core Repeal".  First of all, the title is completely wrong.  We did not seek a waiver because of Common Core's repeal.  Second of all, our state department of education has applied for an EXTENSION of our CURRENT NCLB Waiver, asking the feds to tweak a few of our 'assurances'.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Did ROPE want them to do that?  Of course not.  We prefer to let the waiver go, like the other states across the nation that have or simply didn't apply.

Yet this isn't the point.  The point is that I posted a very cogent, reasoned, retort to this ridiculous post, only to see KOCO censure it from the page.  How's that for excellence in journalism?  Here is the post I made that was censored.  What do you think?  Was there a reason for this to be kept from public view?
This article is very one sided I fear. While the education 'establishment' has an opinion on this topic, so do parents and non-union teacher associations. It seems odd that none of these were contacted for your piece. So that readers know:States were offered "Waivers" so the Obama administration didn't have to reauthorize No Child Left Behind - or, Heaven forbid, repeal the law and leave education to the states. The Waivers were provided to states to prevent them from being fined part of their federally granted education money if 100% of all children were NOT "proficient" (a score somewhere around what we think of as 'passing') in English and Math. It was supposed to provide 'flexibility' from the original law. Here's what most don't know. We had to:1. Adopt College and Career Ready standards aka Common Core2. Create a state longitudinal database to collect personal student information3. Create a grading system for teachers, and4. Adopt a policy for 'turning around" failing schools - this includes several options, one in which the state takes over the school for the districtThese are all the same 'assurances' we had to take to get State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (which Governor Brad Henry did) and for Race to the Top money (for which Oklahoma applied but didn't win). Seems odd, don't you think?Hmmmm...so we were forced to adopt all these things - costing our state 10's of thousands and thousands of dollars by the way - to keep from getting fined a percent of a percent of all our federal dollars? That sounds like a good plan? Really?In fact:* States lose no money if they lose the waiver, they only lose the ability to DIRECT 20% of Title 1 funds, which, in Oklahoma amounts to 0.5% of the total budget• $5,250,065,70◦ total funding for K-12 education; local, state and federal sources• $646,625,448◦ total federal education funds; 12.3% of total education funding• $148,119,558 ◦ total federal Title I funds; 22.9% of total federal education funding• $27,198,000◦ SDE estimate of the amount of federal Title 1 funds that would be required to be set aside for supplemental education services should the state lose its NCLB waiver; ◦ approximately 20% of federal Title I funds (20% is actually $29,623,912) 0.5% of total education funding* States do not get MORE federal government intervention with the loss of the waiver, it's simply a different kind of government intervention - telling the state how to spend a whopping total 0.5% of a FIVE BILLION dollar budget.You might consider researching this topic a bit more before reporting further on the subject...just a thought. You can find more information here: http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/esea-reauthorizationdoes-it-even-matter.html


Why I Choose To School My Children At Home And Why I Think You Should Too

by Jenni White

"Mom, are you going to check my paper?"  Sam, my youngest, is sitting next to me doing math right now, but because I'm attempting to write a blog, I ask him to hold on a minute.  Don't worry, he'll ask again in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

"Ok...let's look..." I answer, swinging away from my keyboard.

Obviously, I did not choose to homeschool my children so that I could get more done for ROPE.  I'm sure homeschooling and peace and quiet can be synonymous, but I don't find that often in the White house anymore.

It's not always been this way.  My kids haven't always been homeschooled.

In fact, when my husband David and I had our first son, Coleman (we also have a married daughter, Bryna, 31) he and I left our little self-remodeled 50's bungalow for a bigger house in the neighborhood where I grew up - so he could attend a 'Blue Ribbon' public school - we never even considered anything else.

Coleman - and our adopted daughter Betty - started half-day kindergarten at that little school in 2007 and I was irritated they were only going a half day.  It made no sense to me that other schools had full day kindergarten and mine had only half.  I joined PTA, went to every Kindergarten presentation, helped them with their reading every evening and enjoyed both kids' teachers tremendously.

In 2008, the school offered full year kindergarten and by 2009, I was standing in line so Sam, could be in half-day pre-k.

During the end of 2008, something began to change in me.  Until this time, I was a pretty typical stay-at-home mom; cleaning house, making meals, doing laundry and very involved in my church.  I did have a home business I began in 2003 named for the son we lost between Coleman and Sam (MarshallsMemories), and I scrap-booked and made jewelry in my 'off' hours, selling my wares mainly on Etsy.com, but other than that, nothing remarkable.

Though I had voted in nearly every election since I was 18, I had never really been involved in 'politics'.

I registered Republican at 18 (I adored Ronald Reagan) and, excepting a fall from the wagon with Clinton's first term, I found Republican ideals more suited to my own.  Voting was one thing; researching a candidate's voting record or background, another.  That had never been on my radar screen, yet toward the middle of '08, I began researching then-presidential candidate Barrack Obama and became concerned about what I found. Never before much interested in America's form of government, civics or history, I suddenly wanted to know as much as I could about as much as I could.  The more I found out about Communism, Marxism and America's Republican form of government, the more I became convinced public schools had, by and large, simply quit teaching the fundamentals of American history and government.

One thing led to another with my research and by 2010, a friend (Julie McKenzie) and I had started ROPE as a way to shed light on the fact that American students were graduating high school with little to no education in the founding of our country and the science of civics. In fact, ROPE's first stab at legislation was to make sure kids were reading American foundational documents.  From there, we began studying public school funding and many, many other topics relating to the education of our youth across Oklahoma and America.

Interestingly, I spent the first several years of my career as ROPE president, researching and writing about public school issues after dutifully seeing my kids off to school.  In fact, I remember complaining bitterly when school was canceled for snow or cold, or there was an assembly.  My property taxes were going to pay for this school to be open, why wasn't it?  My kids needed to be in school, not sitting around home watching TV.

I knew there were parents out there who schooled their kids at home yet I thought them only slightly sane.  Why would anyone bring their kids home for school?  How were they going to get a good education?  Parents weren't teachers for Pete's sake, what parent thought they could adequately educate a child for college by keeping him home?  Even having been a teacher - even with a Master's Degree in Biology - this thought was anathema.  I was fairly certain homeschooled kids did little but run around their neighborhoods during regular school hours, driving their scooters in front of cars like a homeschool family that moved (briefly) into our neighborhood.  How in the world did these kids make friends?  Who was around to hang out with during the day?  None of this made any sense to me.

As a Christian, I had also come to believe that my Christian children could be salt and light to nonbelievers at their school.  Why would I even think of removing my kids from public school when they could be leading others to Jesus within the confines of the school room walls?*

Throughout the years, I was active in PTA at the school.  I tried to attend every meeting I could and did what I could to help out with PTA functions.  One day at a PTA meeting, I spoke up and asked why we were raising so much money for the school (we had 10's of thousands in the school PTA account).  I was told it was for the school's computer lab and to pay for a new gymnasium that we could use during the week and rent out for basketball games/practice on the weekends.  Once, when I opined that elementary kids didn't really need to learn how to operate computers, I had the immediate and distinct notion I had broached the unbroachable.  It was clear these kids MUST have computer time or they would fall behind their peers at other schools - did I want our kids to be computer illiterate?  I had just read research indicating that electronics for elementary-aged kids can prevent them from focusing by shortening their attention span, so I shared this.  Clearly, no one in the room was interested.

After studying traditional math (in comparison to the Common Core) I shared - at another meeting - that our school should NOT be using Everyday math, but instead adopt Saxon or Singapore texts.  This revelation was met with disinterest in the least and consternation at worst.  For a number of months I tried to get other parents/teachers on board with the idea, but our Principal finally put the hex on the idea by reporting that the school couldn't afford the textbooks.  PTA, of course, needed their money for a computer lab and gymnasium.  It was then I realized that even math illiterate kids can get on the computer and play roundball, and maybe my ideals about education weren't those of my fellow parents or school.

No matter how many children you have, no two will be alike.  I have four, and while none of them are carbon copies of one another, I managed to get a more introverted boy and a girl and a boy and a girl who love going and doing and being right in the middle of everything.  Coleman is one of my introverts.  From a young age that kid would sit by himself, perfectly content building Lego's or drawing, so I shouldn't have been surprised when during the middle of a VERY TOUGH 3rd grade year (lots of bullying and an overbearing teacher who didn't like my son much), he came to me crying and begging me to homeschool him.

What?  He was just having a reaction to the year, I was sure, yet even after he was moved to another class to try and make it easier for him to learn, he would regularly beg me to keep him home for fourth grade.  Two things happened fairly quickly near the end of that year; a homeschooling mom joined the ROPE board and she began sharing personal experiences about her homeschooling, and Coleman fell face first off the swings, and was made to sit in the office with his face so swollen he could barely open his eyes until they finally got around to calling me. That was it.  Though I wasn't sure how the whole schooling the kid at home would work, I decided to take on the challenge and my husband reluctantly agreed.

If I hadn't been seen as the bizarre white-haired White lady at that school before, I was by the first day of school 2010-2011.  I enrolled Sam and Betty in 1st and 4th grades respectively, while submitting a letter to the office that I would be schooling Coleman at home and signing up for another year of PTA - this time with the intention of running for President.**

I began Coleman in Classical Conversations that year.  One day a week I went to an Edmond church 'campus' where kids of all ages and stages came together to learn all sorts of facts about all sorts of things.  In the morning, Coleman had Foundations (the facts portion of the curriculum) and in the afternoon he had Essentials of the English Language where he learned to diagram sentences and write essays.  At home during the week while his siblings were in school, Coleman would study his facts, practice his English assignments and write a paper on a different topic each week.  I added Saxon math and had him read and outline a junior classic book every couple of weeks.  Though I suspect both David and I thought he would soon tire of the self-paced work and lack of friendship, he blossomed, and I learned more about traditional (classical) education vs the progressive education taught in most public schools today.

ROPE had just taken on Common Core and I was speaking and writing and lobbying frequently at this point.  Disinterested with the idea of hanging with Mimi or Grandmama during many of my outings, he chose to come along to the Capitol, to meetings - wherever I was headed - and he had a blast (most times!).

Meanwhile, I was still following what the other two were doing in public school, but by now my eyes had fully opened and I was beginning to see the light.  The assignments Betty brought home from school made my new blog (begun in July of 2011) several times, as did school newsletters and other items.  Her fourth grade teacher and I did not see eye-to-eye and her deeply progressive, rude, student teacher nearly caused my husband apoplexy after a meeting scheduled to discuss some of her more interesting worksheets on Global Warming and Native Americans.

First grade wasn't treating Sam any better.  His teacher should never have been responsible for an elementary classroom.  She was, if anything, more equipped to muscle around teen children - she had absolutely no empathy and seemed to have cared less for little ones in general.  Certainly a Common Core apologist, she was proud to tell me that our school was an early adopter of the standards, knowing the state would force the issue the following school year.  During his tenure in her first grade class, he learned to spell words like Kapok Tree (thanks to the chapter on rain forest deforestation) while learning nearly zero English grammar mechanics for spelling (i before e except after c, etc.).  Even today, that kid can spell very, very little no matter how hard I have tried to teach him by phonemes.  Then there was the math.  Oh my word.  Though my child could easily be classified ADD, I have no doubt in my mind that his math experiences in first grade are what set him back at least two grades and made him absolutely detest the subject.  The fact that he can't sit still and concentrate doesn't make him hate math, it just makes him hate sitting down for any length of time.

By the end of 4th and 1st grades in public school while homeschooling one simultaneously, I had simply gotten to the point where I had zero compunction about removing the other two kids lock stock and barrel from public school and pulling them onto the CC campus with Coleman.  I'm sure the school was absolutely ecstatic to see me go, and we were just as pleased to leave.

And there you have it.  The genesis of the White family homeschool experience.

Today, we're still with Classical, but we're now at a campus well outside the city, near the little town where we've moved to start a farm.  Apparently, once you jump off one conveyor belt, it's becomes easier to jump off the rest (packaged food vs fresh food, internet news vs Big Media news, classic shows on Netflix vs commercial television - we've jumped off them all).  Sadly, as I look back, I see how brainwashed Americans - especially mothers - have become.  We women bought into that 'bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan' mentality back in the '70's and now we have no qualms dropping off even our youngest children to be raised by someone other than ourselves during the day while we are at work.

I did the math one day.  Did you know that each year your child/children are in school, you are allowing someone other than yourself to influence your children 1,190 hours = 50 days = 14% of a year?  Did you know that every year our state/federal government want your children to be in school MORE hours and MORE days?  How many can you lose and expect your child to graduate high school (let alone college) comfortable with your set of values?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that homeschooling is the panacea for producing 'perfect' people (how about that for alliteration!?) - there is no formula for perfection and there is only One that was - I'm simply saying that the more you influence your child, the less someone else is influencing your child.

Neither am I saying that all homeschools produce excellent results, or are done for the right reasons or should be held up as education models for all to see.  I am saying, however, that more parents are equipped to homeschool than are.  I'm saying that more parents can homeschool than think they can.  I'm saying many parents don't even entertain the option because they think themselves ill-equipped.

Over twenty years ago when people like my friends, former state representative George Faught and his wife Becky, began homeschooling their children - in the days when people in IGA would call the truant officer because Becky had her kids in the store while she shopped - there were very few resources for parents that wanted to homeschool.  This isn't the case today.  Today there are wonderful online resources (not K12 or other online schools associated with state public schools) such as Freedom Project Education, and others such as Sonlight and A Beka that can provide excellent road maps to an excellent education for ANY parent, regardless of educational background.

As I've said many times in many different venues, God blessed you with your children.  He gave them to you to raise, not to a school or a teacher.  We are admonished to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6), and that admonition is for parents directly, not through teachers or schools indirectly.  Though I in no way mean to embarrass or anger parents who choose to send their children to public schools, or the many teachers who bring their wonderful values with them into the classroom to provide the best education they can for each child, I think it is important to think on these things and listen to our hearts.  Could God be calling you to homeschool?  If He is, step out and follow His lead - He will bless you in your efforts.  If God is not calling you to homeschool, make sure to take time with your children when they are at home - indoctrinate them in your worldview - watch carefully the items that come home - stay in contact with your child/children's teacher/s - make public education work for your family.

No matter what, be sensitive to your kids and keep them under your wing as long as possible.  They are only little a short while and after that, your influence wanes.  Although I will continue to fight for public education (and so should we all), until parents can return to the position of authority in their child's education within the system, as many of us as can, should be out of it.  The system won't change on its own, and a wheel deprived of cogs won't work and must be re-built, or demolished back to step one.  Let's stay engaged and committed to restoring public education, but let's not throw our kids in the deep end of the pool to dog paddle as we do.

*I learned subsequently (through an experience with my daughter), that few young children can withstand the pressure of their peers or put aside their desire to please their teacher with enough force or consistency to keep the worldview imparted to them by their parents.  As strong as we like to think our children are in the Lord, until they've been able to understand and articulate their Christian worldview well enough to attain apologist status, kids will more than likely adapt to the worldview espoused by their peers/teachers.  Children should never be sacrificed on the altar of evangelism and sadly, this is often the case when Christian children are left to defend their faiths inside secular schools.

** I was told I would not be allowed to run for PTA president because I was "too political".  Yes, it's true.  There you have it.  If PTA weren't an arm of NEA and the ultimate in everything political, I wouldn't have laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants, yet that's exactly what I did.


Steve Russell And The Holy Grail Of CD 5 - Common Core

Every election season without fail, candidates work to find that ‘Holy Grail’ of political issues designed to drop their political opponent in the polls while elevating themselves as the sensible alternative on that issue.  Taxation, The Affordable Health Care Act, Social Security - all have been used to position various candidates at the front of the pack with voters over countless election cycles.

This years’ political Holy Grail appears to be Common Core. 

As an early Common Core Paul Revere, I’ve watched concerns about this issue go from largely ignored in 2010 to a death knell for elective office in 2014.  Throughout the intervening years, as I’ve attempted to educate Oklahomans and lawmakers on this topic, I have been loath to hold legislators - other than the authors - responsible for their vote on Common Core in 2010 for several reasons.

Nothing less than an education omnibus bill intended to line up Oklahoma’s educational system with the edicts prescribed by the federal Race to the Top grant for which Oklahoma applied under then-Governor Brad Henry, SB2033 foisted Common Core onto the landscape of Oklahoma public education via one paragraph on page 30 of this 34 page bill actually entitled, “Teacher Incentive Pay”. 

Though not ordinarily one to give legislators a pass for voting on legislation without becoming educated on that issue, SB2033 was not an ordinary bill.

Authored by then-Senate Pro-Temp (Glenn Coffee) and then-Speaker of the House (Chris Benge), legislators unwilling to cast an ‘aye’ vote for SB2033 could find themselves crosswise with leadership – not a pleasant proposition. Not only that, but Republican messaging declared the bill a panacea for public education in Oklahoma, painting any Republican legislator voting against it into a corner as anti-public education. 

That Republican leadership oversold this bill seems evident in its troubled history in the House, where membership voted down the Conference Committee Report and forced several more votes resulting in passage of the bill at the 11th hour of session, 2010.

Recently, former Edmond Mayor, Patrice Douglas has come out against challenger for Congressional District 5, former State Senator, Lt. Col. Steve Russell using his ‘yea’ vote on SB2033 as ‘proof’ that Russell is a Common Core proponent.

This charge is so silly, frankly, I’ve taken a week to address it in deference to other, more pressing business.  I feel the need to address it now, however, as we close in on the run-off election August 26th.

Though I’ve previously stated my reasons for allowing legislators a pass on their SB2033 votes, it’s important for people to know that Steve was actually anti-Common Core when anti-Common Core wasn’t cool (thanks Barbara Mandrell). 

Back in the dark ages of 2011, when legislators had very little interest in discussing the Common Core other than to parrot the popular talking points, Steve signed on as co-author to HB1714 authored by Sally Kern.  As that bill was denied a hearing in the Common Education Committee that year, the bill was reintroduced in 2012.  To the best of my recollection, Russell signed on again as co-author, though the bill was again prevented a hearing by Common Ed Committee Chair Ann Coody.

Obviously, I’m a proponent of any Common Core opponent.  Hatred of Common Core, however, is not the only reason to vote for a candidate.  I can say this with conviction because, though I have spent a chunk of my life fighting a single issue, I’m not a single-issue voter.  Steve’s objection to Common Core arises from his belief in individual liberty and personal responsibility over state control and tyranny.  I believe Steve will enter Congress standing on that ideal and from that ideal he will govern.  Certainly, adoption of this ideal is the surest way to restore our Republic and once and for all rid ourselves of Common Core and other federal end arounds state sovereignty and individual liberty.


EDUCATION: You VS The State - Are You Taking Responsibility For Your Child's Education?

After reading a recent opinion piece by a ‘conservative’, Oklahoma law professor (Right Thinking: Grumpy suburbanites and the populist conservative base, by Andrew SpiropoulosI had to laugh.  While I agreed with 9/10ths of his very excellent treatise on populism vs conservatism, I had to part company altogether when this man began discussing education – particularly relating to Superintendent Barresi’s election loss and Governor Fallin’s recent drop in the polls.

To him, Barresi lost and Fallin has dropped in the polls – not because their education reform initiatives were too heavy handed, but because they were not heavy handed enough.

This makes me laugh because elitists tend to recognize elitism in everyone but themselves.  Hilariously, this law professor outs himself as elitist by saying, "… our (Oklahoma) business elite does not have a strong intellectual grasp of the tenets or policy successes of conservatism", after which he calls dissenters of big government education reform, such as I, 'grumpy suburbanites' (wasn’t it Arne Duncan (a Democrat) who blamed the failure of education ‘reform’ on “white suburban moms”?).

This professor appears to understand conservatism in every area but public education.  To him, conservatism in this venue should be state-control under the virtuous flag of 'accountability for taxpayer funds'. 

Conservatism is a political philosophy most in line with the majority of American Founders.  To them, conservatism, “conserves” power to the individual OVER the state – in point of fact, conservatism imbues the notion of individual rights.  Conservatism doesn’t parse itself across each segment of our lives.  It doesn’t break down into fiscal ‘conservatism’ versus individual rights, or political ‘conservatism’ versus individual rights.   To the elitist, however, "fiscal conservatism" relates to ‘conserving’ assets, therefore if local school boards overspend, the state must force ‘conservatism’ by subjecting individuals on school boards all across the state to laws addressing overspending in public education.  This notion is fallacious as it necessarily embargoes individual rights.  It also usurps the ability of individuals to learn by removing negative consequences – but that’s another topic for another day.

Either individuals or government have the power - it can't be both.  In some circumstances, the people delegate their power to government (ie; traffic laws), but government cannot usurp the right of individuals because it doesn't like the way the right is utilized.  Certainly, government cannot usurp a parent’s right to direct the education of their own children (child endangerment issues notwithstanding), yet that is exactly what happened with Oklahoma’s 3rd grade reading retention law, (as one of many examples - Common Core being another).

It is a parent's duty to hold their children accountable for whether or not they are reading by the end of third grade.  When Governor Fallin vetoed the MINOR change to the third grade reading retention law (simply adding a PARENT to the group of school personnel deciding whether their child should graduate), parents felt cut out of the process of educating their children.  Since parents maintain the right and responsibility to care for their children as they see fit, parents recognized this as a usurpation of their individual rights.  I believe one of the reasons for the downturn in our Governor's poll numbers resulted from a parental awakening to this kind of elitism rampant in our currently Republican-controlled government.   

The elitist thought process eschews personal responsibility and individual rights when they are exercised in a way seen as inappropriate by the elitist – particularly in education.  “Many parents are _______ (‘poor’, ‘ill-educated’, ‘drug addicts’, ‘grumpy suburbanites’) and cannot be trusted to educate their children appropriately.”  This leads elitists to gravitate toward state controlled education – not education of the public provided by churches and communities with local/parent control as the Founders advocated.

I personally believe a majority of today’s parents remiss in their duties regarding their children’s education.  Far too many times as a teacher I sent items home in backpacks that were never opened, or I sat in a quiet classroom of an evening because parents couldn’t be bothered to attend parent/teacher meetings.  I am, however, a staunch believer in individual rights – even if it means the right to have a child living in your basement until age 30 because you couldn’t be bothered to assume the responsibility necessary to appropriately direct their education, or I as a taxpayer have to cough up money to the criminal justice system to ‘rehabilitate’ the child you refused to rear or educate when you were tasked with that responsibility. 

For hundreds of years, the state was an actor prevented from even reading for the part of parent.  Actually, it wasn't until the early 1960’s, when tax exemptions provided the excuse for many to abandon their missions, churches stopped assuming the role of responsible party for the uneducated/undereducated, teaching them their rights and responsibilities and setting them on the path to fruitful citizenship. 

Though to invoke the words of American Founders today seems to be to invite derision in many circles, John Adams well illustrated the current breakdown in understanding between elitists and conservatives, parents and parental responsibility, 
“…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
I believe In today’s vernacular we would say; “Know your rights and responsibilities – govern yourself – or men will do it for you in your name.”  Look around.  Isn't that just what we're seeing today?


Rudderless Teachers?

I read an article recently in EdWeek by an Oklahoma teacher, "Without The Common Core in Oklahoma". Obviously, as someone who fought to repeal the standards, I feel sad that without Common Core, this teacher feels "rudderless". 

The teacher explains:
The thought of moving backward to PASS (or worse) fills me and thousands of other Oklahoma teachers and administrators with mind-numbing angst. The state has invested countless hours and a great deal of professional-development money so that educators, curriculum specialists, and districts would be in a strong position to put the standards in place. To this end, my own district implemented new standards-aligned academic vocabulary, which mandates a grade-level list of words for K-5 students. We purchased many standards-aligned professional materials for teachers to help them in the implementation of instructional units. While those materials and new word lists can be tweaked to reflect whatever might replace the common core, many of my colleagues are shaking their heads in disbelief at the complete waste of time and resources that has resulted from this turn in state politics.

Mind-numbing angst?  I find this peculiar, I really do.  I truly cannot understand why any teacher would be filled with “mind-numbing angst” by the removal of a set of standards – especially when the testing portion of the standards will be more general knowledge in nature and not truly ‘high stakes’ for this next two years (and hopefully long term).

In my opinion, really great teachers are those that simply need to know the developmental age of their children.  Once they are very familiar with that, they can pull information from across the World Wide Web, the library, older text books – it matters not.  Information to impart to children of all ages is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week anymore. 

When I taught - and it’s not much different today, according to my discussions with teacher friends - Professional Development was/is something you did/do to keep your teacher’s certification.  In the 6 years I taught public school, never one time did I learn something I felt I would feel comfortable using, or desire to use, in my classroom from teacher ‘training’.  One teacher friend I have known for years, just told me about a teacher training event she went to that so upset her conservative views she felt robbed of the time she had to travel to and from and stay.  That simply isn’t right in my view.

Maybe I’m just way too independent (and conservative) for my own good – I’m happy to acknowledge that – but I’m concerned that this ‘angst’ has to do with the way teachers are taught today, from the classroom through teacher training.

I achieved a Master’s Degree in Biology and became Alternatively Certified.  I must say, the three classes I had to take in order to become certified to teach in Oklahoma made me shake my head.  The course on testing frustrated me so badly I felt it necessary to argue (respectfully) with my instructor frequently about her very liberal philosophy which she would insert into class discussions dealing with everything from teaching to breathing. 

While studying for both my Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees, everyone in the College of Math and Science receiving science degrees knew the students who were getting teaching degrees.  They took a very small fraction of the coursework we took, but yet, were expected to teach others science.  That frustrated me.  Why would those teaching others about science need to have so many fewer hours LEARNING science than I as a scientist?  It’s still a conundrum to me.

I have many wonderful teacher friends and I know many wonderful teachers.  I KNOW these teachers can succeed teaching anything to anyone no matter what their administrations – or the state – throws at them.  It’s more than just a job – it’s a VOCATION – a way of life.

Is it possible that teachers who find themselves ‘rudderless’ following this last in a long line of changes created by the state meddling in local education*, might want to find a profession less frustrating?  I wonder.

In closing, here is a thought I added to our ROPE Facebook page a few days ago about teaching.  You may not agree, and I can appreciate that, but I would hope it’s always good to see another’s perspective:

Once upon a time, when I was a teacher, in the days before high stakes testing, I managed my own classroom. That meant, I looked at the PASS standards, aligned my lesson plans to what the kids were expected to know, and I taught them the best way I knew how. I had a ton of animals in my classroom, I did as many labs as I could with limited resources, used videos, computer programs and simple note taking to impart the information I felt it was important for them to know as individuals living in the world. I didn't teach because it would be on the test, I taught because I thought it was important for them to know - the information would help them make sense of the world around them. Why we've turned the process of educating children into a game of who's spending money more accountably, instead of who's teaching kids what they need to know to be well rounded individuals who can be anything they want, I don't know, but it's frustrating to both students and teachers and is leading to education that is anything but educating. We must make high stakes testing stop. We have no choice.

*Does anyone realize that if the money for public education was provided locally for schools and not by the state, local control would take on a greater meaning and schools would finally be accountable to the community they serve – not the larger entity of the state?  Think about it; schools managed by the communities they serve under the guidelines of rules provided by parents via the school board, executed by the administration (not the state).  It sounds like a 'charter' school - with the accountability to taxpayers they don't have. THAT sounds like real school choice. Don't you think that sound like the way it was supposed to be in the first place?  I do!