The Silence is Broken
Nearly three weeks after the Washington Post wrote about the web between Jeb Bush, his Foundation for Education Excellence, Chiefs for Change, and the development of education policy in several states – including Oklahoma – the Oklahoman has finally written about it. This article in the news section discusses the influence of conservative groups – like ALEC – on Oklahoma legislation, with strong denials from state leaders that our laws are being written out of state. The editorial page covered the education controversy more specifically in a post titled, “School change driven by policy; not conspiracies.”
Normally when I link to an editorial, I don’t include the title. This one amused me. The story has been out there for three weeks. The Tulsa World has covered it. I’ve written about it four times, beginning on January 31 with this post. For all the insistence that policy decisions are being made at the local level, the evidence to the contrary is too great to ignore. Officials from out-of-state groups are not only writing the majority of Oklahoma’s education laws; they are also writing the administrative rules for implementing those laws.
The major problem with this is that it all boils down to what happens in Florida. And no matter how much we hear that the Sunshine State is the model for all things great about education reform, the results just don’t back up the rhetoric.
In a desperate ploy to prove – something, I’m not quite sure what – the editorial (again, it’s worth mentioning that Superintendent Barresi’s campaign manager’s husband writes for the editorial staff) tried to compare these entanglements with a scandal involving a former Skiatook superintendent. He’s in jail, so maybe there is something to that. In the end, the paper is critical of the fact that some “gullible souls actually buy into this twaddle.”
(Yes, they called concerns about where Oklahoma policy comes from twaddle. I’m glad the editorial ended there. I think we were headed towards describing something as ballyhooed or interjecting a consarnit if it had continued.)
The problem is not just education, you know. If you’d like to see a list of all legislators on ALEC’s task force, go here. Oklahomans listed include:
- Rep. Jabar Shumate (OK D-73), Alternate
- Rep. Ann Coody (OK R-64), Member
- Rep. Lee R. Denney (OK R-33), Member
- Sen. John W. Ford (OK R-29), State Chairman and Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Sally R. Kern (OK R-84), Alternate
- Sen. Jim Reynolds (OK R-43), Alternate
It should also be mentioned that the Oklahoman’s article today (not the editorial) offers a defense of the parent trigger law and the film Won’t Back Down. Keep in mind that the newspaper’s parent company put up the money for this film – one of the worst-rated films on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
Your takeaway from this entire hubbub should be to understand that all of the reforms taking place in Oklahoma schools were not conceived by a single Oklahoman. Among all of our policy makers, there are no new ideas. Our legislators – even our governor and state superintendent – are but a farm team for the national organization. In their attempt to move up from AA to AAA and maybe someday even the show, they’ll do anything to please the national and corporate masters.
To answer the question I asked 17 days ago, that’s where education policy comes from.