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November 4th Could Hold the Answers

September 4, 2014

Article published in the Duncan Banner September 3, 2014.

NOVEMBER 4th COULD HOLD THE ANSWERS!
Oklahoma’s educational system was hit with a triple “whammy” last week.
FIRST, in an effort to establish some credence to her A-F school performance scoring system, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Barresi released the information that fifth and eighth grade writing and math scores would not be considered in the A-F grading of our schools this year. There has been concern between the school districts and Oklahoma State Department of Education over the validity of these test scores for the second year. Why Barresi did not make this decision when the testing discrepancy first came to light at the close of the 2013-14 school year is not clear. And are the schools that were charged for the cost of appealing erroneous test scores going to be reimbursed??
SECOND, the next “whammy” came from the United States Department of Education in the form of a refusal to grant Oklahoma an extension of the “No Child Left Behind” waiver which expired at the end of the 2013-14 school year. As previously reported, this waiver would give Oklahoma time to establish a Common Core State Standards testing system which would include a national testing system for reading, math and science.
Oklahoma’s Legislature passed House Bill 3399 and the Governor signed it into law, repealing Common Core. That was in stark contrast to the desires of two of their most ardent supporters. The Common Core testing system was, and still is, strongly supported by both the American Legislative Exchange Council and Achieve, two conservative “think tanks.”
Common Core’s problems were not that it would be bad for Oklahoma’s students to receive educations on a par with the rest of the United States. It’s problem was a failure to properly fund and implement it. If the monies Barresi used to fund state-sponsored public charter schools had been directed to the establishment of Common Core, she would have realized success!
A major part of the problems establishing Common Core was the A-F grading of the schools, established by the Superintendent and Oklahoma State Board of Education which did not encompass the problem of funding rural area schools for facilities and human-power to insure equal levels of grading were used.
Our Legislators and Governor Fallin were aware that an extension of a 2014-15 waiver was not being considered favorably by the U.S. Department of Education. So, to deflect their negligence, Oklahoma’s administration chose to “blame President Obama and Education Secretary Arnie Duncan” for this state’s educational malfeasance. The 2014-15 waiver was not granted because the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education did not complete the required Priority Academic Student Skills Standards study which would certify K-12 schools’ curriculum as “college career ready.”
THIRD, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is actively pursuing an appeal to the ruling by an Oklahoma County District Court Judge that using state-funded “Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship” funds would be unconstitutional if used to send students with disabilities to religious schools. This fight has now been in the court system for four years! The Attorney General has announced his intentions to continue his appeals. How much more money must be spent from our state’s coffers by our elected officials trying to overcome THEIR mistakes?
If there is a RED FLAG, warning that Oklahoma’s educational system is in trouble, these problems which unfolded last week should be ample warning! Oklahomans are rightly proud of their heritage. And, proudly, there comes a time when society moves forward and looks for ways to improve the academic standards of its educational system without placing the blame on this state’s professional educators or a country’s president.
To continue to lower taxes, causing budgets of Oklahoma’s school districts to shrink or remaining static while striving to absorb a gain of 40,000+ students in the last 6 years is incomprehensible!
This year, the answers to Oklahoma’s educational, health care and welfare needs are only a ballot box away. Those answers can be realized on November 4, 2014!

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