Friday, April 18, 2008

Press Release on Standstill Budget

While their are some that think additional money is a surplus, the truth of the matter is it's called growth money and it funds our roads and bridges, corrections, schools, and other vital services the citizens of Oklahoma need.

Our press release follows and there are others (Tulsa World) that address the tax cuts too.

Standstill Budget Direct Result of Tax Cuts

Educators statewide said the “standstill budget” agreed upon by lawmakers Wednesday is a direct result of tax cuts. Most state agencies will not get an increase despite rising operational costs.

“Tax cuts are the reason we have this mess. We would have had enough money to invest in our schools, roads and bridges and other vital state agencies if our legislators hadn’t enacted $560 million worth the tax cuts,” said Roy Bishop, Oklahoma Education Association President.

Education leaders are not sure the budget is even at a standstill.

“Despite stable economic growth in Oklahoma, the legislature has $114 million less to spend this year and who knows what will happen this coming year,” Bishop said.

Bishop said legislators promised to increase teacher salaries to the regional average and now they say there simply isn’t enough money.

“They failed to keep the promise they made to teachers and the citizens of Oklahoma,” said Jill Dudley, Moore Association of Classroom Teachers President. “We will see quality, experienced educators leave the profession.”

Some say a standstill budget would be palatable if all of the other expenses were standing still. The price of everything from fuel to a dozen eggs is increasing while our state revenue is decreasing.

Education leaders fear the worst is yet to come.

If the permanent tax cuts enacted a few years ago continue, lawmakers can expect $215 million more in lost revenue over the next two years.

“Investing in education would have grown the economy more than the tax cuts will,” Bishop said.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

SB 2093

Isn't it sad that some want to be seen as doing so much for children and schools except for properly funding them.

SB 2100

This oped piece shares some of our concerns regarding SB 2100 and Charter Schools. While proponents of the bill will tell you it's only a deregulation bill, it falls under Oklahoma's charter school law and is the next step down a slipperly slope.

Deregualtion already exists in Oklahoma law so why do we need a new deregualtion law. Supporters either don't know the law or are purposely misleading others in trying to get support for the bill.

The piece and reactions to it can be found in the Oklahoman.

Charter schools aren't panacea

A great deal has been made about SB 2100 and charter schools as being the panacea for “all that ails public schools” because so much is “going wrong”. It is always important to do what is in the best interest of the students. Before we pass this bill and turn our public schools into charter schools, it’s important to look at the success of charter schools.

Currently, charters have provided, at best, mixed results. Although there are some charter schools that appear to be achieving great results, research has consistently shown that, on average, traditional public schools outperform charter schools.

An analysis by the National Assessment Governing Board on 2003 NAEP data showed that traditional public schools outperform charter school students on almost every measure. Plus, there are no measurable differences between students in the same racial/ethnic background in charter schools compared to traditional public schools.

The data also showed that the scores of students taught by uncertified teachers in charter schools were significantly lower than those of charter school students with certified teachers, and charter school students with inexperienced teachers did significantly worse than students in traditional public schools with less experienced teachers. These points are significant because charter school students are more likely to be taught by inexperienced and uncertified teachers than students in traditional public schools.

Even the Charter School Leadership Council, now known as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, has their own commissioned research that shows that traditional public schools generally outperform charter school students on state tests.

When the Department of Education took a closer look at the data in a report released in August 2006, they found that after adjusting for multiple student characteristics like ethnicity, those on free and reduced lunch, and IEP’s for example, the average charter school score in reading was more than 4 points lower than the average traditional public school’s score. In math, after adjusting for student characteristics, the average traditional public school outscored the average charter school by 4.7 points.

Increasingly, states find that it becomes more and more difficult to monitor charter schools creating an additional bureaucracy the public doesn’t want and can’t afford. The accountability is neither cheap nor easy. Problems persist in a number of states including Arizona, California, Florida and Colorado. The expense is in the millions of dollars as fraud, low performance and violation of applicable state law are rampant.

Oklahomans support our traditional public schools and they know our leaders have consistently underfunded them. They’ve asked our elected officials to do what is right--- properly fund our schools. The problems associated with our schools are a lack of a long term commitment to our kids, schools and teachers. Unfortunately, it is easier come up with “new ideas” and “pilot projects” that waste taxpayer money than it is to be a leader and statesman and support our schools the way the public wants---by funding them properly.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

OEA Lobby Day & others at the Capitol

Yesterday's lobby day was a tremendous success. The OEA had 125 teachers and support professionals from all regions of the state to address the funding issues and bills that we believe are dismantling education.

The funding issue is critical. There is a $32M shortfall from the 1017 fund that superintendents have tried to address in the form of supplemental funding (Tulsa World Editorial) as Oklahoma finds out where it ranks in comparison to other states in per pupil spending.

SJR 59 will create a $25M shortfall for education. While it was addressed by a number of people in education, including Coalition-Chair Pat McGregor's op-ed piece, perhaps the most interesting came from a group of students from Fletcher. As part of a class project, the kids came to the Capitol to lobby and then held a press conference about their experience.

OEA members also addressed their opposition SB 2100 which would create Charter School Districts and SB 2093 which would establish a voucher program in our state.