Monday, March 31, 2008


One of the great opportunities I have is to visit a number of teachers and support professionals all across the state. Recently I had the chance to spend time with members from our local in Perry.

We had a great meeting and the leaders in Perry, Linda Parham and Jackie Vester are representative of the quality of teacher we have in Perry. We spent a great deal of time talking about the difficulties of the legislative session and on that same day, the Perry Superintendent announced that he would be accepting a job in another district.

Our members in Perry are looking forward to expressing their views to their legislators while going through the search process for a new superintendent.

NE D Legislative Update

Last Thursday, Associate Executive Joel Robison and I spent the evening with some of our members in NE D to address legislative issues.

There are a number of bills out there that attack schools and their funding sources, threatening to dismantle our public schools. I've addressed those bills in earlier posts and when you couple them with the diversion or decrease of funds for schools, you end up with a huge hit to our schools.

Those include SJR 59-$25M, SB 2093 $5M, $32M shortfall from the 1017 Fund, the possible transfer of $70M of education funding to roads and bridges as well as the loss of $562M in revenue due to tax cuts.

This isn't just putting education in jeopardy, but a number of state agencies are feeling the crunch and the results will be devastating to Oklahoma.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

OEA Educators and Clergy Conference

On Tuesday and Wednesday, educators and clergy from across Oklahoma met in Norman at the OEA's Educators and Clergy conference to discuss the role of faith based groups in public education.

Topics of discussion included:
*Why should people of faith get involved with public schools?
*Working with challenges facing ethnic minority communities.
*Why we can't leave out faith in closing achievement gaps?
*Ethics: First Amendment Issues
*Being pro-active around religion's role in public education.

It was a tremendous gathering of a wide variety of educators, faith based leaders and administrators making a difference for great public schools.

You don't have to take my word about the success of the conference. Find out what others are saying: Oklahoman stories 1, 2, 3, 4, Oklahoman Podcast, Pastor Todd Littleton 1, 2

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Legislative Update & SW D

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do this year's delegate training with the members from our Southwest D region. We went over the issues the Assembly will be addressing and also the bills in the legislature that we need to take action on by being a part of a lobby day scheduled for April 1st.

For OEA members, the briefing will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the OEA Headquarters (323 E. Madison, Oklahoma City, OK).

The main piece of legislation OEA, CCOSA, USSA, OPTA, and the School Board's Association and other members of the Oklahoma Education Coalition will be addressing is SB 2093, which would allow for school vouchers in Oklahoma. It will be presented in the House Revenue and Taxation Subcommittee at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 1.

It will be imperative that we let our voices be heard. Public education is facing attacks from a number of different fronts – from charter districts to merit pay to vouchers. This is a great opportunity to address your concerns with your elected leaders.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Flawed Research: Federal Preschool Proposals

Report’s Attack on Federal Preschool Proposals is Misleading and Inaccurate Review finds bias, selective use of evidence in Lexington report

EAST LANSING, Mich., (March 24, 2008)—A report from the Lexington Institute that critiques federal pre-Kindergarten proposals is incomplete, misleading, biased and inaccurate, a new review of the report finds.

The report, “How Sound an Investment? An Analysis of Federal Prekindergarten Proposals,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by W. Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Expanding pre-Kindergarten (or pre-K) has become the subject of a growing national movement as evidence emerges about the importance of early childhood education in setting the stage for later school achievement. A number of federal bills have been proposed to support and fund pre-K education.

The new Lexington report contends that federally funded preschool for all children would cost too much while providing little benefit to children. The report makes particular note of research on “negative” effects of preschool on children’s behavior and complains that a government-run program would drive private child care providers out of business. The report instead proposes either tax credits for private child care or vouchers that low-income families could use to purchase private early childhood care and education.

Barnett, however, finds the report to be severely flawed. “Rather than capitalizing on an opportunity to clarify an area of policy that is ripe for change, the report manages to muddy the waters and to obstruct reasoned discussion of approaches for improving opportunities for many of the nation’s children,” he writes.

Among other problems identified in his review, Barnett finds that the report misuses studies to make it claims and omits research which is at odds with the views of the report’s authors.

“The report presents inaccurate information about current public pre-K programs and the research into their effects. Although the report provides some useful cautions to policymakers, it exaggerates their importance in comparison to the potential benefits of pre-K,” Barnett concludes. The result is a report that “oversimplifies the debate,” ignores relevant research and falls short of thoughtful policy discussion.

Find the complete review by W. Steven Barnett as well as a link to the Lexington Institute’s report at:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter Everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Legislative Update: Be Aware & Make a Difference

Because of legislator short-sightedness, there is a tremendous lack of revenue to fund our schools. Because of this, the legislature is attempting to pass anything they can dealing with schools to look like they are addressing public education. Sadly, they aren't seriously taking into account the wishes and beliefs of Oklahomans and the impact these measures have on our kids, schools and teachers.

Charter district bill passes senate
We need you to express your opposition to Senate Bill 2100 that threatens your local association's right to negotiate a contract. The bill would allow the State Board of Education to establish a Charter District Pilot Program and create another level of bureaucracy. Ten school districts in Oklahoma could apply for the pilot program and function similar to charter schools. SB 2100 would allow school districts to:

*Not follow all state regulations, only a select few.

*Eliminate contract negotiations.

*Reduce standards for teacher certification.

*Eliminate due process.

This bill passed the senate and is headed to the house. It is up to you to slow the momentum of this very dangerous bill. Contact your house member to voice your opposition against this bill.

Tax credits and voucher bill passes senate

Senate Bill 2093 will provide a tax credit for any taxpayer who donates money to a scholarship program for low-income children to attend private schools. The bill would allow:

*Money for the tax credits to be taken from the state's general revenue fund, reducing the amount of money available for public education, further crippling our under-funded schools.

*Cherry-picking students to attend private schools while reducing funding for public schools is not the solution. Contact your local representative today to oppose this bill. The bill heads to the House.

Common education fund short $42 million

Please contact your legislators and encourage them to approve $42 million in supplemental funding immediately. Cuts to your local budget will be made this month if the funding is not received soon. Each district will have to compensate for the reduction in state aid.
Many districts have already suspended spending. What can your district afford to sacrifice? Call your senate and house member today.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Attacks on School Funding

This editorial appeared in yesterday's Tulsa World.

School funding under attack
By DAVID AVERILL Editor, Editorial Pages 3/9/2008

Education funding in Oklahoma is under attack on several fronts. This is not good news in a state that already spends less per student than most others and whose teachers are among the nation's lowest paid. The fronts on the undeclared war against education funding are these:

· Declining state revenues. Tax collections, especially corporate income tax revenues, for the current fiscal year are lower than was anticipated when the budget was written last year. As a result the House Bill 1017 Revolving Fund, named for the historic 1990 education reform and revenue law, is short by $37 million. In addition, state lottery proceeds, which are dedicated to schools, are $4.6 million less than anticipated.

Unless the Legislature passes a $41.6 million supplemental appropriation in the next few days, school districts across the state will face budget cuts of about 2 percent. The cuts will affect the current school year. Local districts will have to do what they can to effect the cuts, possibly including staff reductions.

· Income tax cuts. In the past few years the Legislature has reduced income tax rates by an amount that will soon total an estimated $700 million a year. It is an item of faith among the tax-cut advocates that the reductions will spur economic growth that will more than offset the cuts. That hasn't happened yet and there is no evidence that it will anytime soon. Meanwhile, it is estimated that state revenues in the coming budget year will be about $110 million less than the current year -- a worse than no-growth situation.

Education is the big-ticket item in the state budget. Common schools -- grades K-12 -- receive about 36 percent of the annual budget. Throw in higher education and career tech education and the figure is closer to 60 percent. When state revenues are decreased by a dollar, funds available to common schools are reduced by about 36 cents. Knock $700 million out of the budget and you've cut the amount available to public schools by about $252 million.

· Ad valorem tax cap. A resolution is sailing through the Legislature which would, if approved by voters, cap growth of property tax valuations at 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. The cap currently is 5 percent, one of the most restrictive in the nation.

Property taxes are the primary local funding mechanism for public schools. Seventy percent of the taxes collected go to schools in the county where they are collected. Applying the lowered cap in Tulsa County would reduce property values by an estimated $18.2 million and reduce taxes by $2.5 million, $1.5 million of which would go to Tulsa Public Schools. Statewide the yearly ad valorem tax reduction would amount to about $25 million.

· Pressure for increased highway spending. Everyone knows that Oklahoma needs to spend more money to build and maintain highways and bridges. The problem in a state with shrinking revenues and compromised tax base is how to do it. A highway advocacy group called Restore TRUST is pushing lawmakers to stop "diverting" motor vehicle taxes into the general revenue fund and "put them back on roads."

Their pitch is misleading. Motor vehicle taxes -- license tag fees -- are collected in lieu of personal property taxes on cars and trucks. They were never intended as highway user fees and were never dedicated to highway construction. So they are not being "diverted" and they can't be "put back" where they never were.

In effect, what the group is advocating is recutting the budget pie to give a larger slice to highways. Of course, recutting a pie to make one slice larger means that the other slices must be smaller.

By law, 36.2 percent of motor vehicle taxes go directly to local schools. Most of the rest goes to the general fund, about 36 percent of which is spent on common education.

The highway advocates are well-intentioned, and increased highway spending is a legitimate need. But it is a shame that they would boost highway spending at the expense of public schools.

These various revenue reductions, proposed or fait accompli, paint a gloomy picture for a public education system that already is underfunded.

Think about this: Rising natural gas and oil prices historically have meant Fat City for state revenue collections. But despite the fact that gas prices are rising and oil is at an all-time high, we're getting ready to cut local school funds that already have been committed. Where will we be when gas and oil prices cool? In the soup, that's where.
David Averill, 581-8333

Outreach to Teach--Crutcho

SOEA’s fourth annual "Outreach to Teach" project kicked-off with a school assembly Friday morning and renovations continued throughout the day at Crutcho, a K-8 school, in Oklahoma City.

Student members made improvements inside the building including painting murals as well as various landscaping projects outside the school. Not only will the improvements enhance the schools’ outside beauty, but also improve student and teacher morale.

SOEA members, in conjunction with the OEA, helped find sponsors and provided funding to help with the project. Crutcho students also participated in the restoration process. Great job everyone.

See the related article in the "Oklahoman."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Read Across America-Southgate/Rippitoe Elementary, Moore

Our next stop on Friday found us at Southgate/Rippitoe Elementary in Moore. A special thanks to the Literacy Coach Mrs. Jennie Eddy.

Read Across America-Winds West Elementary, Western Heights

The next stop on the OEA Read Across America event was to Winds West Elementary School in Western Heights where we were greeted by a number of teachers and Assistant Principal Ms. Brayden Kahre.

Everyone had a great time as evidenced by the photos below:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Read Across America-Springdale Elementary, Tulsa

On Tuesday the NEA Cat-a-Van traveled to Tulsa's Springdale Elementary School where we were greeted and introduced by Principal Bradley Eddy.

The program included Mike and Paula reading as well as visits by Thing 1 and Thing 2 then followed by the Cat-in-the hat.

It was another exciting day for the kids and they really enjoyed the opportunity to sit down and read with adults. After leading them in the pledge, I encouraged them to continue to read for pleasure and to share the joy of reading with others.

Everyone cheered the presentation of $1,000, from the NEA,to buy more books for the Springdale library.

One of the choices at lunch was green eggs and ham. As you can tell, the kids loved every bite.

Another fantastic day in a great public school.

Read Across America-Lake Park Elementary, Putnam City

We had a great day at Lake Park Elementary on Monday afternoon. Principal John Lunn got the program started and the kids enjoyed reading with our guest readers, Paula, and the big yellow dog from "Green Eggs and Ham", as well as Mike reading "Fox in Socks."

I got to lead the kids in the pledge and then the school was presented a check for $1,000 from the NEA to buy books for their library.

Lake Park was also the recipient of a grant from the Putnam City Schools Foundation. The grant focused on electronic books---a very appropriate topic for the day.

Members of the Lake Park faculty wore their Eskimo Joe's Reading Shirts for this special day. Even Joe knows the importance of reading.

The Oklahoman reported the story on its web page using a podcast. They did a tremendous job reporting the message on the importance of reading.

Read Across America-Sky Ranch Elementary, Moore

The NEA Cat-a-Van started its journey through Oklahoma with a visit to Sky Ranch Elementary School in Moore. Principal Janice West welcomed the guests that included NEA Executive Committee members Mike Bilirakis and Paula Monroe, Moore ACT President Jill Dudley, and the big yellow dog aka. Bruce Treadaway.

The kids were all decked out in their cat hats as they enjoyed the reading done by Paula and Mike. After they finished reading, I led the in the reading oath and while the kids promised to read, they also promised to read with someone so that they could share the joy of reading with others.

The NEA presented every child with a book and then gave $1000 to Sky Ranch to buy books for their library.

As you can see by the pictures we had a great time and Oklahoman reporter Wendy Kelinman's story made the front page of the Oklahoman.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Legislative Update

OEA Legislative Update

Extended year passes House

House Bill 3122 eliminates three of your five state-authorized professional development days and converts the days to instructional time. The bill would:

*Force teachers to work for free by taking professional development courses on their own time.

*Only designate two professional days in the school year.

*Allow teachers less time for the preparation professional development provides, while students are expected to know more and more each year.

*The bill would also convert the 180-day school year to an equivalent 1080 hours. OEA believes this conversion could provide more flexibility for school districts as long as at least 30 hours or five days of professional development is incorporated in the 1080 hours. The bill has passed the house chamber and is now headed for the senate. Please contact your local senators and let them know how important professional development is to your students' success.

Charter district bill headed for a warm welcome on the senate floor

We need you to express your opposition to Senate Bill 2100 that threatens your local association's right to negotiate a contract. The bill would allow the State Board of Education to establish a Charter District Pilot Program. Ten school districts in Oklahoma could apply for the pilot program and function similar to charter schools.

SB 2100 would allow school districts to:

*Not follow all state regulations, only a select few.

*Eliminate contract negotiations.

*Reduce standards for teacher certification.

*Eliminate due process.

This bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is up to you to slow the momentum of this very dangerous bill. Contact your senator to voice your opposition against this bill.

No More Tax Cuts

Our public schools depend on local property taxes for funding. Senate Joint Resolution 59 lowers property tax increases by at least two percent. School districts have not had operational funds increases for a few years and our state common education fund was $37 million short this year. School districts are even more dependent on local tax revenue and SJR 59 threatens to reduce local revenue to schools.

The amendment would:

Reduce school funding by reducing property tax increases from five percent to the lesser of three percent or the rate of inflation. If the rate of inflation is low, property tax increases could fall below two percent.

We cannot afford to sacrifice the long term stability of our local schools for the short term gains of tax cuts. Please contact your local senator to express your opinion.

You made a difference

House Bill 2681 that threatened to change the date of notification of reemployment from April 10 to June 10 was defeated in the committee. The two-month delay would have allowed less time for teachers to find other employment if the contract was not renewed. The bill may resurface again, but this shows your legislators are listening.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Read Across America at Varnum

The OEA Read Across America Team presented its program to the students and faculty at Varnum. After a pretty good discussion and debate, the kids and teachers selected the Dr. Seuss book, " Yertle the Turtle", as the one they wanted the Cat in the Hat to read to them. After the reading, I lead everyone in the reader's oath.

Everyone had a great time and I'd like to say a special "Thank You" to OEA member Leigh Ann Azlin, Pre-K teacher, Varnum Superintendent Mr. McDonald, and Principal, Mr. Wynn, who set up and allowed us to come to Varnum.