State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger recently lashed out at GOP legislators because they refused to hear controversial education voucher bills.
Doerflinger, who is customarily reserved, is quoted as telling an Oklahoma radio station, “Republicans should put D’s after their names and call it good.”
A day later, Mr. Doerflinger said his remarks could have been tempered, but he would not change the content of his statement. He went on as quoted in the Tulsa World, “I still feel strongly about my position on ESA’s, a reference to education savings accounts, another form of vouchers that would allow state money to be spent for student education at private or charter schools.
Under the concept, public dollars would follow a student who wished to attend a private, religious or charter school. Supporters say it would create more choice while critics say it would harm public education by removing funding.
In actuality, it would not remove all funding since the school district would still keep a large part of the funds. Under discussed terms, 75 percent of funding would go to the new school and 25 percent would be retained.
All this came to a head when House Speaker Jeff Hickman and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman announced that House Bill 2949 and Senate Bill 609 would not be heard.
Representative Jason Nelson, an outstanding legislator and author of House Bill 2949, said he was disappointed none of the proposals was taken up, but that he would continue to fight for Oklahoma’s children.
“Unfortunately, the misinformation campaign from the educational establishment continues,” he said. “Education savings accounts would give more opportunities to parents and their children.”
According to my sources at the State Capitol, the proposed bills will be brought up again. There were not the required 25 votes to pass. Some work will need to be made to gain the couple of missing votes.
Well, why should parents want to move their children to other schools?
The simple answer is they are not learning. Take Tulsa Public Schools. Granted, there are many “A” rated schools, but there are also a growing number of failing schools. In reviewing the Tulsa district profile for 2014 (as provided by the office of Education Quality and Accountability based on tests), only 55 percent of 3rd graders are proficient in math and 65 percent proficient in reading. The state average is 75 percent and 80 percent, respectfully. For 4th graders, it drops to 49 percent in math and 60 percent in reading. For 5th graders the average is 53 percent math, 60 percent reading, 42 percent science and 44 percent for writing.
The reader should remember that Oklahomans pay over 60 percent of the entire state budget to education. Do you think that the TPS averages are above par? No, there are many schools reporting below the averages. Is it right to keep parents and students bound to a failing school? The answer is a resounding no!
Officials at the Tulsa Regional Chamber may say they are against vouchers, but why should they care or be bothered since their children attend private schools? All across the state and nation in 2016, people are awaking to the fact that there is a double standard practiced by the elite, establishment or whatever you wish to call them.
As Dr. Keith Ballard in his op-ed article said, “Enough is enough.” Dr. Ballard was actually speaking about vouchers, but people have had enough of failed schools. Dr. Ballard also said, “My decades spent in education have taught me what parents really want is strong public schools.” He is right. Without top-notch schools, there is no economic development. If educators cannot or will not deliver, then people need alternatives.
As I look at the problem, the first five years of one’s education determines the next 55 years of their life success. Keeping children in a failing school is no acceptable option. Give them their money and let them go.