Friday, July 10, 2015

Daily Oklahoman Finds Reasons For 'Optimism' In New Academic Standards - Predicts "Critics" Will Exhibit Misplaced Criticism

Reason for optimism in drafts of Oklahoma academic standards was published today in the Daily Oklahoman (DO) online. After reading their short assessment, however, I couldn't help but feel the need to comment on just a few things.

The author cites Nate Robson's recent Oklahoma Watch article, "Beyond Common Core: First Drafts Of New Standards" written several days ago as his 'reason for optimism'.

Robson says the drafts, "in some ways go beyond the current standards and the now-repealed Common Core goals". He also remarks they "don't appear to resemble Common Core State Standards" but doesn't explain what reasoning or comparison research provided the basis for this statement. Later in his article, however, he also reports

We've had concerns about the transparency of the standards development process from the beginning. That this issue was reported by Mr. Robson - THAT should have caught the eye of the DO - especially because transparency has been somewhat of a mantra from the OSDE since HB3399 became law.

Another point; not to throw Robson under the bus, but it is important who views the documents. For example, I have seen parts of the standards and I have a few comments, but I was a science teacher. I truly wouldn't know what was appropriate scope and sequence for either math or language arts, consequently, I don't feel qualified to make many specific comments.

Hang on for a shock here! I DO AGREE with the DO that "higher standards tend to have similarities, regardless of authorship". I actually think we here at ROPE (and the teachers we have called on to help us with our review of the standards) are smart enough to discern this for ourselves, yet the DO doesn't see it that way. In fact, the writer asserts that any overlap between Common Core and the re-written Oklahoma standards will "be denounced as a back-door invitation for federal intrusion" by 'critics' we can only assume to be ROPE.

I also STRENUOUSLY disagree with this paragraph:


Yes, there was much opposition centered around the developmental inappropriateness of many Common Core standards. That does NOT in any way mean that these critics - including ROPE - thought the bar was being raised too high! Developmental appropriateness should NEVER be equated to concepts a student has to stretch to reach. No one wants students so bored in the classroom they have but to stare into space like pet rocks! Most educators worth their salt WANT students to be challenged - to have to strain their brain to understand difficult concepts. That is NOT the same as not being able to understand a difficult concept because your brain isn't programmed to be able to assimilate it yet! Suffice it to say, a 6-year-old cannot interpret a Venn diagram, yet new standard K.DP.1 has preK kids applying "mathematical actions and processes to collect and organize data to make it useful for interpreting information". That's not a 'high bar' that's a nonsensical bar.

I'm not going to attempt to further tease out the differences between a high bar and an unattainable goal, however. I'm going to let our friend Donita Brown - an early childhood educator for over 20 years - explain this concept.

As the editorial comes to a close, the DO again unmasks its disdain for democracy when it sneers at legislators who, it says, "can rewrite the standards at will, regardless of what academic experts recommend". The DO writer continues to practice Proverbs 17:28 by announcing that his premise for such a notion is the near-rejection of the Oklahoma science standards by the legislature in 2014.

Just like the other Oklahoma standards about which we've complained, the Oklahoma science standards are simply copies of a national model - in this case, the Next Generation Science Standards. I feel certain legislators appropriately balked due to hesitation over opening another can of 'nationalized standards', especially when theories - such as Global Warming (which in the giant FAIL it became has now been re-named Climate Change in order to continue forcing private change from public offices) - were taught as outright fact.

Certainly, no one who is involved in, or follows ROPE, wants watered-down standards to further dumb-down Oklahoma's student population. Intimating such is simply ridiculous. We join the DO in hoping "this new round of standards-writing increases academic rigor and fuels improved student performance". That said, we know the Oklahoman will join us in our criticisms then - if, once we have reviewed the standards to the fullest extent possible - we determine that the recommendations of the academic experts who testified before the Standards Re-Write Committe (such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. Larry Gray) have not been followed to great degree.

Oklahoma deserves better for its students, teachers and parents than a regurgitation of developmentally inappropriate, difficult, vague standards - on that, we can agree.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

UPDATED! Calling All Green T-Shirts! Oklahoma's New State Educational Standards Are Public - Please Comment

Who could forget the heady days of the Green Shirts as we descended upon the state capitol in droves to stomp out Common Core!? As we said then, eventually our new state standards would be finished and we would ask you to read them and respond with your thoughts, ideas and SPECIFIC comments.

Unfortunately, there is no place set up on the State Department of Education website under the page created for the new standards, to write in comments. Therefore, here's what we would like you to do ASAP. 

Please go to the link to the new standards on the OSDE website. Read as many standards as you feel you can possibly comment on reasonably. Come back to this blog and, using the COMMENTS section, write in anything you would like legislators, the OSDE and the public to know about your thoughts on the new standards.

ALSO PLEASE NOTE: There is a place to make comment on the standards through these links:

Math Standards comments click here
ELA Standards comments click here

The more SPECIFIC the comments, the more helpful they'll be. For example:
Regarding standard K.DP.1. (Apply mathematical actions and processes to collect and organize data to make it useful for interpreting information); it seems less than obvious how we're going to direct KINDERGARTEN students to understand a Venn diagram and also understand graphs and data - even at the very smallest categories. This seems a disproportionately hard topic for this age group. This is concerning because there is no map including tested standards. If a teacher doesn't teach her kindergarten students how to read a Venn Diagram, will she be counted down on her Teacher Assessment or will the child miss a similarly rooted question on an exam (the score for which the teacher is responsible)? Jenni White, President, Restore Oklahoma Public Education.
(Please make sure you list your name and your title if you have one, even if that's "parent" or "teacher") 
Donna Garner, former Department of Education employee under George Bush, and education activist, suggests Oklahomans categorize standards into 5 observations. These are:
  1. Knowledge-based (fact based) 
  2. Academic
  3. Specific for each grade level Pre-K through Grade 12
  4. Explicit and clearly worded
  5. Grows in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next grade level
  6. Measurable with mostly objectively scored test questions
Here are some links to help you check the new Oklahoma standards against the Common Core State Standards:
Common Core State Standards for MathCommon Core State Standards for English/Language ArtsKey Shifts in Mathematics (Common Core)
Here's the link to the text of the bill to stop Common Core; HB3399

If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to direct your efforts in order to make them most helpful to all interested parties;

Thank you for your efforts in this IMPORTANT endeavor!

Former School Board Member Sounds Off On The Concept of Consolidating School Superintendents

Lately the big push in Oklahoma is to save money by removing most of our school superintendents.  I have four points concerning this but basically I am calling on Oklahomans to use common sense to sweep away the legislative complication of the matter and use their minds eye to see a clear picture of what can and should be our simple education system.

1.  Financial 

     The state budget is about                              16,000,000,000.00           100%

     The state school budget is about                     8,000,000,000.00             50%

     The state school administrative
     cost is about                                                     2,800,000,000.00            17.5%

     The total pay to all state
     superintendents is about                                       75,000.000.00          .0047%

It is apparent by these numbers that condensing 550 superintendent down to 77 will make no noticeable difference in the state budget nor the states school budget.

2.  Restriction

If the school superintendents are removed, the legislature will make more laws to take the place of the superintendents which in turn will lesson the people's control of each school district and as always when government is involved, the cost will increase.

3.  Legislative Control  

The end result will be further legislative micromanagement which is the primary reason we have a poor education system that cost far more than is needed for a good education system.

Where is the administrative cost being spent?  At higher education levels, such as our state school chancellor, the highest paid state employee.  Much goes to overpaid professors who lead research groups that are not needed and are duplicated to keep competing state universities happy.  These professors do not teach and such jobs are the goal and achievement of most professors.

Many say if we remove the bulk of state school superintendents we can remove their support staffs, but this is not true because the support staffs primary work is to supply data to the over burdensome bureaucracy the legislature has created in the name of better education.

Without school superintendents, most of our schools would loose the financial oversight that keeps them functioning, not to mention the where with all to seek financing solutions to keep up with the burdens of government concerning facilities, teachers and environment.

4.  Suggestion

The truth is, the legislature and federal government need to be removed from education.  If our schools could spend money as best for their districts without the bureaucratic strings attached, school budgets could actually be decreased and still maintain the same level of infrastructure and instructors.

Furthermore, if we could remove the teachers union pay scale for teachers and allow teachers to individually negotiate their employment package, we could begin to heal the education system with the free enterprise system.  This will truly reward good teachers and weed out sub-standard teachers. Free enterprise, left to it's own, will result in the finest product for the least money.  The people of each district through their vote, lobbying school superintendents and electing school board members will create the school system that best fits each district.  Finally, if after the strings of government have been cut, we allow the money to follow the student and allow true open transfer, the competition will flow between school districts as they vie for more money through more students, our schools will once again become the best in the world.  With such a school system our superintendents would become more necessary and worth every dime.

I believe one more thing is needed to complete our schools in the spirit of free enterprise and that is the ability to solicit private funding.  This funding could support athletic programs, extracurricular programs, school to work programs, meals, transportation or even the entire school.  Likewise the school work take on the look of the provider(s) of the funding just like they have already become with government funding......inefficient and expensive.

The string attachment of private funding within a competitive atmosphere is beneficial to both the producer and the consumer.  In order for the school to get funding from a private source, it most likely will have to submit to certain guidelines and in turn take on the reflection of the funding source or the sources intentions.  In a similar fashion, the supplier of the resources will be required to fulfill the needs of the school or risk replacement.  Therefore supply and demand each have control with the ability for either party to cut the string.

To compare with funding of our schools today by the government, schools become bureaucratic failures, insufficient institutions and unable to respond to the needs of the public.  The current system gives the producer all of  the control and the consumer has no control.  With a true free enterprise system the consumer doesn't have to buy the product and if enough consumers don't buy the product the producer will either need to change the product or go out of business.

As a former school board member I have seen the control wither away from the public and the government burden the schools with so much bureaucracy in the name of improving education, that the schools can neither function properly nor be financially responsible.

The only problem with our superintendents is they are teachers thrust into a situation that requires a businessman.  To make matters worse, superintendents are expected  to fix a problem within the bounds created by men whose recourse is law and money.  The education system is not broken, it is simply drowning on good intentions.


Thompson E. Speir

Saturday, May 30, 2015

On A Personal Note....

From 2008 until 2014, I spent huge chunks of time reading, studying, writing, lobbying and posting to social media about issues surrounding government - particularly public education and Common Core. 

Last year, as readers of this blog well remember, Oklahoma legislators were persuaded to STOP Common Core. Following this seeming victory, a large group of educationally-associated organizations (whom you might have thought would have the students/parents best interest in mind) spent tens of thousands of dollars to convince the Governor to veto the bill. Fortunately, the Governor signed the bill, only to have several members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education sue to reinstate Common Core based upon an incorrect interpretation of the Oklahoma Constitution. After the bill was found to be Constitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the next challenge became how to stop individual schools from using Common Core anyway

As it turned out, there was no real enforcement mechanism in the original law to stop Common Core in Oklahoma (HB3399), as I have subsequently found is the case with many, many laws written by Oklahoma legislators. This meant that the only way to make schools comply became a convoluted process of involving one's district attorney and the local school board - a labored task the vast majority of disgruntled individuals chose not to pursue. As far as ROPE is aware to date, no district attorney filed charges against any school district in Oklahoma for utilizing Common Core though state law prevented them from doing so. So much for state law being the final word on Common Core. 

Though all of us involved in the stop Common Core fight in Oklahoma knew there was much more to the process of stopping Common Core (and the persistent federal overreach into public education) than passing a single law, it became almost immediately clear how far we still had to go. By October, I had written a blog detailing Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal In Oklahoma Isn't. Every day there seemed something new on the horizon to thwart our efforts. It became very discouraging to have worked so hard to seemingly accomplish so much only to find a very small dent had been made in the task of restoring local control of education and putting parents back in charge of their children's educations.

During the years we fought Common Core, I often became discouraged. I would complain bitterly when our efforts seemed futile and all of us threatened to quit more than once, but something always drove my personal efforts forward. As a Christian, I believe that impetus was God. I literally felt compelled to continue the fight no matter how discouraged I/we became and I firmly believe I was right because shortly after our 'win', I began feeling pulled away from ROPE and my work there.

Unlike most of my middle-aged counterparts, my husband David and I not only have a 32-year-old married daughter, but 3 kids (13, almost 13 and 10) still at home who are home-educated. Over the last three years I've not only homeschooled the kids while working ROPE issues, I've added poultry farming and working our homestead's very large garden to the schedule. Unfortunately, it got to the point where something had to give. Also unfortunately, this was most often my time with the kids; dropping them off at Mimi's or various friends homes while I traveled to the Capitol or across the state making presentations. Obviously, this was neither an optimal nor a tenable situation.

Last fall, Lynn (Habluetzel, ROPE's Vice-President) and I made the decision that I would sit back this year while she and our friend Ralph Crawford (now running for State Representative!) took over the lobbying efforts at the Capitol. I would still continue to write and research as I could, but for the most part, I would concentrate on home matters. 

Since that time, I've been astonished at how busy I've been. I've tried valiantly to set aside time for reading, research and writing, but it's been harder and harder as the months go by. In fact, it makes me feel a bit guilty in retrospect. If I've been THIS busy with home matters since November, how much was my family getting shortchanged by my constant physical and mental absences (yes, I was home, but saying, "Just a minute, Sam" 12 times because I 'needed' to finish a blog didn't count as actual mom availability)? 

Now able to look back over several months of 'absence', I can make a number of observations with surety:

  • It took HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS to research and piece together information before writing anything of substance about policies, laws or initiatives; I'd wake up scouring my email, Facebook posts and education journals for information and go to bed late into the night writing about what I'd read. It didn't take long to realize that the public education establishment and Federal government are BOMBARDING the public with more and more and more programming, laws, initiatives and policies so hard and so fast that NO ONE CAN KEEP UP. I'm certain it's meant to be this way because it's easy for government to do anything they want when no one can keep watch. This was part of the reason we'd be disheartened so often - we simply COULDN'T KEEP UP with every law and every initiative and every program being churned out by the government and the state education establishment.
  • Public Education (in any state) has so much concurrent jurisdiction that there is no way for any school to rise above the reporting required for so many different policies, procedures; regulations and laws. The education of children has long since past being the real reason public schools operate. Now, public schools exist to be arms of the state, recording data on children in order to justify yet another expensive program to cure every ill only destined to fail because the real issue stifling public education and sucking away parental rights and local control - concurrent jurisdiction - was never even considered in the equation. 
  • The federal government has ZERO Constitutional authority in state education, yet elected officials and State Department of Education employees either have no clue what the Constitution says, have no backbone to stand against their edicts and/or don't care about the Constitution because they just want whatever money comes with "fill-in-the-blank" program in order to make it sound as though they have the right to force kids to take tests and tell parents they're in charge of their child's education.
  • IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO YOU VOTE FOR, THE STATUS QUO WILL ALWAYS BE THE STATUS QUO. This was a tough one for me and I didn't figure this out until just last year. It doesn't matter for whom you vote, the bureaucracy/staff set up by the predecessor of the office will, many times, still be in place, virtually ensuring the change for which you voted will never come. Here it's important to remember that, many, MANY employees of the state are brought in by department heads or appointed by elected officials. Regular voting taxpayers have absolutely no say in their hiring, yet these people persist in their jobs carrying forward the ideals and programs of elected officials past. Oklahoma's State Longitudinal Database is run by such an individual though our new superintendent is well aware of our concerns.
  • It matters not how much you study, how many other researchers or individuals agree, or how much other work has proven you right, statists will always believe they know better than 'the people' how best to run their lives and govern in that direction. If you have the unmitigated gall to object to that philosophy, you'll be called a "tin foil hat", marginalized, ridiculed and/or ignored. The only way to affect real change is to bring hundreds of people to the Capitol with you dressed in big ugly green shirts and even then the results are iffy.
  • Parents, for the most part, seem to care less what is happening to their kids. Parents have jobs, they have lives, they are single mothers and dads just scraping by - whatever the reason - by and large, parents let their schools get away with murder without uttering even the slightest whimper. When you try and bring their attention to all the bad stuff happening in public education today, it's NOT IN MY SCHOOL, it's always somewhere else. Even if they do get it and try to do something about it, the layers and layers of bureaucracy tie them up to the point that many finally either just throw up their hands and pull their kids out or give up and take it. 
  • Without a large majority of parents willing to educate themselves on the state and central government Constitutions, their parental rights and options outside of public school, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. One or two people can't 'fix it' for everyone else. It takes a long sustained effort by many to create real change in the system and if people aren't interested in affecting their government, NOTHING WILL BE EFFECTED. 
Those were just a few of the things I've learned about public education. These are some things I've learned about life:
  • You can't turn back time - the time I have with my kids can't be 'refunded' at an ATM - and who wants to leave middle schoolers without CONSTANT supervision anyway?
  • My kids will only be receptive to my leadership for a short amount of time and then I've lost the ability to affect their lives in truly meaningful ways. 
  • I didn't realize how much time I actually devoted to ROPE until I started devoting more time to the kids, house and farm. Looking back, I have no idea (other than the hand of God) how I was actually able to keep my home, or farm, or ANYTHING together while working simultaneously.
  • You can't 'fix it' for everyone else. There need to be MANY others willing to put in just as much time on a coordinated effort in order to create real change in the system.
And so, there you have it. Sadly, I am fully and completely convinced that our system of public education - in fact our whole system of bloated anti-Constitutional government - will finally, eventually, collapse under its own weight and I'm simply unwilling to sacrifice anymore huge chunks of my family's life to propping up these failed systems. Does that mean I'll quit writing, researching and activism? No, but I'll do what I can fit around my family's schedule now - as should you - but until more people wake up to what's going on, I've got turkeys that need feeding and kids that need learning, first.

Monday, May 11, 2015

ACT A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

Parents: Stop Conforming!

Last year I wrote a blog about why I choose to homeschool. It was picked up by a national homeschool group and has now been seen by thousands of people across the country. Why? Because of my outstanding ability to create readable prose? No, not particularly. The theme struck a cord. 

Parents who are plugged into the lives of their kids are getting fed up. They're fed up of dropping their kids off at school in the morning and picking them up in the evening only to find they're not being taught what they should, they way they should, or as much as they should. 

Like most parents, once our oldest son came home from the hospital, I bought into the whole routine; public preK through 12th grade, then off to college. We bought a house in the best neighborhood we could so as to get the best public school we could (of course, we also bought into the notion that better neighborhoods had better performing schools), I'd drop the kids off at school at 8:30 am, pick them up at 3:00 pm and go about arranging my day during the hours they were there. 

Honestly, I spent hours and hours on the computer writing about the problems with public education for ROPE during the time my kids were in public school. In fact, I'm not sure how long it would have been - if ever - before I brought my kids home for school if my oldest son hadn't asked me in no uncertain terms to homeschool him!

In the end, it wasn't just my son's query that ended our time in state run education. My frustrations over a number of situations mounted and included
  • a very unsuccessful attempt to get our principal to adopt Saxon math over Common Core math, 
  • interacting with other parents through PTA and finding their concerns were not necessarily for the education of their children, but endless fundraising efforts for a gymnasium and more computers that made it appear they were getting a better education, and 
  • a horrible, unproductive and frustrating first grade Common Core Math year with my youngest son, 
I realized public education and I didn't have the same notion about what was educationally best for my kids and I pulled the last two out to school at home with their brother. 

My grandfather was born on the family farm at the turn of the last century in a clapboard house without electricity or running water. He died at 98, having witnessed a technology arc that spanned from the oil lamp to the internet. Once, Americans were people of great autonomy whose hard work generated accomplishments the kind of which my grandfather could never have dreamed. Such vast accomplishments were they in fact, that they themselves created a double-edged societal sword. From the turn of the last century forward, little by little, technology made life easier, healthier and safer. Little by little, Americans embraced that ease. The easier life became, the harder - and more unpopular - autonomy became, because it was hard work. Little by little, Americans gave more and more of their autonomy - their authority - to their government to accomplish certain functions on their behalf so they didn't have to spend the personal energy to do it for themselves. Little by little, the government took on more and more authority until it began, like Skynet, to create its own functions. 

Enter the federal government and the Department of Education. 

Please understand, I woke up to the abuses of my government before I ever began to scrutinize public schools, and once I did, I realized I'd been completely blind to what the Constitution said and how our Republican form of government should work. Consequently, I'm going to stop and explain these facts as simply as I can with bullet points in order to have a base upon which to finish the discussion:
  • the Founders of this country prized the concept of INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY among any other
  • they created our government to be a Constitutional Republic (NOT a Democracy) - Constitutional relating to the supreme law of the country, the Constitution, and Republic (as in Rome) because the full power of the country was vested in the PEOPLE who chose (voted for) fellow citizens to represent them in government in order to PROTECT INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY. 
  • the American Republic is a 3 branch system where citizen legislators craft law to PROTECT THE INDIVIDUAL LIBERTIES of the citizens they represent (legislative branch), the executive branch (president) ENFORCES these laws and the judicial branch (Supreme and lower courts) determine the Constitutionality of the laws made by the legislative branch.
  • the central government was to be very small and only be responsible for the enumerated powers - states were responsible for the rest - consequently, in the Constitutional Republic, the STATES had EVERY OTHER POWER unto themselves.
So, who has the power? THE INDIVIDUAL. Outside of that where does the power reside? THE STATE. Beyond that, where is the power for only those functions given it by the Constitution? THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. 

The federal Department of Education is a non-Constitutional entity created by Jimmy Carter in 1979. Until that date, states - as they should have been - solely controlled the education of their citizens (though federal education mandates existed prior, there were very few). Today, the IRS takes money from the pockets of state citizens and sends it to Washington, D.C. where a chunk is used to fund the DOE. Once the DOE has the money of citizens in its income column, it then sends money (funding) back out to the states IF the states agree to do certain things to get it. 

Where did the money go? THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Who gets the money back (with strings)? THE STATE. To whom is the supposed benefit of this circuit? THE INDIVIDUAL. Is this not completely backward to the way the process should work in actuality?

For years now, ROPE has received emails such as the one below:
Dear Jenni,I'm writing to ask you a question about opting out my son from EOI this year. He is a freshman & should be taking Algebra I & Biology EOI. I know by opting him out he won't get a diploma from the school but wanted to ask you if after his 4yrs we can get his transcript for college. I'm waiting for a call from his High School about this but wanted to see if you had more insight on the matter.Thank you very much,
Why? Because more parents than ever are waking up to find that, while a portion of their income goes to pay for their children to be educated in public schools, these same schools have usurped their parental authority in favor of bureaucratic regulations that benefit the schools more than the individual student and they want it stopped. 

Yes, the state has the power to enact laws applying to public school through the legislature, however much of today's state laws are written to further federal law written to provide an unconstitutional DOE more power, further diminishing the autonomy of the parent. This is what Common Core was all about. I've written about this for years.

Today I posted on the ROPE Facebook page about the awful CDC questionnaire handed out to students in middle and high school without consent of parents that no child should be taking without specific parental consent. In addition, I wrote a blog last year about other issues surrounding the privacy of children in public schools that included this survey as well as information on a number of websites and programs being used in public schools about which parents should be aware. Yes, it can be hard to find out exactly what is happening in the classrom, but that is your charge as a parent in order to best guide your child. YOU - and by extension YOUR CHILD - are THE individual/s for whom the government works - including government education - works.

Fortunately, there are parents awaking to this situation who are also taking steps to reclaim the education of their children. As an example, there are vast testing 'opt out' movements all across the nation as parents become aware of how their children will be forevermore educationally pigeonholed by test results and how the tests themselves can accumulate personal data about students that is not secure. Home schooling is also on the rise in Oklahoma and across the country because of federally mandated testing and data collection to which schools, districts and the state continue to bow over their responsibilities to the individual.

Please, take the time necessary to be as informed and aware as possible about everything happening at your child's school. Don't be afraid to question and do so when you feel you need. Government was intended to be "of the people, by the people, for the people", not "of the state, by the state, for the state". Every Oklahoman who owns property pays for the education of Oklahoma children in state schools and every parent with a child in a state run school has the obligation and right to not only use the system, but question it as well.

Caveats #1: I realize that not every parent can or desires to stay home. I also know there are parents who feel there is no choice but for both parents to work. Yes, sometimes this is necessity, but sometimes just lifestyle downsizing can create enough 'income' for one parent to stay home if that goal is desired. I urge parents to review their work situation and be creative about finding ways to be home with your kids if at all possible.

Caveat #2: There are MANY GREAT teachers out there. Teachers are getting the screws put to them as badly as parents. Please do not hear me say that teachers are creating the problems found in public schools today. Yes, there are some bad teachers, but there are many, many great ones too! We just need teachers like Nikki Jones of Tulsa Public Schools, willing to stand for the needs of her students OVER the desires of the education establishment.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Twitter Rally For HB1622 And End Of EOI Testing!

This legislative session in Oklahoma, there have been numerous bills to reduce testing. We've written about a number of them. Now, as session draws to a close for this year, all the testing bills that have been passed by the House and Senate committees are being funneled to the floor for votes by the full Senate.

Several bills (707, 784) contain language that points directly to ACT. We have written extensively about why ACT is not an option for Oklahoma currently - mainly because ACT has their own set of standards by which students will be tested, while Oklahoma has barely begun the process of writing our own standards as dictated by last year's Common Core repeal bill (HB3399).  ROPE supports the passage of HB1622 by Representative David Derby, which stops EOI testing, while creating a process by which Oklahoma can design one end of year exam using our own Oklahoma standards. HB1622 passed the House UNANIMOUSLY and is thus supported by an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma State Representatives. There really is no reason not to use this bill over the others still circulating.

As all the testing bills move to the floor of the Senate THIS WEEK, we are asking you to help us campaign for the passage of HB1622.

FIRST: Right click on one or all of the memes in this blog, then save it to your computer.

NEXT: If you are on Facebook, replace your FB image with one of these memes.

NEXT: If you are on Twitter, Tweet out the memes to your Senator (and others if you wish) using the list below (there are House members included there too, so just pick out your Senator). This list may not be comprehensive, so once you have attached your photo to your Tweet, try typing in the name of your Senator (for example, I'd type in Sen, Ron, Sharp, and if I didn't find anything, I'd use variations of that name - Senator Ron Sharp - until I found the right Twitter handle).

NEXT: Use the hashtag, #YESONHB1622 so we can keep count of the number of Tweets sent.

NEXT: Tweet these to your friends to re-Tweet as well.

Feel free to CALL your Senator as well. You can find their numbers here.

Thanks for your help!