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An Hour of Your Time

March 4, 2015

Today we’ve been given the gift of time. Since most of Oklahoma’s schools closed today due to the weather forecast, we have time to do some critical work. If you haven’t read Senate Bill 609, which would create the Oklahoma Education Empowerment Scholarship Savings Program (that’s a mouthful, so I’m going to use the term voucher), you should. Here’s an excerpt from page 2:

SB 609 Image 1

It all sounds harmless until you realize that there is no accountability for how this money is spent. Parents will have to report receipts to the State Treasurer’s office, but nothing in the bill directs the state to itemize expenditures or at least list them categorically (as schools have to do). I assume most parents would use the money wisely, just as most schools do. However, as a parent, I could choose to spend the majority of my child’s voucher on section 1(d), co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

The bill also has no accountability for student learning, ironically, since this is the main reason voucher proponents insist children need to escape – and I’m using this phrase as they use it – government schools. We will never see EOI averages of the voucher students, mainly because they won’t have to take them. Parents can, however, use the voucher to pay for ACT exams – which you probably realize I would like to see the state provide for all students in lieu of the EOIs. In short, this bill would let parents do things they wish their children’s public schools were allowed to do.

[Incidentally, the version of the bill that the full Senate will consider no longer has the merit pay provision that was in the committee draft, so I’ll let that sleeping dog lie for the time being.]

I also want you to read one other thing on this lovely snow day – an editorial from yesterday’s Oklahoman. You can follow the little blue line and read it yourself, but here’s a preview:

ESA opposition could easily cost a Republican lawmaker his job. Yet five Republicans joined with liberal Democrats in opposing an ESA bill in committee, where the final vote was 9-9.

Those votes contradict Republican stances on supporting the free market and opposing “one size fits all” government mandates. If the five dissident Republicans hope voters will ignore those contradictions, two words suggest otherwise: Melissa Abdo.

Abdo is a strident opponent of an existing state program that provides scholarships to children with special needs, such as autism. Abdo also was a candidate for a state House seat in the Jenks area last summer. Once her opposition to school choice was publicized, she quickly went from front-runner to losing a runoff. Her opponent, current Rep. Chuck Strohm, is among the authors of ESA legislation.

This editorial refers to the House version of the voucher bill. It died in committee, although legislation often has the properties of zombie soap opera characters who somehow find the wherewithal to survive a tumble down an elevator shaft*. You also see that the Oklahoman can’t resist taking a pot shot at Jenks Public School board member Melissa Abdo, who has never shied away from being a conservative who proudly supports public education. If you read between the lines here, the editorialists are saying that if you don’t agree with them, then you must not be a real conservative.

Anyone who knows me understands how much this drives me crazy. You shouldn’t have to check all the right boxes to be a conservative. After all, the Oklahoman opposes replacing the EOIs with the ACT, but the Senate Committee on Education passed that bill 11-1, with the Committee on Appropriations passing it through to the full Senate by a vote of 37-6. The Oklahoman opposed the sanity clause in the RSA (the parent committee), and it both chambers were able to override Governor Fallin’s veto last spring by huge margins, without discussion. They opposed the repeal of the Common Core, and well, here we are.

My point is that they’re not only out-of-sync with the state on education issues; they don’t even align with their own party most of the time**.

For whatever reason, they’ve decided this is the issue by which they will draw the line in the sand. You’re either with us, or you’re with those liberals.

This is why I’m asking for an hour of your time. In the Committee on Finance last week, the vote to pass SB 609 to the Senate Floor was only 8-6. It was not a vote decided upon party lines. It’s almost as if the people we elected were listening to their constituents rather than the out-of-state groups threatening punishment for committee members who don’t fall in line.

We need to keep those calls flowing. We need to call as many members of the Senate as we can today and give them a simple message about SB 609. Angela Little, an Edmond parent and education activist, asked on Facebook yesterday for some simple messages about why we might oppose this bill. Several of us replied, and she made these little message cards.

Little 3

Little 2

Little 4

Little 3

 

Any of those would be a good message for our elected representatives to hear. You can also pick anything from this voucher post I wrote in 2014. You can even come up with your own message. Just be polite and clear. Remember, last year, this same idea failed in a House committee, and the vote wasn’t even close.

It took me an hour to write this post. I encourage you to take an hour and see how many members of the senate you can contact today. Let them know how you feel. And do whatever you can to get more parents and teachers to call.

Senator Phone Number    Email Address
Allen, Mark 405-521-5576 allen@oksenate.gov
Anderson, Patrick 405-521-5630 anderson@oksenate.gov
Barrington, Don 405-521-5563 barrington@oksenate.gov
Bass, Randy 405-521-5567 bass@oksenate.gov
Bice, Stephanie 405-521-5592 bice@oksenate.gov
Bingman, Brian 405-521-5528 bingman@oksenate.gov
Boggs, Larry 405-521-5604 boggs@oksenate.gov
Brecheen, Josh 405-521-5586 brecheen@oksenate.gov
Brinkley, Rick 405-521-5566 brinkley@oksenate.gov
Brooks, Corey 405-521-5522 brooks@oksenate.gov
Brown, Bill 405-521-5602 brownb@oksenate.gov
Crain, Brian 405-521-5620 crain@oksenate.gov
Dahm, Nathan 405-521-5551 dahm@oksenate.gov
David, Kim 405-521-5590 david@oksenate.gov
Fields, Eddie 405-521-5581 efields@oksenate.gov
Floyd, Kay 405-521-5610 floyd@oksenate.gov
Ford, John 405-521-5634 fordj@oksenate.gov
Fry, Jack 405-521-5584 fry@oksenate.gov
Garrison, Earl 405-521-5533 garrisone@oksenate.gov
Griffin, A J 405-521-5628 griffin@oksenate.gov
Halligan, Jim 405-521-5572 halligan@oksenate.gov
Holt, David 405-521-5636 holt@oksenate.gov
Jech, Darcy 405-521-5545 jech@oksenate.gov
Jolley, Clark 405-521-5622 jolley@oksenate.gov
Justice, Ron 405-521-5537 justice@oksenate.gov
Loveless, Kyle 405-521-5618 loveless@oksenate.gov
Marlatt, Bryce 405-521-5626 marlatt@oksenate.gov
Mazzei, Mike 405-521-5675 mazzei@oksenate.gov
Newberry, Dan 405-521-5600 newberry@oksenate.gov
Paddack, Susan 405-521-5541 paddack@oksenate.gov
Pittman, Anastasia 405-521-5531 pittman@oksenate.gov
Quinn, Marty 405-521-5555 quinn@oksenate.gov
Schulz, Mike 405-521-5612 schulz@oksenate.gov
Sharp, Ron 405-521-5539 sharp@oksenate.gov
Shaw, Wayne 405-521-5574 shaw@oksenate.gov
Shortey, Ralph 405-521-5557 shortey@oksenate.gov
District 11 405-521-5598  
Silk, Joseph 405-521-5614 silk@oksenate.gov
Simpson, Frank 405-521-5607 simpson@oksenate.gov
Smalley, Jason 405-521-5547 smalley@oksenate.gov
Sparks, John 405-521-5553 sparks@oksenate.gov
Standridge, Rob 405-521-5535 standridge@oksenate.gov
Stanislawski, Gary 405-521-5624 stanislawski@oksenate.gov
Sykes, Anthony 405-521-5569 lewis@oksenate.gov
Thompson, Roger 405-521-5588 thompson@oksenate.gov
Treat, Greg 405-521-5632 treat@oksenate.gov
Wyrick, Charles 405-521-5561 wyrick@oksenate.gov
Yen, Ervin 405-521-5543 yen@oksenate.gov

*from what I hear

**technically, newspapers are non-partisan – technically

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  1. March 4, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rick Cobb
    March 4, 2015 at 11:48 am

    This is the email I just sent to each state senator on my lunch hour, in addition to calling when I can:

    Dear Senator ,

    I am writing you this morning to encourage you to vote no on Senate Bill 609, the Oklahoma Education Empowerment Scholarship Savings Program. While I am an administrator in Moore, I am also concerned as a parent of two Norman Public Schools students.

    This bill would create a separate and unequal set of schooling conditions for Oklahoma students. Public schools are bound by over-regulation that impacts the quality of instruction. They have state testing that narrows the focus of instruction. They have burdensome teacher evaluation requirements that divert principals away from the role of instructional leadership (rather than improving performance in that role, as intended). The school climate is geared towards these priorities rather than the learning that children want and need.

    I see the appeal of homeschooling and private schools. A parent’s priorities are more likely to be preserved. This recognition should not come at the sake of accountability, however. Public schools must take all students who enroll with them. Private schools do not. Public schools release their expenditure records. Private schools do not. Public schools must employ teachers who have earned a certificate to teach their grade and/or subject matter. Private school teachers do not. Public schools face the scrutiny of the community and the state through annual testing. Private schools do not.

    While the intent of this legislation may be to help families escape their zip code and choose better schools, few students – if any – will realize this outcome. Meanwhile, by adding more students to the funding formula, the per-pupil funds available to school districts will be decreased. This will not improve the quality of instruction; nor will it help schools with teacher recruitment and retention.

    I encourage you to speak with a wide arrangement of people in your senate district – parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders – and ask them if they would rather see you improve public education or make tax dollars available for parents to use with minimal fiscal accountability. While some may like the idea of Empowerment Scholarships, many more would rather have your support behind the public schools in their communities.

    Thank you for your time, and your consideration in this decision.

    Dr. Rick Cobb
    Assistant Superintendent – Moore Public Schools
    Parent of two Norman Public Schools Students (and one NPS graduate)

    Like

  3. Mindy
    March 4, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Done. Has this been scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor? Not sure when that happens…

    Like

  4. Jennifer
    March 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Emailed all the senators.

    Like

  1. March 6, 2015 at 7:00 am
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