Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sexually Inappropriate Literature Just Got Much Harder To Use In One Oklahoma District


Several weeks ago, I penned a blog about a mother in Edmond, Oklahoma who was upset about the sexually inappropriate texts being assigned/required in her child's high school. In order to give parents an idea of the steps through which this mother went in order to bring attention to this situation and stand for and on behalf of the needs and best interest of her child, I included the letter she had written to her school board members.

The blog was read thousands and thousands of times and sparked MUCH discussion about what is and isn't appropriate for students and even what constituted the definition of a child. 

This week, I heard from the mother about the results of her meeting with the Superintendent of Edmond Schools regarding this issue. She was satisfied with the outcome. Here is her email:

Dear Jenni,
Bob and I met with Dr. Goin and Mr. Towne (Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, respectively). Both men were very gracious and understanding.
In a nutshell, starting next year, letters will go out giving parents notification and a choice of books their child is  to read. They will notify the parent/guardian of the content of The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle and will have another book to choose with a curriculum and teacher.  The student will not go to a library or leave the room to study on their own. 
I emphasized that the books contain sexual acts with children. By federal and state law,  this is illegal to possess. It could theoretically be challenged in court. Plus, they are teaching it to minors. They listened. I also mentioned Oklahoma Statute HB 1384 and parents have the right to question curriculum because they are in charge of their child’s education and health.  They both acknowledged this bill and welcomed and encouraged parents involvement and participation. 
I ended my argument that if we allow darkness in, we should allow light. Lastly, in my opinion,  they did not follow policy #3600.  Someone really dropped the ball.  Despite varying opinion on the content, opinion is not above policy or the law
So,  I am relieved we have a better choice. Thank you for bringing this to light. God bless you.
Stephanie

This was GREAT news. There were a few points that weren't great news however:
  • Stephanie actually got hate mail for speaking out on the issue. Can anyone please tell me how this kind of activity is 'tolerant'. It never ceases to amaze me that those that scream the loudest for 'tolerance' tend to be the biggest offenders of 'tolerance' when their opinions are those being challenged in any way. 
  • NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS RESPONDED TO THIS PARENT'S EMAILS. Seriously? Not one? Here is the list of the Edmond Board Members. I sent two members personal emails asking them to respond on the issue. These are women who came to ME when I started ROPE years ago asking how they could be more responsive to the community. I am absolutely astounded as to how these women can hold their heads upright after this. Parents APPOINT (elect) members to sit on the board IN THEIR STEAD. When Board members refuse to even respond to inquiries and concerns of the parents they serve they should be drummed off the Board to find something more suited to their schedules/desires.
As I stated in the last blog - parents - not the school board, not administration - parents are the entities fully in charge of the education of their children. I hope this mother's courageous actions have given you the courage to act out on behalf of your children should that be necessary. It will never matter what happens on the campus of your child's school - using your money by the way - if you aren't paying attention to the procedures, curricula and policies being utilized in the place where your child occupies the best part of their day and year. Be encouraged! Get involved and stay involved in your child's education and make it work for them! 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Complaints About Sexually Inappropriate Reading Material In High School Part 2 - Garbage In - Garbage Out


Though Part 1 of this post (One Mad Momma Takes On The Edmond School Board Over Sexually Explicit Books Assigned To Sophomores) has been viewed over 15 thousand times, I have been very disturbed to see the amount of comments making excuses for the material described by the mother's letter. I tend to believe few people have actually read her letter - which explains the comments about wanting to burn or ban books - but many commenters have read the book and still felt it appropriate reads for their children.

Those who believe I'm for book burning or banning or censoring, etc., please note the following points about the first post:
  • The mother was responding by trying to educate her school board that it was breaking their own 'rule' about how books are adopted for students.
  • The mother never suggested that the books be 'banned', or 'burned' or anything else, she merely provided information to suggest that these books were not written in a style appropriate for HIGH SCHOOL children.
  • The mother approached the school board of this particular district in order that they understand her concerns - which is not only well within her rights as a taxpaying citizen - but her duty as a parent.
The themes of these books (The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle) are difficult to be sure, and yes, there are difficult situations all around us in the world today. Should kids understand rape? Certainly - in order for them to be able to protect themselves. We start at the earliest ages telling our children they should allow no one but their parents to touch the parts of their body that clothes are meant to cover.

Here's the rub. What kind of language do you use to convey that message? What kind of imagery do you invoke to create this level of understanding? NOT that found in these books. NOT for high school students.  I'm going to publish some parts of the books below. This is not WRITTEN (note I say 'written' - I'm saying nothing about the difficulty of the 'theme') in a manner appropriate for young students to read - college aged and above, fine.

I'm going to print some of the more concerning passages from these books in order that readers understand exactly the issue at hand.

These passages are from the Glass Castle:

p. 82 - Empty beer cans and whiskey bottles and a few half-eaten tins of Vienna sausages littered the floor. On one of the mattresses, Billy’s father was snoring unevenly. His mouth hung open, and flies were gathered in the stubble of his beard. A wet stain had darkened his pants nearly to his knees. His zipper as undone, and his gross penis dangled to one side. I stared quietly, then asked, “What’s the funny thing?” “Don’t you see?” said Billy. “He pissed himself!” Billy started laughing...

p. 86 – Billy smushed his face against mine, then grabbed my hair and made my head bend sideways and stuck his tongue in my mouth. It as slimy and disgusting, but when I tried to pull away, he pushed in toward me. The more I pulled, the more he pushed, until he was on top of me and I felt his fingers tugging at my shorts. His other hand was unbuttoning his own pants. To stop him, I put my hand down there, and when I touched it, I knew what it was, even though I had never touched one before.”

p. 103 – One night when I as almost ten, I as awakened by someone running his hands over my private parts. At first it was confusing. Lori and I slept in the same bed, and I thought maybe she was moving in her sleep. I groggily pushed the hand away. “I just want to play a game with you,” a man’s voice said.

p. 146 – Erma [the grandmother], who’d been drinking since before breakfast, told Brian [approx. 9 year old brother] that his britches needed mending. He started to take them off, but Erma said she didn’t want him running around the house in his skivvies or with a towel wrapped around him looking like he was wearing a goddamn dress. It would be easier for her to mend the britches while he was still wearing them. She ordered him to follow her in to Grandpa’s bedroom, where she kept her sewing kit. They’d been gone for a minute or two when I heard Brian weakly protesting. I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma kneeling on the floor in front of Brian, grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself and telling Brian to hold still, goddammit. Brian, his cheeks wet with tears, was holding his hands protectively between his legs. “Erma, you leave him alone!” I shouted. Erma, still on her knees, twisted around and glared at me. “Why, you little bitch!” she said. 

p. 161 – Of course I went. I’d never gotten inside the Green Lantern, but now I’d get an up-close look at a genuine prostitute. There were lots of things I wanted to know: Was whoring easy money? Was it ever any fun, or was it just gross? Did Kathy and her sisters and her father all know Ginnie Sue Pastor was a whore?... Ginnie Sue offered us seats at the table. She had heavy breasts that swayed when she moved, and her blond hair was dark at the roots...

These are excerpts from the Kite Runner:

p.7 – “Hey you!” he said. “I know you.” We had never seen him before. He was a squatty man with a shaved head and black stubble on his face. The way he grinned at us, leered, scared me. “Just keep walking,” I muttered to Hassan. “You!  The Hazara! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” the soldier barked. He handed his cigarette to the guy next to him, made a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand. Poked the middle finger of his other hand through the circle. Poked it in and out. In and out. “I knew your mother, did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind that creek over there.” The soldiers laughed. One of them made a squealing sound. I told Hassan to keep walking, keep walking. “What a tight little sugary cunt she had!” the soldier was saying, shaking hands with the others, grinning...

p.72-76 – “Whatever you wish.” Assef unbuttoned his winter coat, took it off, folded it slowly and deliberately. He placed it against the wall. I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost....Assef motioned with his hand, and the other two boys separated, forming a half circle, trapping Hassan in the alley...”I don’t know,” Wali was saying. “My father says it’s sinful.” He sounded unsure, excited, scared, all at the same time. Kamal and Wali each gripped an arm, twisted and bent at the elbow so that Hassan’s hands were pressed to his back. Assef was standing over them, the heel of his snow boots crushing the back of Hassan’s neck...Assef knelt behind Hassan, put his hands on Hassan’s hips and lifted his bare buttocks. He kept one hand on Hassan’s back and undid his own belt buckle with the free hand. He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before...

Ironically, there is also this passage:

p. 116 – My mind flashed to that winter day six years ago. Me, peering around the corner in the alley. Kamal and Wali holding Hassan down. Assef’s buttock muscles clenching and clenching, his hips thrusting back and forth.

The author of the book himself, makes plain that what he saw, he can't unsee. It haunts him even in his waking hours. How do you then justify allowing children (they are under 18) to read such clear word pictures as to give them the ability to 'see' things they can't 'unsee' from reading such explicit writing? You really believe the world is such a horrible place that most kids are going to be exposed to this kind of thing? I don't. I think kids take in what you give them. If it's garbage, you get garbage out, if it's light, you get light. If you don't believe me, look at Ferguson Missouri - look at how the instances of rape, aggravated assault and murder of children by children have increased as the availability of internet porn and explicit video games have cornered the market.

Here's the worst part - these passages are needlessly graphic. I will convey exactly the same 'theme' below:
My mind flashed back to that winter six days ago. Me, peering around the corner of the alley, watching in horror, as Hassan was cruelly raped.
You're telling me the words I used above don't convey the feelings of the author on page 116? Absolutely they do. We can still feel his self-loathing, his disgust, we just don't have to have the mental picture associated with the act.

Unfortunately, we're seeing this kind of thing more and more. Just recently, it was found that several of the books on the Common Core ancillary list were replete with this kind of imaging - books like The Bluest Eye and Dreaming in Cuban - have come under fire recently for the imagery invoked by this same style of writing - a style that many find inappropriate for underage youth.

Readers are certainly entitled to their opinions - and they certainly have the right to address their school boards on this issue - but society has become decidedly more coarse in near direct proportion to the amount of non-light-bearing forms of entertainment available today. There are ways to educate children in the 'ways of the world'. Providing them with such graphic images is not the way to do that and produce healthy children for a healthy society.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Complaints About Sexually Inappropriate Reading Material In High School Part 2 - Garbage In - Garbage Out


Though Part 1 of this post has been viewed over 15 thousand times, I have been very disturbed to see the amount of comments making excuses for the material described by the mother's letter. I tend to believe few people have actually read her letter - which explains the comments about wanting to burn or ban books - but many commenters have read the book and still felt it appropriate reads for their children.

People who believe we're for book burning or banning or censoring, etc., please note the following points about the first post:

  • The mother was responding by trying to educate her school board that it was breaking their own 'rule' about how books are adopted for students.
  • The mother never suggested that the books be 'banned', or 'burned' or anything else, she merely provided information to suggest that these books were not written in a style appropriate for HIGH SCHOOL children.
  • The mother approached the school board of this particular district in order that they understand her concerns - which is not only well within her rights as a taxpaying citizen - but her duty as a parent.

The themes of these books (The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle) are difficult to be sure, and yes, there are difficult situations all around us in the world today. Should kids understand rape? Certainly - in order for them to be able to protect themselves. We start at the earliest ages telling our children they should allow no one but their parents to touch the parts of their body that clothes are meant to cover.

Here's the rub. What kind of language do you use to convey that message? What kind of imagery do you invoke to create this level of understanding? NOT that found in these books. NOT for high school students.  I'm going to publish some parts of the books below. This is not WRITTEN (note I say 'written' - I'm saying nothing about the difficulty of the 'theme') in a manner appropriate for young students to read - college aged and above, fine.

I'm going to print some of the more concerning passages from these books in order that readers understand exactly the issue at hand.

These passages are from the Glass Castle:

p. 82 - Empty beer cans and whiskey bottles and a few half-eaten tins of Vienna sausages littered the floor. On one of the mattresses, Billy’s father was snoring unevenly. His mouth hung open, and flies were gathered in the stubble of his beard. A wet stain had darkened his pants nearly to his knees. His zipper as undone, and his gross penis dangled to one side. I stared quietly, then asked, “What’s the funny thing?” “Don’t you see?” said Billy. “He pissed himself!” Billy started laughing...

p. 86 – Billy smushed his face against mine, then grabbed my hair and made my head bend sideways and stuck his tongue in my mouth. It as slimy and disgusting, but when I tried to pull away, he pushed in toward me. The more I pulled, the more he pushed, until he was on top of me and I felt his fingers tugging at my shorts. His other hand was unbuttoning his own pants. To stop him, I put my hand down there, and when I touched it, I knew what it was, even though I had never touched one before.”

p. 103 – One night when I as almost ten, I as awakened by someone running his hands over my private parts. At first it was confusing. Lori and I slept in the same bed, and I thought maybe she was moving in her sleep. I groggily pushed the hand away. “I just want to play a game with you,” a man’s voice said.

p. 146 – Erma [the grandmother], who’d been drinking since before breakfast, told Brian [approx. 9 year old brother] that his britches needed mending. He started to take them off, but Erma said she didn’t want him running around the house in his skivvies or with a towel wrapped around him looking like he was wearing a goddamn dress. It would be easier for her to mend the britches while he was still wearing them. She ordered him to follow her in to Grandpa’s bedroom, where she kept her sewing kit. They’d been gone for a minute or two when I heard Brian weakly protesting. I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma kneeling on the floor in front of Brian, grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself and telling Brian to hold still, goddammit. Brian, his cheeks wet with tears, was holding his hands protectively between his legs. “Erma, you leave him alone!” I shouted. Erma, still on her knees, twisted around and glared at me. “Why, you little bitch!” she said. 

p. 161 – Of course I went. I’d never gotten inside the Green Lantern, but now I’d get an up-close look at a genuine prostitute. There were lots of things I wanted to know: Was whoring easy money? Was it ever any fun, or was it just gross? Did Kathy and her sisters and her father all know Ginnie Sue Pastor was a whore?... Ginnie Sue offered us seats at the table. She had heavy breasts that swayed when she moved, and her blond hair was dark at the roots...

These are excerpts from the Kite Runner:

p.7 – “Hey you!” he said. “I know you.” We had never seen him before. He was a squatty man with a shaved head and black stubble on his face. The way he grinned at us, leered, scared me. “Just keep walking,” I muttered to Hassan. “You!  The Hazara! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” the soldier barked. He handed his cigarette to the guy next to him, made a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand. Poked the middle finger of his other hand through the circle. Poked it in and out. In and out. “I knew your mother, did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind that creek over there.” The soldiers laughed. One of them made a squealing sound. I told Hassan to keep walking, keep walking. “What a tight little sugary cunt she had!” the soldier was saying, shaking hands with the others, grinning...

p.72-76 – “Whatever you wish.” Assef unbuttoned his winter coat, took it off, folded it slowly and deliberately. He placed it against the wall. I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost....Assef motioned with his hand, and the other two boys separated, forming a half circle, trapping Hassan in the alley...”I don’t know,” Wali was saying. “My father says it’s sinful.” He sounded unsure, excited, scared, all at the same time. Kamal and Wali each gripped an arm, twisted and bent at the elbow so that Hassan’s hands were pressed to his back. Assef was standing over them, the heel of his snow boots crushing the back of Hassan’s neck...Assef knelt behind Hassan, put his hands on Hassan’s hips and lifted his bare buttocks. He kept one hand on Hassan’s back and undid his own belt buckle with the free hand. He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before...

Ironically, there is also this passage:

p. 116 – My mind flashed to that winter day six years ago. Me, peering around the corner in the alley. Kamal and Wali holding Hassan down. Assef’s buttock muscles clenching and clenching, his hips thrusting back and forth.

The author of the book himself, makes plain that what he saw, he can't unsee. It haunts him even in his waking hours. How do you then justify allowing children (they are under 18) to read such clear word pictures as to give them the ability to 'see' things they can't 'unsee' from reading such explicit writing? You really believe the world is such a horrible place that most kids are going to be exposed to this kind of thing? I don't. I think kids take in what you give them. If it's garbage, you get garbage out, if it's light, you get light. If you don't believe me, look at Ferguson Missouri - look at how the instances of rape, aggravated assault and murder of children by children have increased as the availability of porn and explicit video games have cornered the market.

Here's the worst part - these passages are needlessly graphic. I will convey exactly the same 'theme' below:
My mind flashed back to that winter six days ago. Me, peering around the corner of the alley, watching in horror, as Hassan was cruelly raped.
You're telling me the words I used above don't convey the feelings of the author on page 116? Absolutely they do. We can still feel his self-loathing, his disgust, we just don't have to have the mental picture associated with the act.

Unfortunately, we're seeing this kind of thing more and more. Just recently, it was found that several of the books on the Common Core ancillary list were replete with this kind of imaging - books like The Bluest Eye and Dreaming in Cuban - have come under fire recently for the imagery invoked by this same style of writing - a style that many find inappropriate for underage youth.

Readers are certainly entitled to their opinions - and they certainly have the right to address their school boards on this issue - but society has become decidedly more coarse in near direct proportion to the amount of non-light-bearing forms of entertainment available today. There are ways to educate children in the 'ways of the world'. Providing them with such graphic images is not the way to do that and produce healthy children for a healthy society.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One Mad Momma Takes On Edmond School Board Over Sexually Explicit Books Assigned to Sophomores


We've been reading lately about two very courageous teachers in the Tulsa Public School system, Nikki Jones and Karen Hendron, and how they've chosen to stand up to Superintendent Keith Ballard in defense of their young students.

Yesterday, I received an email forwarded from our Secretary, Jo Joyce containing a letter from a courageous PARENT willing to stand up to her school's administration and Board over an issue that has her gravely concerned for her child. The letter was from a friend of Jo's, Stephanie Berland, who has a child in high school in the Edmond (Oklahoma) Public School system. Stephanie became aware that her Sophomore-aged student was assigned to read two books, The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle by the English department. Upon researching the books, Stephanie became very concerned and decided the material was not appropriate for her child - but she didn't stop with that action.

I have asked Stephanie to allow me to reproduce her correspondence regarding the books. Not only do I want you to be aware of the content of these books, I want to use Stephanie's response to show you a direct, well-researched and appropriate response to her school board and community regarding her concerns. Many times parents feel helpless to combat activities or situations occurring with their children in public (government) schools - not only are they unsure of the correct channels to follow to complain or protest, but they become afraid any action they take will result in some form of punishment for their student.

The first action Stephanie took, was to research the district's policies for reading material. She then wrote an email to educate other parents and solicit assistance. Here is the body of her email:
Dear Parents,
If you are a parent/guardian of a child in a high school in the Edmond Public School District, I ask you to please read this email. 
Currently, there are two books that are required to read and purchase in the English Department of high schools in Edmond, OK.  They are introduced in sophomore level English. The books are titled The Kite Runner and The Glass Castle.  Both of these books are on the American Library Association’s most challenged or banned book list due to their content.
The first book deals with aggravated sodomy and pedophiliac rape of both girls and boys and the latter with a racist mother sexually abusing her son and grandson, alleged molestation by an uncle to his niece, alcoholism, anti-Christianity overtones, and more adult topics.  
Please take time to research/read these books, and if you feel as a parent they are appropriate for your child, then that is your choice.  If you do not want your child to read these books, then I would ask you to call your principal and express your concern.  Currently, there is a choice to opt out, but again, I suggest that you understand what this looks like and why parents are required to opt out of something when most didn’t even know that they were enrolled.  
The Educational Board of Edmond Public Schools must abide by BP #3600 – Instructional Materials guidelines.   This criteria can be found on the EPS website, using this link http://www.edmondschools.net/AboutUs/SchoolBoard/PoliciesandProcedures/Instruction.  Parents can fill out form 3600F to have the school re-evaluate the choice.  However, I feel the district did not vet out these books by using their own established standards listed in BP #3600. 
You can also express your concern by emailing or contacting your elected board member by district.  To find out who your elected official is, refer to the attached map,http://www.edmondschools.net/Portals/0/docs/Board/BoardMemberMapDec2013.pdf
Lastly, I ask you to please forward this email to any parent/guardian you know that this may affect.  I don’t know any other way to get this important information out to parents.  
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.
Concerned Parent,Stephanie S. Berland
The next thing Stephanie and her husband did, was write a letter to her personal school board member asking for her concerns to be made an agenda item at the next Board meeting.  Here is a copy of that letter:
Mr. Cole,
I am respectfully asking the Board of Education to add an agenda item for the next meeting scheduled December 8th, 2014, at 6:00 PM, to re-evaluate and question the process in which the books The Kite Runnerand The Glass Castle were selected for required material in the sophomore English classes at all the high schools in Edmond.  Based on my understanding from the meeting on 11/21/14 at ENHS, Ms. Dana Stobbe and the committee did not take the proper steps in following BP Policy #3600, B2, Criteria for the selection of materials.  In particular, these following bullet points were not documented with factual data, but merely passed with opinion by Ms. Stobbe and an undisclosed committee:  
  • Appropriateness of content considering developmental stage of students 
  • Favorable reviews in standard selection sources 
  • Suitability of subject, style, and reading level for intended audience 
  • Varying points of view
I have extensive documentation and research for the above criteria to show that these book selections should have been rejected immediately based upon criteria set forth by the Edmond Board of Education adopted 9-2-97 and revised 6-4-12.
I am also asking that if these selection materials continue to be taught, that parents be made aware of what they contain.  This is not happening.  Currently, there is no coherent and uniform procedure in place to make parents aware of the content or the process to “opt out” of this required material.   In addition, it was noted and discussed in the meeting that the administrators were unaware that students are required not only to read, but buy these books.  Again, I have copies of this requirement.
I do at some point plan to file the 3600F.  However, I want to reiterate that these books were implemented unjustly and did not follow protocol set forth by the Board of Education of the Edmond Public School District.
Lastly, I encourage you to read these books.  There is this “glossing over” of pornographic content by Ms. Stobbe.  I read the rape by sodomy paragraph (the one I sent to you in an earlier email) in the meeting and I was met with Ms. Stobbe saying,  “Well, we don’t focus in on that.”  The entire book of The Kite Runner is centered on this rape and Amir trying to “redeem” himself because he did nothing.  Later, Hassan’s son, Sohrab, is dressed up as woman and raped by Hassan and finally Amir fights Assef and voila ……he is redeemed.  One final point and probably the most distressing to me is when I made MY  “critical thinking” judgment and told Ms. Stobbe that I found the book misguided on redemption and pornographic.  She was unaccepting of my opinion.  I was made to wonder,  just how are these children guided to “critically think?”  Critical thinking is what I was told to be the goal of this book.  However, my thoughts did not fit Ms. Stobbe’s narrative and I was told that I was filled with hate.    I replied it was not hate, but anger.  Anger at her arrogance.  I told her it is not her job to teach my child about these topics.  She went on to insinuate that I was na├»ve to think that my daughter doesn’t already know about rape and sodomy.  As a parent, this is NOT her job to teach my child about these topics.  We signed up for English.  Coincidentally, do the students come to the same judgment of the characters in this book?  If they do, that is very scary.
This book is not for high school students.  Most do not have the depth or breadth of knowledge on sex, the Bible, and knowledge of Afghanistan, to make solid analysis.  Moreover, they do not have their parents there.  There are many more suitable books to choose from to attain this “critical thinking” skill in English class.
I appreciate your attention to this matter and I made everyone aware at the meeting of my intention to notify as many parents as I could and to contact you to act as my voice.  I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
Sincerely,
Stephanie and Bob Berland
Stephanie's letter was concise, addressed to the proper individual, explained her concerns fully and demonstrated a knowledge of proper school board procedure. I have asked her to keep me informed of this situation so that I can post an update with the actions taken by the Board.

I hope Stephanie's actions empower parents reading this blog to learn school board procedure and speak out about concerns they have with activities in their school. The parental rights legislation passed this last session recognizes the right of parents to control the education of their children, so the law is on your side. Don't allow your child to take part in teaching methods, curricula or tests with which you disagree. It's YOUR system and YOUR children - make it work for YOU and YOUR children.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Students As Trained Seals



I am to be on vacation right now, but I had to post about the very exciting goings on in Tulsa Public Schools. 

Nikki Jones, and her colleague  Karen Hendron - both elementary teachers in Tulsa Public Schools - recently attempted to have their class answer a survey for the TPS' Value Added teacher grading model as required by the district. It turned out to be a nightmare for them, but most of all for their students. Because the exercise was such a phenomenal strain, they wrote a letter to TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard explaining why they would never do such a thing again and why.

The letter was EXTREMELY well-written, clear and concise in their examples, complaints and desires. There was nothing unprofessional in the demeanor of the letter at all, and was, frankly, an excellent example of how to communicate issues of consequence with one's boss.

In great detail the letter describes some of the reactions of their kids to taking the survey. This was one instance reported by Andrea Eger in the Tulsa World and it would have to be one of the saddest:
Hendren said the personal questions included a detailed checklist of all of the people residing in the student’s home and how many computers are in the home.
She said one of the first-graders was devastated after they went through the family member checklist and he revealed in front of his peers that his parents had left him and moved out of state and that he was being raised by one grandparent because the other had died.
“He got really upset and put his head down. He was really sad because there were other students he had to answer that in front of,” Hendren said. “One of the most difficult things for everyone was that our kids have never filled in a bubble sheet before. In our training, we were told children had to fill in the bubble sheets.”
What do you suppose happened after the letter was sent out to the Superintendent, social media and through - not only the Tulsa World, but the Washington Post as well!?

Dr. Ballard sent someone to talk with the 'girls'. No, he didn't have time to meet with them personally, but he did send someone to speak with them about the fact that they were too young to understand the research that says how important this kind of evaluation is, so they had better research it for themselves and do what is asked of them. 

Following that 'action', Dr. Ballard sent out an email that again, condescended to the two women - this time publicly.  According to Eger:
He vowed that TPS will continue to employ “developmentally appropriate assessments in Kindergarten through 3rd grade” and seemed to question the experience level of Jones and Hendren.
“While I understand the frustration of these beginning teachers, it takes a person experienced at using data to know how to use it to guide instruction. We need this data to monitor growth and improve results for all of our students,” Ballard said.
This is offensive - not only to Hendron and Jones - but to taxpayers supporting Tulsa Public Schools and the parents who use the district to educate their children.

Did he not even read the letter? Did he not even choose to begin to understand the time out of class it took these women to administer a survey (2.5 hours!) that is not needed for these teachers to continue to keep their jobs - no matter what Ballard says - if the principal in the building is doing his/her job and observing them and overseeing their work.

Just recently, the Daily Oklahoman published an article about the fact that kids in Oklahoma City Public Schools aren't learning to read because teachers are not taking the time to teach them. So what are teachers doing instead? Hmmm....testing? Giving surveys? Filling out their infinite teacher evaluations? Performing any of the myriad 'reform' measures brought down upon them by the legislature as they continue to genuflect and kiss the ring of the federal government for a pittance?

Nikki has only been teaching in TPS three years, but has been singled out on at least three occasions for her excellence in teaching. In fact, her Facebook friends (including me) watched in awe as she spent most of her summer creating items such as shelves and curtains, to put in her classroom - out of her own pocket - on her own time. I don't see that there could be ANY argument here over whether or not Mrs. Jones is a good teacher. A crummy teacher is not going to spend her summertime hours engaged in the kind of blood, sweat and tears activities Mrs. Jones did to be ready to excite her little students come start of school - I guarantee it.

To think this kind of teacher is treated this way by a Superintendent is simply unbelievable. So, Dr. Ballard, you would much rather have young children crying and feeling like garbage about themselves so you can rate a teacher on a scale to determine whether or not they should have a job in your system? After they have a teaching degree? After they have been certified to teach? I wonder how much of your Bill Gates money goes for this? 


TPS has been one of the districts most vehement also about teaching Common Core - law against it or not. Apparently, Dr. Ballard has very little regard for not only his teachers, but the law as well. How much does he make again? Almost three times (nearly 300 THOUSAND dollars in salary and incentives) more than my electrical engineer husband with a Masters in EE who works Monday through Friday (and more) throughout the year. Really? But then again, the TPS school board GRANTS him this kind of salary - for a D. Why?

Don't get me wrong...I'm not a 1%'er. Professional athletes, actresses/actors, get paid millions of dollars for their vocations because the market will bear that kind of salary via their box office or ticket sales. I'm not sure how the 'market' bears the kind of salary Dr. Ballard brings down for a school that takes 500 million to run only to produce a 'D' on their grade card

Gosh, for that, you'd think Dr. Ballard would WANT to work to keep such great teachers - clearly caring teachers interested more in what their students learn than teaching them how to become trained seals, darkening in bubbles on answer sheet after answer sheet after answer sheet.

I'm frankly glad this has happened. I think it's done a number of very positive things:

  • Hopefully parents are seeing that schools are not the places for their children they thought.
  • Maybe parents will question whether administrators really care about their teachers or their students like they may have thought and really take to asking their school board members the hard questions about the salaries they assign their Superintendents.
  • These two women have emboldened and empowered other teachers to stand up and do what's right for their students, themselves and their professions.

I saw the following quote on Lynn's Facebook page the other day. It is very, very, true. I am hopeful that legislators, teachers, parents and taxpayers have had a camel's nose peak under the tent and can extrapolate from there. WAKE UP PARENTS AND TEACHERS! This system is in your hands and its failing from micromanagement!

"But, even at their best, bureaucracies tend to force their definitions of ‘reality’ on people, in and out of the system; and this is pernicious in large districts where the philistine values of central administrators are allowed to defeat the educational commitments of teachers and principals. At their worst, educational bureaucracies become endlessly expanding financial sinkholes that eat up resources and create only mischief and red tape."— David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, “The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools

Friday, November 14, 2014

Written Remarks From The Common Core Chaos Debate With Michael Petrilli



For those that would like to see the entire debate, please see this link on our YouTube channel.

Following are my prepared remarks from the Common Core Chaos debate. I have not transcribed any of the 4 or so extemporaneous questions, but I wanted to make the answers to the first four available, along with my opening remarks in the event they would be helpful.

OPENING REMARKS:

Before I begin, as the wife and daughter of men who served in the Armed Forces, I’d like to thank all Veterans for their service on this Veteran’s Day.

Next – I want to thank Dr. Piper very much for his gracious hospitality in extending the use of the Lyon Performance Hall for this event. Thanks to you as well Mr. Dutcher for loaning us your very capable moderating skills. Thank you also to those here in attendance and those watching via internet.

Finally, I’d like to thank you Mr. Petrilli for coming all the way from Maryland to debate this ordinary Oklahoma mom on the state of chaos you assigned Oklahoma public education during the recent Intelligence Squared; Embrace the Common Core debate in New York, following Oklahoma’s repeal of the Common Core State Standards and the loss of our NCLB Waiver.  I’m hoping you’ll come away from your short stay in Bartlesville convinced that it’s not the loss of our waiver, but Common Core itself that’s quite an excellent example of the butterfly effect.

In a way, I agree; there has been much chaos surrounding the repeal of the Common Core from Oklahoma and the loss of our Waiver.

First, however, we must consider the general chaos resulting from the Oklahoma state department of education taking billions of dollars from the pockets of taxpaying Oklahomans for public education, only to focus zealously on meeting the desires of the federal department of education, though their monetary contribution hovers at somewhere around 10% of Oklahoma’s entire education budget. Why should Oklahoma –or any state for that matter – give up any part of their control over education to the federal government for such an insignificant investment? I seem to recall an adage about a silk purse and a sow’s ear…

Then, we must consider the specific chaos resulting from state policymakers remaking Oklahoma education – tailoring it to fit a federal government blueprint including Common Core State Standards, Teacher Accountability measures and a State Longitudinal Database System (all which reinforce the Standards) in order for school administrators to receive ‘flexibility’ from essentially meaningless 100% student proficiency standards in English and Math prescribed by a law Congress refuses to reauthorize. What about flexibility for students, parents and teachers to have standards and resulting curricula that works best for them? After all, is public education about serving administrators or kids?

Finally, there’s the orchestrated chaos designed to fit the narrative that schools will lose money as a result of the loss of our Waiver. In truth, Oklahoma lost no money at all as a result of losing the waiver. Once the waiver was lost, we moved back under NCLB regulations that prescribe the redirection – not removal – of 20% of Title 1 funds only IF the state fails to meet adequate yearly progress. Considering this amounts to a mere half a percent of the total state education budget why suggest chaos?

Of course, there is definitely more chaos to be found in the system;

  • Legislation enacting Common Core in Oklahoma was completed before the standards were even ready to read in final draft. People don’t buy cars without a test drive or chaos is sure to ensue – states shouldn’t buy standards sight unseen for the same reason.
  • Attempting to align all schools across the nation to one set of untested, unproven standards based upon unsubstantiated claims they’re higher or college ready has created testing and teacher training chaos for states.
  • Emphasizing college readiness has created chaos for elementary kids who now struggle through developmentally inappropriate material all in the name of higher standards.
  • Emphasizing college access is creating job market chaos as tens of thousands of skilled labor jobs in Oklahoma go unfilled because students are funneled toward college over job training.
  • Writing, enacting and facilitating education policy on the back of checks written by a billionaire computer entrepreneur non-educator can do nothing but cause chaos as educators scramble to enact policies in actual classrooms that were written in a vacuum.
  • Some Oklahoma administrators have created chaos in the lives of teachers by forcing them to teach Common Core under a different name though it’s against the law via mandate of the people, because students need to be taught to a Common Core-aligned SAT, ACT or AP, or because “we just bought Common Core-aligned books”, or “we’ve already spent too much money on Common Core teacher training”, etc.
  • Because Common Core has been tied into a neat little ball with nearly every other federally-offered education ‘reform’, we’ll have to endure the chaos of resurrecting Heracles to cut off all its’ heads.
  • Though national educational tests and standards are contrary to federal law, chaos has resulted from the federal government paying testing companies to write a national Common Core test which costs too much, is hard to grade, and takes too many days out of classroom instruction.
  • The high stakes test and punish cycle meant to provide Common Core with its rigorous accountability has become chaos for parents, kids and district IT employees, many of whom would rather sit in the unemployment line than go to work on McGraw/Hill online test day.
  • The definition of chaos is frustrated students who can’t understand overly complicated, confusing Common Core math lessons - and frustrated parents who can’t help because they don’t understand it either
  • Parents and families reordering their lives – and budgets – to pull kids into private or homeschools because their neighborhood public school is no longer working for them, is obviously, chaotic.
  • And finally, chaos is the result in countless families as countless mothers (and dads) in countless states have set aside their primary duties of children, home and office to spend countless hours researching why their kids suddenly hate school, or math, or reading, only then to spend countless hours educating fellow parents and government officials that enacted Common Core legislation, about the chaotic nightmare that is the Common Core.

So, in conclusion, yes Mr. Petrilli, there is chaos here in Oklahoma, but it’s chaos that arrived on the heels of Common Core – long before the loss of any federal carrot and stick mandate – and I’ll be happy when we’ve driven a stake through all its hearts and ensured it never comes back to cause chaos in the lives of Oklahoma parents, kids or taxpayers again.

QUESTION 1

One of the most effective arguments against Common Core is that it represents a “federalization” or a “nationalization” of education. (Indeed, once the phrase “ObamaCore” started making the rounds in Oklahoma, it was game over.) But are those concerns legitimate? Is it fair to characterize Common Core as “Fed Ed”?

It’s absolutely a fair cop. As I’ve written frequently, there were four separate but overlapping programs established under the Obama Administration’s Department of Education that make up what I like to call the FOUR PILLARS OF EDUCATION REFORM: These are Common Core State Standards, Teacher Accountability Measures, Turning Around Failing Schools and instituting a State Longitudinal Database System to track children across all ages and stages of the educational spectrum and into the workforce.

States had to sign on to all four of these foundational programs at some level in order to get State Fiscal Stabilization funds in 2009, be competitive for Race to the Top grant dollars and/or qualify for Waivers from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.

Though states could substitute their own standards as long as they were deemed College and Career ready by state institutions of higher learning, it’s no secret that entropy favors the easy road – why would states reinvent the wheel when they could simply take what was offered and move on to the teller? Doesn’t the fact that a vast majority of states have signed on to Common Core since 2009 say something about the veracity of that statement?

Consequently, as state standards were cast aside in favor of standards favored at the federal level as part of a federal government extortion exchange rate for money or flexibility, the Common Core state standards predominated across the nation. If the standards predominate across the nation and were an integral part of federal government programming, what other definition for the Common Core State Standards can there be but ‘nationalized education standards’?

In the final analysis, it matters not whether the Standards were penned by a private source or inside the walls of the Department of Education if the federal government adopts them as their own and uses them as a fulcrum for moving education policy in America from a local endeavor to a more centralized locus.

QUESTION 2
Some people who choose nonpublic educational options worry that Common Core will limit options for students. They say that the alignment of certain exams ( SAT, ACT, GED, Advanced Placement, etc.) to the Common Core will increase the likelihood that private-school students and home-schooled students will have to follow the Common Core. Are these concerns legitimate? Will private schools and homeschooled students be compelled to accept national standards and tests?

Unfortunately, there are instances in which privately schooled students are being compelled to accept Common Core tests. In some states, private schools are required to administer state tests for accreditation purposes. These assessments require more than students being able to answer questions correctly to receive full credit. To get full credit students are required to show the Common Core instructional process used to arrive at their answer. In this way, private schools become coerced into teaching to the test to maintain accreditation and how does a school teach to the test without aligning their curricula – at least in part – to the Common Core? In a solid example of the overlap I mentioned among the four pillars, State Longitudinal Database Systems are used to collect private school test scores in order to provide verification to the accreditation board that the school is worthy of continued endorsement.

In states such as Indiana Ohio and Wisconsin, private schools can’t participate in voucher programs without a record of student outcomes on state tests.  If the private school wants to participate in a state voucher program, they must weigh the advantages of increased enrollment against the prospect of teaching to a Common Core-aligned state exam and possibly losing existing students.

Because homeschools most often use traditional educational methodology, the possibility for student success on Common Core-aligned college entrance exams doesn’t erode drastically due to a well-rounded educational foundation. The difficulty, however, comes when answering Common Core-aligned questions in math, for example, which utilize a confusing multi-step constructivist approach as opposed to the more straight forward traditional style. Consequently, homeschools – as private schools – must count the cost of attempting possibly confusing curricula in order to increase their chances of college admission.

In states requiring homeschool students to submit to state testing, parents have the option of either including Common Core-aligned curricula in order to increase their odds of providing the state a passing grade, or dealing with the fallout should their student be labeled less than proficient. Either way, the Common Core State Standards became impelled upon students via state testing policy.

QUESTION 3
The promotional materials for this debate were headlined “Common Core Chaos?” What is the state of play in Oklahoma now that we have rejected Common Core? Can the case be made that Oklahoma is actually worse off with all the uncertainty about standards and tests than if we had just stuck with the Common Core?

Can the case be made that there is anything certain about Common Core? What evidence is there that Common Core will improve student achievement? What data show Common Core will reduce college remediation rates? What students have graduated college following a steady diet of Common Core State Standards based curricula? None. There is no evidence, no data, no students because this whole experiment has been, well, experimental.

There is a case to be made for the converse, however. We know that the process of creating Common Core tests has been chaotic and the process of administering even the practice tests has created chaos in schools all across Oklahoma. We’ve seen the chaos created when parents with advanced degrees are unable to help even their elementary students with Common Core math homework, not because they are mathematically challenged, but because the problem solving methods make no sense. We’ve heard early childhood experts testify to the chaos in their classrooms created by the unhealthy levels of stress exhibited in younger kids as a result of classroom work based on developmentally inappropriate standards.

Additionally, states further along in the Common Core process than Oklahoma, like New York, are trying to get out of Common Core because of the chaos its causing in their state. Why would Oklahoma NOT want to avoid something that has become a colossal waste of money and frustration for others? Oklahoma needs to chart its own path – a successful one based upon excellent local standards that will build on the resiliency, tenacity and ingenuity of Oklahomans – traits that have created one of the most successful economies in the nation currently. We have a new State Superintendent and a springboard forward into educational freedom off the back of Common Core repeal – we need to take this opportunity and run with it.

QUESTION 4

A house editorial in the Washington Examiner made the point that “Common Core combatants likely agree on few things, but there is one point on which they do agree — America's public schools are failing and have been for many years.” Do you two agree on that point? If so, Jenni, what solutions do you propose in lieu of Common Core? And Mike, are there any solutions you favor in addition to Common Core?

Schools aren’t failing – public school policy is failing and taking education down with it. In fact, we’re seeing systemic failure as one ineffective/unproductive law is replaced or augmented by another and then another – in attempt to bring about results largely unattainable by legislative means. Education legislation and programming features a paucity of education history and research, focusing instead on the newest ‘trends’ in education such as ‘flipped classrooms’ where teachers basically help kids with their homework after they have been ‘taught’ the material via video at home.

Today’s education focus is entirely wrong-headed. Students should not be educated ‘for’ college or ‘for’ the workforce – they shouldn’t be subjected to the latest fads. Students should be educated broadly in the arts and sciences, history and classical literature – not subjected to restrictive curricula that emphasizes mainly math and English which are then taught as skills and not for the love and joy of learning and knowing.

Students are arm-twisted and mercilessly forced into education submission by a test and punish system that robs them of their personal responsibility for their own learning. Parents are held at arm’s length and often treated as adversaries by school administration instead of the responsible party for their child’s education.

The only way to solve the majority of these issues is educational freedom. Freedom that allows parents to choose the school with the curricula and set of standards best in line with their children’s unique and individual needs. Instead of funding flowing to the school, funds should flow from the parents to the school in the ultimate act of educational accountability.

For decades, public education has moved farther and farther away from the ones it directly serves – it’s time to put the responsibility for education back in the hands of parents. As Einstein said, Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” It’s time for a paradigm shift toward personal responsibility and control of local education with parents at the helm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

General Elections 2014 - How ROPE Will Vote


I have finally had it with the majority of my fellow Americans and their stubborn refusal to quit watching Dancing With The Stars long enough to become educated about the laws that govern the country from which they get so much they have time to sit on their posteriors and watch TV.  Originally, I was going to say I had finally had it with all levels of government, but then I realized there is no one to blame for the state of our American government, than the American people themselves.

Last week I posted the blog, "Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal in Oklahoma Isn't". Here, I explained why and how Common Core hasn't been removed from our state, yet ROPE's Facebook page has gone from a high of nearly 80 thousand views per week in May to less than 5 thousand views a week in October. I'm reading this as, now that Common Core is "dead" in Oklahoma, there's no need for participatory government; "We came, we saw, we conquered" and now it's time for everyone to go back to their 'regular' lives and TV schedules.

Let me be frank. Common Core is not about education standards, it's a policy representing the natural thought process of decades of people trained via schools, the media and churches, to believe government is their friend - that government can be all things to all people; the chicken in every pot, the protector of rights and liberties, the provider of services citizens can't provide for themselves - the be all, end all. This is categorically 100% false. The federal government has no power other than what it is dictated in the Constitution (the Enumerated Powers in Article 1 Section 9) and states allow it to have, yet how many people have educated themselves (because government schools won't do it) on the Constitution, what it says and how the Founders felt about their actions and how they ascribed the words they committed to that parchment so long ago?

Newsflash; the Founders expected American citizens to exhibit the concept of SELF GOVERNMENT - the governing of one's own actions - in order to prevent interference from a body politic excepting in certain, rare instances.


Yet, today America is nearly 18 TRILLION dollars in debt, and Americans have allowed
  • an unconstitutional, socialized system of healthcare (the website for which won't even work), 
  • failed immigration and border protection policies leading to the growth and spread of diseases we never thought we'd have again or thought we'd ever see in a first world country, 
  • rapid growth and spread of radical Islam, 
  • massive intrusions of personal privacy via the NSA and IRS (bureaucratic agencies that have ZERO power to even blow their own nose if we followed the Constitution), 
  • government cronyism (GM? Solyndra?) leading to the loss of free enterprise, 
  • vast usurpation of property rights via the EPA and Department of Interior, 
  • failed government institutions such as the VA and the Post Office, 
  • government scandals such as Benghazi and Fast and Furious 
I could continue this list for pages, yet nothing on it is the fault of any government. The fault lies with countless American citizens who choose not to vote, place uneducated votes, vote for party ahead of policy, vote though they have little understanding of the role of government or civics and/or refuse to participate in their system of government at all on any level out of sheer laziness and/or contempt for the country that provides them a better standard of living than, arguably now, any country in the world.

Unfortunately for Oklahomans, our state is following right behind. 

As Dave Bond, (CEO of OCPA Impact) says in a recap of this years' legislative session
"Lawmakers passed a $7.12 billion budget that is the largest in state history and contains hundreds of millions of dollars in nonessential spending, including golf courses and rodeos."
This on top of the fact that, while sales tax receipts are at an all time high, the Oklahoma legislature couldn't pass a reduction in state income tax to 4%, settling on 5% by 2016 (currently we're at 5.25% - Kansas' system is much better).

Every year since 2008, I have provided election thoughts and analysis to anyone who wanted to read it. In 2008 I was vilified for referring to President Obama as a Marxist (a political philosophy in opposition to the American Constitution). Please read the above list again and then the definition of Marxism. America is there. Oklahomans must protect our state from this nonsense, but we MUST have legislators willing to put a stop to federal government intrusion at all levels - not just healthcare. Educating citizens on the Constitution and civics and exercising our right to an informed vote are our only hope.

VOTER GUIDE

Here is the list of statewide candidates for office in the 2014 general election November 4.

Go here to get a SAMPLE BALLOT for your district November 4. Please print it out and complete it BEFORE you enter the ballot box. 

Voting information for JUDGES and STATE QUESTIONS can be found here.

PLEASE NOTE: NONE OF THE CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR OR STATE SUPERINTENDENT COMPLETED OUR CANDIDATE SURVEY! The only candidate that even responded at all was Hofmeister who said it was too long to complete with her current time constraints.

LYNN'S PICKS: Straight Party Republican

I just can't vote for a Democrat for a powerful, visible position like Governor. I do not agree with the Democrat party at all - more government, dependence on government, that government is the answer instead of individuals solving their own problems and succeeding on their own. I understand those statements are big and sweeping. The democrats will, of course, try to make a comeback in OK, this is the way for them- a so-called moderate that is riding Mary's coattails of controversy - NOT on his own merit. Even if he wants more money in education- where is it going to come from? How will he make sure that money is used properly?  I see more money in education always goes to new programs, not the classroom or for teachers. 

I read a Homeschool survey - Joe's one answer in question is "homeschoolers should take standarized tests annually" - that is philosophically against homeschooling. They would have to teach CC, and then would be in the data collection trap! That tells me Joe is so much more big government than he lets on. That is unacceptable. I do not agree with Medicaid expansion, I do not agree with increase in minimum wage, and fracking does not cause earthquakes - all things I have heard Joe support. 

So, could Joe actually get anything done - probably not with the Republican legislature, so whats the harm in voting for him? I want to reform (elect more conservatives) the republican party, not empower the democrat party. I am in it for the long haul - I believe it will take many election cycles. 

What I have seen in entry level employees over the last 30 years in my business is terrible. The quality of entry level employees is deteriorating - I see it is because of more dependence on government and the entitlement philosophy, not because of standards. I will vote against that every time. 

We must get back to self empowerment, individual responsibility. For me the question is do we get closer to that with Mary or Joe? Mary showed last session she is pushable- with CC and with Obamacare. Some powerful liberal pacs are supporting Joe ( afl-cio for ex) - they will want something. My hope is we elect more conservative republicans in the house and senate and we push the republican governor that way. We don't have great choices - but I also don't believe in not voting because of bad choices. We all need to vote and then hold all elected officials accountable!!

JOYS PICKS:


I believe in the republican platform. I think it necessary to continue to strive for better candidates and not cede power to the hands of a party that wishes to fundamentally transform our state and nation. Just because I support any candidate doesn’t mean they are immune to public and private scrutiny and accountability. I have only listed those candidates whom I wish to endorse. With that said here are my picks.
  • Governor: Mary Fallin – While I am displeased with several of the actions and decisions of our sitting governor, I cannot partner with a candidate who seeks to challenge my freedom as a homeschooling mom, grow government, and spend more money. Governor Fallin requires some elbow grease while in office, but she can be compelled to do the right thing when necessary. I challenge the Senate and House to pursue conservative principles and not seek the blessing of the governor!
  • Superintendent: Joy Hofmeister 
  • Commissioner of Labor: Mark Costello
  • US Senator: Jim Inhofe
  • Congress 5th District: Steve Russel
  • State Senator 6th District: Josh Brecheen
  • State Senator 44th District: Ralph Shortey
  • State Senator 48th District: Duane Crumbacher
  • State Representative 10th District: Travis Dunlap
  • State Representative 36th District: Sean Roberts
  • State Representative 43rd District: John Paul Jordan
  • State Representative 76th District: David Brumbaugh
  • State Representative 87th District: Jason Nelson
  • JUDGESI will vote against all judicial retention.

  • STATE QUESTIONS: Yes on all three. 1) I believe a person serving in the US military should be able to concurrently service in office. 2,3) I believe property taxes should be eliminated altogether. We currently lease our property from the government and do not own it. Providing exemptions on homesteading for those who have served in our military is a great start.

JENNI'S PICKS:
  • Governor: Governor Fallin's record is that of having to be pushed (as Lynn says) into taking the conservative path on nearly every issue. She talks a good game, but she'll pick the federal government over her state citizens nearly every time while saying she won't or didn't. Why? I believe the cause is a lack of Constitutional knowledge and a staff that believes most Oklahomans are not smart enough to make their own decisions so they must make our decisions for us. I believe Governor Fallin governs the way her paid staff advises in order to produce the best political advantage. Throughout her time in Congress and again as Governor, Fallin has shown me her compass rarely finds true North. **While I've heard a few things that concern me about Joe Dorman's ideas for Oklahoma, I believe he truly cares about the state and her people. In fact, I don't see him filling his office with stiff-arming, dismissive, rude staff, which would be a really nice change. In addition, Dorman's voting record is not awful, and is, in fact, arguably better than some of our currently seated Republicans. Though a Republican-led legislature has tended to back our current Republican Governor all the way down the trail of higher taxes and more government intrusion into our regular, everyday lives, they may choose to balk if these plans come from a Democrat. I don't like the idea of supporting the Democratic party in any way shape or form - as you can tell from the screed above, but I won't hold my nose and vote Republican ever, ever again. I have actually not decided whether I will actively vote for Dorman or simply not vote for this office (I'm considering neither of the Independents in this race) - I may not know until I'm in the voting booth. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing time and again expecting different results and I don't need to add to my insanity level.
  • Lt. Governor: Lamb
  • State Superintendent: Hofmeister. I think Dr. Cox is a very nice man, but I also believe the Republican-led legislature will find excuses not to work with him. I also believe he will not manage taxpayer dollars (which he refers to as "public money") conservatively, and we'll have the same lack of fiscal transparency we saw with Barresi. I feel certain Cox will try to stop a lot of the mandates that have been stifling public schools, but again, I don't believe he'll get any traction with the legislature. Because the state Board of Education has been handpicked by Governor Fallin, though Dr. Cox may choose to battle them on any number of issues, the office of Governor (thanks to our Republican legislature) now holds all the keys to the board, not the State Superintendent. No matter how Cox chooses to confront the Board or education issues, the Board can stymie every single issue on which he chooses to go to battle. Net result - ZERO. Hoffmeister has a working relationship with much of the Board and is publicly supported by a chunk of the legislature. She has a record of allowing ROPE to educate her on a number of issues. If she chooses to follow our admonitions about a number of education policies, she has the ability to create movement with the Board and the legislature and that is really the issue here. In addition, she has successfully run her own business for years (Kumon) indicating to me she understands how to manage the fiscal aspects of the job.
  • Commissioner of Labor: Costello. Frankly, if Mark Costello were running for Governor, the Republican party would have my vote. Mark is one of a very few conservatives I have ever met that just intuitively understands the ideals of conservatism.
  • Senate: Inhofe
  • Senate (unexpired term): Though James Lankford is the only real choice here for conservatives, I won't be voting in this race either. Mr. Lankford continually frustrated me with his "go along to get along" positions while in Congress - particularly those which continue to fund the government ad infinitum. This is certainly not personal - I think Mr. Lankford a fine man personally, he's just not conservative enough for me - and again, I will no longer hold my nose and vote Republican. (Yes, please feel free to lambaste me for my comments, my shoulders are big enough to take it).
  • Congress 5th District: Steve Russell 
  • Congress 1st District: Jim Bridenstine
  • Congress District 2, 3, 4: If I were in these districts, I would again, refuse to vote. None of these candidates are reflections of our conservative state, nor have they been in recent years. 
  • Josh Brecheen must be re-elected.
  • Jason Nelson must be re-elected.
  • STATE QUESTIONS: Though I don't like monkeying with our state Constitution as a rule, I'll vote yes on all three state questions. Property taxes are flat unconstitutional (the Founders warned us not to go there). If we're going to start allowing Homestead Exemptions for certain individuals, let us now decide to ultimately release ALL property owners from such an unconstitutional, Founder-hated, tax. Though I've heard grumbling about crossing two branches of government (lawmaking and peace keeping), I don't see this as an issue here. If voters are particularly concerned about a candidate for office being in a military position, they should oppose his election. SQ 769 simply allows for the option of a candidate also serving in the military - the voters ultimately have the final say - as it should be.
NOW, GO VOTE, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4th. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm.