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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Winter is Coming -- Vouchers, Too

Winter is coming...the legislative session is coming. Vouchers are coming.

I have read the first Game of Thrones novel, and was horrified when Martin, the author, killed off my very favorite character with no mercy...since then I check in with others who continued reading to see if my other favorites are still around...


I’m going to begin by telling you how tired I am about talking about vouchers. Tired. But, like the zombies I called them last session, they just keep struggling to their feet, year after year, for us to fight again.


In anticipation of our next ESA bill (have not read through the proposed bills for the 2017 Session, but I know there will be at least one, even though their standard-bearers, Representative Jason Nelson and Senator Clark Jolley, are not there to introduce them.

I’m pretty sure who WILL introduce a bill in the Senate…Kyle Loveless, who had two primary opponents in June, but no opponent in the fall. He only beat teacher and coach Mike Mason by 766 votes, but one would think he won by a landslide by the way he’s been hawking vouchers nonstop since his squeaker of a race.

I find it interesting that American Federation for Children brags about having a hand in Loveless’s 766-vote victory. Wonder how much each of those votes cost AFC in donations. Here’s how they characterize the race: “In addition, Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, was re-elected earlier this year in a primary, defeating an opponent recruited by the teachers’ union who opposed school choice.”

Those of us with long memories will recognize the name Jennifer Carter, who is deeply involved in the AFC Fund…she was Janet Barresi’s campaign manager, and then chief of staff, until an unfortunate incident of name calling forced her to resign. She is married to an editorial writer for the Daily Disappointment Oklahoman. The Lost Ogle did a satirical piece on the Carters here. Aren’t dots fun to connect? Barresi—Jennifer Carter—Ray Carter—DOK--vouchers. And the biggie….

Those of us with short memories may recognize the name at the top of the AFC link: Bet$y Devo$, the president elect’s choice to head the Department of Education. She is Chair of the Board. Voucher proponent in charge of the Department of (public) Education. Ms. Fox – here’s your henhouse.

But I digress…this is about vouchers and the fight here in Oklahoma.

Since his primary win (766 whopping votes – I’ve written nearly half that number of words so far on this post), Senator Loveless has been posting every pro-voucher link and article he can on his FB page. Senator Loveless is not a member of the Senate Education Committee. I’ve observed at least one of his appearances before the Committee, and I found it surrounded with a kind of tension I could not identify. His relationship with the Committee feels very prickly and not very cordial. **

His posts about vouchers are full of the false narrative that #oklaed opposes school choice because we oppose vouchers. He and Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and AFC work overtime to drive their point home. They are NOT the same. Nope. Choice we have in abundance…we can choose our neighborhood school, or another school in the district. We can choose to transfer out of our home district, and provide transportation. We can choose public charters, and again, provide transportation. We can choose to home-school our children. And we can choose (IF we are chosen) to send our children to a private school, providing tuition and transportation and fees and uniforms.

That last choice is the sticking point, and the centerpiece of AFC’s, Carter’s, OCPA’s, and Loveless’s work: they are determined to make public schools pay for families’ choices to attend private schools. They frame it ‘about the kids…for the poor kids who are attending those nasty government-monopoly-public-schools.’ We are painted as those greedy, grasping establishment teachers-union lackeys who are in education for the money and glory.

I’ve written about previous attempts to ram voucher bills (or ESA—education savings account) down our throats here and here. I’ve compared and contrasted our bills to ALEC model legislation, and the similarities were undeniable. ALEC writes our voucher bills, and local politicians carry them, pretending to be the authors. I’ve written about conversations on social media, including some strategies for talking to proponents.

One can assume Senator Loveless will be the new standard-bearer of the ALEC legislation this year. He and the Daily Disappointment Oklahoman are doing all they can to push the false narrative of ‘choice’ as ‘vouchers’.


Who doesn’t want vouchers? Public schools (THAT is word 766 in this post. That’s how many votes the sitting Senator won by, beating a political novice, full-time teacher and beloved coach), religious organizations, homeschooling families. Who wants vouchers? AFC, ALEC, OCPA, Daily Disappointment Oklahoman, Senator Loveless. Other legislators will step forward, I am sure.

So, keep this post  close, browse through the links. Share them on your FB page, in your Twitter feed. Share them with your legislators. Let policy makers know you are informed on this issue, and you are expecting them to stop the hemorrhaging in our public schools, not open another artery.

We know voucher proponents will attack us as union lackeys, supporting failed schools. We will be accused of thinking only of ourselves, of blocking progress. They will use the word ‘choice’ as a synonym for ‘vouchers’. We know vouchers will not be going to poor families in urban or rural schools – they will be going to wealthy families who can well afford the tuition and transportation and uniforms and fees…AFTER the private schools choose them. Vouchers will go to families who already get significant tax credits for donating to their private school…and now they want vouchers too. Wealthy families can benefit twice at our expense if vouchers become the law…ESA should stand for “Entitlement Savings Account.”

We’re ready. I’m collecting every link I can find that will assist us in this zombie battle and shared below. I’ll update and republish this piece when I find helpful resources.

If you find a good source, add it in the comments. Let’s make this a living document, a resource center.

Ending where I began – I’m tired of this fight. But I’m ready with more facts, and with the knowledge of how the proponents will fight, and how they’ll characterize those of us who oppose them.

Help an old lady out…let’s make this session the LAST session we talk about vouchers.

**Correction: Senator Loveless has been named to the Senate Education Committee for this Session...So, we'll be seeing a lot of each other as I visit and watch the Committee hearings. Will be observing for that same awkwardness.


Links:




http://a.tfn.org/site/DocServer/The_Great_School_Voucher_Fraud_-_July_2012.pdf?docID=3241

























Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"There's a Pony in There Someplace"

A young father tried very hard to prepare his son for the ‘real world’ by providing challenging experiences. His son was a natural optimist and never learned the hard lessons Dad wanted him to learn…he always saw the bright side.

The father wracked his brains trying to think of something that would force his son to see the dark side, the unhappy side of life. He desperately wanted to toughen his son up so he would develop a jaundiced eye.

He thought he had a plan. For Christmas, he transported a four-foot high pile of horse manure into the house, right next to the Christmas tree. Surely, this, as his only present, would humble and humiliate the child and he could properly navigate the cold cruel world.

Christmas morning came, and the father told his son that there was one present for him by the tree. The child ran down the stairs, beheld the pile, and jumped up and down in glee.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! This is the best present ever! Oh, Daddy. I love it!”

The mystified father dropped into his chair in confusion. A huge pile of manure as his only present, and the boy was ecstatic? How?

The father repeated…”This is your only present. This is all you get for Christmas.”

“I know!! I’m so excited!”

“Son, why are you happy to get a pile of manure for Christmas?”

“Oh, Daddy!! There’s a pony in there someplace!”

By nature, teachers are optimists...we go to school every day, determined to be a better teacher than the day before, and expecting to affect lives. 

But, we in #oklaed were given a pile of manure yesterday at the polls. And I’ve spent the day looking for the pony.

Our ‘teacher caucus’ bravely stepped up and ran for the legislature. They took on the better-established, better-funded incumbents. These teachers and family wanted to shift the conversation at the Capitol, and provide much-needed guidance when school reform was the topic of conversation.

Our teacher candidates knocked doors, created networks, learned to ask for money.  They navigated a whole new world of candidacy…and too many of them lost their races yesterday. Too many friends put their lives on hold to learn a new skill-set, and they came up short. I read post after post that started, “Well, the outcome was not what we wanted…”

My favorite candidate, Jacob Rosecrants, is a former student. I’ve known him since I was taller than he. I’ve watched him grow in confidence as a dad and a teacher. He stepped up, with the attitude, “I’ll win or I’ll learn.” He learned…he made a very strong showing against an established incumbent. He made me proud.  He learned. And he’s returning to his classroom to shepherd his students…

My Grand’s favorite candidate is Shawn Sheehan, her Algebra 1 teacher. He’s inspired a love of math…a willingness to persevere on tough problems. Shawn, last year’s Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is also returning to the classroom, and my Grand will have him for her teacher.

We lost some fantastic teacher-candidates, and I hope sincerely they stay involved in Oklahoma school politics and maybe even make another run for office.  We need their expertise and their courage.

There was a bright spot in my night. Mickey Dollens, one of the first teacher-candidates to announce a run.  I saw an interview where he talked about the books he’d studied on how to run for office. He attacked this challenge with energy and intelligence. He won. He will be representing HD93 in the next session of the legislature.

Seven educators won seats in the Senate and four in the House. Much smaller numbers than we’d hoped. But a start. I keep looking for that pony.  Eleven educators or family members will be joining the legislature, with the knowledge to affect policy.
We watched two State Questions with great interest…one was the penny sales tax question. Money generated would be used first, for a raise for all teachers, and then for other purposes. This was a tough one. I was against it before I was for it. None of us likes the regressive nature of sales taxes on the working poor. We all wanted another proposal to address the dismal teacher salaries in our state. Everyone said they had a plan…no one delivered. Signatures were collected and the question was placed on the ballot. Folks knocked doors, created short videos, and we were all feeling pretty positive. Then the attack ads appeared. Figures were manipulated…actually, figures were lied about. Innuendos surfaced about the groups providing funding for the Yes campaign…they were – gasp – charter supporters. That must mean the question is evil.

It was defeated. While early polling numbers showed support, the barrage of negative ads did their trick, and there will be no raise.

We heard many people say, “I support a teacher raise, but…” That but negates the introductory phrase. 

“I support a teacher raise, but…this is regressive.”

“I support a teacher raise, but…this is not the way.”

“I support a teacher raise, but…we need a better plan.”

“I support a teacher raise, but…if we vote yes, the legislature is ‘off the hook’ and won’t do their jobs.” 

Let me see…for ten years teachers have waited…and the legislature and the governors have ignored the need. Easily sliding off the hook.

The question was defeated. Teachers watched in abject sadness, knowing this was the only opportunity for a raise in the next several years.

I posted my frustration: “Looks bad for SQ779, so all you folks who said we need to wait for 'a better plan,' I suggest you get a teaching certificate quickly and jump into the classroom to fill in for all the career teachers who see this as a slap in the face. And then we'll wait for a 'better plan.'

Teachers returned to the classroom today with heavy hearts, and many with tears in their eyes. The voters had said, “NO” to any possibility of a raise.  Some told us they wanted the legislature to do their jobs. We would all love that. I, for one, am not holding my breath. I’ve waited and watched as half-hearted attempts are made, papers shuffled and nothing happens. Why would I trust them now? Why would any teacher in OK trust them?

We begged voters to vote YES and to vote FOR every pro-public education candidate on their ballot. Or, if they were voting NO, to vote for every pro-public education candidate…you already know how that went. The party in power solidified its lop-sided advantage in both houses.

Voters re-elected the same incumbents who’ve created the problem, and voted against the last hope for a raise for our teachers. We are told to wait…again…still.

Teachers are packing their bags, polishing their resumes, talking to friends in neighboring states. Preservice teacher candidates are choosing to bypass #oklaed as possible employment. It’s not hyperbole to say we will lose a generation of teachers in our state. I have former students who are now teachers. I watch them struggle with their decision to stay at home, or to pull up stakes and find a state that respects their educators. 

Do those voters care? How can we assume they do? They’re content to wait for that ‘better plan’ which will miraculously appear on the first day of the 2017 session.  We are not. We’ve had years of broken promises, of excuses. We are done. And many of us are moving. Or changing careers. With the full knowledge that the voters of our state are willing to wait for a ‘better plan’ as we hemorrhage teachers.
Today, I learned who financed the attack ads...those ads casting doubts on the groups funding the YES vote...those ads that just lied about facts. Lies that were parroted back at us all day today. The force behind the NO ads? Wait for it....Americans for Prosperity. Koch Brothers, ALEC. Sincere people were duped by the most cynical group of lobbyists in our country. And too many of my friends fell for it. And voted no. ALEC controlled this election. ALEC controlled the information and the voters. 

So, are there ponies in the manure pile that was the election night? Yeah…some new lawmakers who can make a difference.

But there was a giant pile of poo, also. Teachers were told ‘not now, wait, another time, maybe.’ We were told, ‘you’re not a priority.’ We were told to keep digging in that manure pile and maybe…


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vote, Dammit!

I’m reading –actually listening to—a book called Start with Why? By Simon Sinek
…it’s a business and organizational book about inspiring others with your vision as a way to sell more, work harder, create a social movement. It’s making me think of #oklaed – how it began, and what we’d say our inspiring vision is.

#oklaed is a loose confederacy of educators and parents who want more from our schools, more from our policy makers. More from ourselves. I think if we asked all the educators and parents who show up for our #oklaed chats, who attend the EdCamps, who participate in social media around our hashtag, “What is your vision for #oklaed? What’s your purpose? Your ‘Why?’ you’d get variations on a theme…to participate in the education of the 670,000+ school children in our state. To make education better because we were there, and we spoke up.

It’s now crunch time, #oklaed…We can make education better…if we show up. Show up at the polls and vote.

Scores of our friends and colleagues answered that ‘why?’ with, “My purpose is to run for office, to represent my students’ families at the Capitol. To participate in the legislative dialogue.” That has been inspiring. I’m giddy to think I have friends running for office. A former student running for office. People I KNOW are running. They’ve put their home life on hold. They’ve learned how to run a campaign. They’ve knocked doors of strangers and pitched their candidacy. They’ve been interviewed. They’ve studied other issues facing their constituents. They’ve become students again so that they are informed to serve.

They’ve shown up. Now it’s our turn.


Every one of us should know the candidates for state Representative and Senator in our districts. Every one of us should have informed ourselves on the State Questions. We should know that we’ll be voting on the retention of judges. That’s been our test prep. Finding sources and looking at websites. You can type in your address and get a sample ballot from the OK Election Board.

The test is November 8. If you haven’t voted by mail (I did, and it was fun to sit in my easy chair and use my phone to research issues), or if you don’t plan to vote early (I’ve done that too. I’ve found the workers at the Election Board to be helpful and friendly), you must show up at the polls and vote for these education candidates. Ones we know share a common vision and purpose for #oklaed.

There is a State Question on the ballot that will directly impact #oklaed: SQ779. It will provide raises for teachers…much-needed raises. At a cost of a penny sales tax. This SQ has been made necessary because our policy makers have failed to do their job of funding #oklaed. They throw out false promises, but they do nothing.

Sincere opponents of the SQ ask us to wait for a ‘better’ plan…one that does not fall on the shoulders of the working poor and middle class (read: Teachers). One that’s ‘fairer’. You know, the legislature has had years to do just that, and they’ve failed to prioritize education or teachers.  For eight years we have seen policy makers rip holes in school budgets, and cut per-pupil funding. They’ll tell you they’ve increased funding in that time…technically true. BUT because our school population has far outstripped their funding, we are still near the bottom of per-pupil expenditures…as we are for teacher salaries.

People tell us other state workers haven’t had a raise either. True. Very true. And they do God’s work, just as educators do. I hate the feeling of pitting one group of underpaid state workers against another. We should be allies, demanding our policy makers do the right thing.

Obviously – my stand is clear. But it’s evolved as I realized it is the ONLY proposal on the table. The. Only. One. Everyone has ‘a plan’ to help, but no one’s done anything. People tell us to wait for the perfect plan…and my response is, “I’ve waited since 1979…when we moved to Oklahoma, and I love $1000 real dollars in my salary from my job in Iowa…with one more year’s experience.”

I have two nightmares about SQ779. If it passes, policy makers will say, “Well, see? We didn’t have to lift a finger to solve the problem. “The people” will tax themselves. Woohoo! Business as usual” If it fails, they might say, “Well, see? “The people” don’t care any more than we do about teachers. Woohoo! Business as usual .”

The combination of education friendly candidates AND SQ779 gives us all a unique opportunity to really do the right thing for schools and students and teachers.

Do the right thing. Vote.

Here’s what I know about my blog posts about voting: they are the lowest-read pieces I write. People don’t seem to want to read about voting. Here and here and here and here, this, my first voting post. Sorry/not sorry for linking all the old posts. I write about voting a lot. To a tiny audience, it appears.

Here’s what I know about teachers and voting: WE DON’T. Depending on the source, I’ve heard anywhere between 18% and 30% of teachers vote. That’s why policy makers ignore us when we email and write and visit and rally. They know we won’t show up. For all our commitment to the vision of #oklaed, we don’t take the action to build that vision into reality.

Do the right thing.

Vote. And vote for the vision, the purpose, the 'why', of a state that will support and fund public schools.





Friday, August 26, 2016

"Teacher Caucus" is Set for November.


Primaries and run-offs are over, and we know who our legislative candidates will be for November. There are still a considerable number of teacher-and-family candidates running for office, and now is the time to find a candidate in your districts you can support.

Remember, my list comes with no endorsements. That's why I include websites (when I can find them)...it's YOUR job as voter to vet your candidates, to meet them, ask your questions of them. Listen to them. And push on YOUR issues. Not my job...yours.

A close reading of a candiate's website can quickly give you information about issues and stances. That should be your first step in researching your candidates. Then, see if they have a social media presence...Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. Follow or like their pages and watch what they say and how they say it. Engage them online and watch the results.

I'm hoping you'll find someone you can work for, volunteer for, donate to. And vote for.


In House run off races, HD saw two teachers vying for the vote. Rhonda Baker defeated Chad Slane.

In HD 67, Tom McCloud, husband of a teacher, was defeated in his race. I recently connected with Mr. McCloud, and have been impressed with his research on vouchers, and his calm, logical, spirited opposition. This is the magazine he publishes. Read his voucher article, starting on page 19. His conservative friends are not happy with his stance, but I actually learned a thing or two following a couple of conversations. He is not lured into emotional diatribe; he sticks to the research. He's someone I want to know better. We have an ally here.

The list of House candidates who are educators or family members are:

HD
Name
Website
Party
Educator
2
Tom Sites
http://www.tomstitesforok.com/
R
Adjunct
3
Troy Dyer
D
Yes
4
Matt Meredith
D
SchBd
12
Darla Milligan
D
Yes
13
Wayne Herriman
D
Daughter
14
Lee Ann Langston
http://www.leeannlangston.com/
D
Yes
20
(Gregory) Matt Failing
http://mattfailing.com/
D
Former
25
David Weir
http://votedavidweir.com/
D
Yes
29
Macy Gleason
http://www.macygleason.com/
D
Parents
33
Caryl Talley
https://vote4talley.com/#/contribute/home
D
Yes
42
Liz George
D
Higher Ed
43
Mike Bounds
D
Spouse
46
Jacob Rosecrants
http://jacobrosecrants.com/
D
Yes
49
Michelle Bray
D
Yes
50
Melissa Tilley
http://melissatilley.org/
D
Yes
60
Chad Slane
R
Yes
60
Rhonda Baker
R
Yes
64
Jacobi Crowley
http://jacobicrowley.com/
D
Yes
65
Rick Gilleland
http://www.rickforrepok.com/about-rick.html
D
Spouse
67
Tom McCloud
R
Spouse
72
Monroe Nichols
http://www.monroeforoklahoma.com/
D
Yes
75
Karen Gaddis
http://www.karengaddis.com/
D
Yes
76
Glenda Puett
http://www.glendapuett.com/
D
Yes
80
Tom Bates
http://bates4ok80.wix.com/2016
D
Yes
82
David Dickerson
http://www.dickersonforok.com/
I
Yes
83
Jason Stone
http://stonefor83.weebly.com/
D
Higher Ed
84
Tammy West
http://www.tammywesthouse84.com/#home
R
SchBd
93
Mickey Dollens
http://mickeydollens.com/
D
Yes
95
James Cook
http://www.jamescookforok.com/
D
Higher Ed
100
Jeremy Miller
http://www.jmillerhd100.com/
D
Yes
100
Donald Wentroth
http://www.donwentroth.com/
D
Yes
101
Cheryl M-Hessman
http://www.cherylmooneyhamhessman.com/
D
Yes


In Senate run offs, Chris Kidd, a former educator, defeated Toni Hasenbeck, a teacher. In a hard-fought race for SD 25, Lisa Kramer, school board member, and certified public acountant, lost with the help of dark money from a pro-voucher group that specifically targeted her for defeat. The Oklahoma Federation for Children PAC crowed in a news release about the victory of their candidate, who supports vouchers. Speaking for myself, this was a bitter defeat. Kramer would have brought such credibility, as a school board member, and as an accountant, to the Senate.  Rick Cobb wrote here about what was at stake in this race.

I will remind readers that Jennifer Carter, former Chief of Staff to Janet Barresi, former Superintendent of schools, is now running Oklahoma Federation for Children. I think we need to know who our public schools enemies are. OFC is our enemy.

The list of educators and family running for Senate seats in November are:


SD
Name
Website
Party
Educator
1
Michael Bergstrom
R
Yes
3
Rhonda Cox
D
Yes
5
Stacy Ebert
D
Yes
9
Jack Reavis
http://jackreavis.com/index.html
D
Yes
9
D. Pemberton
http://www.pembertonforsenate.com/
R
Yes
13
Eric Hall
http://erichallforsenate.com/
D
Yes
13
Greg McCortney
R
Spouse
15
Shawn Sheehan
http://www.sheehanforok.com/
I
Yes
19
Rhonda Harlow
http://www.harlow4oksenate.com/
D
Yes
19
Roland Pederson
http://www.rolandforsenate.com/
R
Yes
23
Lonnie Paxton
http://lonniepaxton.com/
R
Spouse
29
Robert Jobe
D
Yes
31
Chris Kidd
http://www.chriskiddforsenate.com/about.php
R
Former
37
Lloyd Snow
http://snow4ok.com/
D
Yes
39
John Waldron
http://www.waldron4ok.com/
D
Yes
41
Kevin McDonald
http://www.mcdonaldforok.com/
D
Yes
43
Leah Pollan
D
Parents
43
Paul Scott
http://www.scott4oksenate.com/
R
Spouse
47
Judy Hopper
D
Yes