Don’t ban bilingual education (Guest post: Shannon Guss and Ryan Gentzler)

by | March 31st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Texas A&M University

Photo by Texas A&M University

Shannon Guss is the Educare Project Director at the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at the University of Oklahoma  – Tulsa. Ryan Gentzler is a Research Associate at ECEI and an OK Policy Research Fellow.

With two bills from 2011 and again this year with SB 522, Oklahoma legislators have proposed to ban bilingual education in Oklahoma. These bills would have dramatically expanded the impact of State Question 751, which established English as the official language of the state. Although the bills failed both this year and in 2011, we should be troubled by these repeated attempts to ban a proven, effective method for educating students.

For all students, and especially those in early childhood (birth to eight years of age), a large and growing body of evidence shows that learning two languages offers a wide array of enduring benefits. Dr. Linda Espinosa, the keynote speaker at the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at OU-Tulsa in 2008 and 2009, completed a synthesis of research on the subject that highlights cognitive, academic, and social benefits of learning two languages from an early age. Below, we summarize some of the most important takeaways from her 2013 report.

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Fact Check: Would school consolidation boost Oklahoma teacher salaries?

by | March 24th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (7)

truth-o-meterIn a recent press release, Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) made some claims about how much Oklahoma might be able to improve teacher salaries through school consolidation. He said, “The state of Oregon has the exact same population as Oklahoma but more students and yet has only 200 school districts. I don’t find it a coincidence that their average teacher pay is $12,000 more than Oklahoma’s.”

Sen. Loveless is right that it’s not a coincidence, but he’s missed the mark on the reason why.

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Oklahoma Legislature has a funny way of supporting education

by | March 19th, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (3)

spitballIn February, the Oklahoma House approved a bill (HB 1749) that would ban payroll deductions for membership dues to any organization that conducts collective bargaining on behalf of public employees. This week the bill was narrowly approved by a Senate committee, and it could come before the full Senate by next week.

HB 1749 would prevent teachers, school bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and other school employees who voluntarily choose to be union members from using payroll deduction to pay their union dues. That’s a benefit that these workers have had for decades. It’s something they can also choose to do for charitable contributions, such as the United Way, or for payments to credit unions and insurance companies.

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This new school meals program helps high-poverty kids and schools

by | March 11th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty | Comments (0)
Photo by Bread for the World used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Bread for the World used under a Creative Commons license

Last spring, we reported on a powerful new tool to fight hunger in high-poverty schools. Community Eligibility, part of 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, allows certain high-poverty schools, groups of schools, or school districts to offer breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. Recently, we with talked the Nutrition Services Directors at Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) and Shawnee Public Schools (SPS), to hear about their first year of community eligibility.

Oklahoma City Public Schools adopted community eligibility in 51 of 79 of it schools, which means that 26,000 of 44,000 students in the district receive breakfast and lunch every day, free of charge. Shawnee Public Schools has adopted community eligibility in 5 of 7 schools. In both districts, the vast majority of affected students are in elementary school, when nutrition experts say that healthy meals are crucial to physical and neurological development.

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Education vies for funding down the road

by | March 4th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

school-children-roadHow do you boost support for education in a year when the state faces a massive budget shortfall? Several bills to provide teacher pay raises have gained initial committee approval, but these bills are unlikely to make it into law given the grim budget situation. The best chance for success for education advocates seems to be a proposal by House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney (R-Cushing) that provides a multi-year $600 million increase in education funding, but not for another three years. Yet even this proposal is far from a sure thing.

HB 1682 creates the Securing Education Excellence Fund. The bill is designed to increase funding for common education by $59.7 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2019. The funding increase would come from income tax revenue that is take off-the-top before legislators appropriate budgets for other state services.

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What Fallin’s goals for state government tell us about Oklahoma

by | February 24th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education, Healthcare | Comments (2)
Photo by House GOP

Photo by House GOP

During her 2015 State of the State Address, Governor Fallin announced a new state website that would identify measurable objectives for state government and track how Oklahoma is doing at reaching these objectives over time. The website looks at 160 metrics in five areas: Healthy Citizens & Strong Families; Safe Citizens & Secure Communities; Educated Citizens & Exemplary Schools; Prosperous Citizens & Thriving Economy; and Effective Services & Accountable Government. For each metric, the site shares a current statistic and a target to reach in the next few years. The site also describes some of what the state is doing to reach that target.

Fallin implied that the metrics would influence state budget decisions, saying, “Our goal is to change the paradigm when it comes to state agency management. Using OkStateStat, Oklahoma will become the first state in the nation to develop a comprehensive budgeting system that ties spending to measurable goals and outcomes.” That change in paradigm is yet to be seen in the Governor’s most recent budget proposal, which she released on the same day. The latest budget continues the pattern set by most previous budgets in her administration — flat funding or small increases to a few state agencies, across the board cuts to everything else.

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Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Oklahoma’s 2015 Legislative session kicks off today with a State of the State address from Governor Mary Fallin. OK Policy and the Together Oklahoma coalition have identified six priorities for the coming session that are practical, politically achievable steps to move Oklahoma toward lasting, broad-based prosperity. Read on for brief summaries of our priorities and links to a fact sheet for each one, or click here for a 2-page summary of the six priorities. If you want to join the campaign to make any of these goals happen for Oklahoma, check here to see how you can get involved.

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Governor Fallin wants to boost educational attainment. President Obama has a new plan to do it.

by | January 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Turner Photography.

Photo by Turner Photography.

Rosie Nelson is a former OK Policy intern and is currently a PhD student at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

In the recent inaugural address for her second term, Governor Fallin said one of her top goals is to boost Oklahoma’s educational attainment. Now a new plan from President Obama provides a great opportunity to advance that goal.

Just after the New Year, President Obama unveiled his America’s College Promise proposal, which would provide a tuition waiver for two years of community college to all students attending at least half-time and maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher. The program is modeled on the Tennessee Promise program, which was launched in 2014.

continue reading Governor Fallin wants to boost educational attainment. President Obama has a new plan to do it.

Higher Education: A sound investment towards Oklahoma’s economic prosperity (Guest Post: Michael Thomas)

by | January 20th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

MichaelThomasMichael Thomas is one of four 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Michael is a Master’s student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at Oklahoma State University. He works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the department of Graduate Studies, Outreach, and Research, focusing on the recruitment and retention of graduate students within the College of Education. He aspires to become a Professor of Higher Education Leadership and Policy.

The vitality of higher education is a fundamental and increasingly important determinant of a nation’s position in the world economy. Oklahoma is no stranger to this concept. In 2008, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education contracted with Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) to analyze the economic contribution of Oklahoma’s higher education system on the state’s economy. Examining current and future contributions of higher education through the development of a single-region, 70-sector Policy Insight Model, REMI demonstrated that by 2048, increased earnings from college graduates will contribute $8.825 billion annually to state disposable income. As a result, economic activity will increase, leading to more economic growth for the region.

continue reading Higher Education: A sound investment towards Oklahoma’s economic prosperity (Guest Post: Michael Thomas)

ABCs of School Finance (Guest Post: Lori Smith)

by | January 12th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (1)

school finance - appleLori Smith is the Chief Financial Officer for Edmond Public Schools. This post is excerpted from an Edmond Public School brochure, “20 Questions (and Answers) about School Finance”.

What is State Aid?

State Aid represents the funds that are appropriated by the State Legislature for school districts, and distributed by the State Department of Education through the “State Aid Formula.” 

State Aid is based primarily on student counts, with allowances made for various student characteristics represented as grade and categorical weights.

State Aid uses the higher of the current or two previous years’ student counts. Thus, if a district’s student count increases, the State Aid is adjusted in the current year. If a district’s student count decreases, the State Aid does not decrease for two years.

The State Aid calculated using these student counts is then reduced for local revenue collections by subtracting “chargeables.”

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