Leader of “Restore Oklahoma Public Education” (ROPE) assails boost in funding for early childhood education

July 28, 2011


To The Editor: 

In response to the Capitol Beat OK article “Barresi, Board of Education approves portions of common education budget on the Oklahoma State Department of Education FY 2011-12 budget”, ROPE is floored that our new Superintendent would remove the stipend for teachers with National Certification, but funnel $10 MILLION from the budget into early learning opportunities.

National Board Certified teachers have to go well above and beyond their required work at the state or collegiate level to attain this certification. Final competencies for teachers undergoing this rigorous certification come from peers after a thorough review process. This does not parallel the certification process for Oklahoma classroom teachers who are certified after completing an education degree (not a degree in the subject to be taught) and passing three competency tests. 

It is a huge disappointment to remove the incentive for teachers to attempt this more rigorous certification. Especially since OCU requires only 19 hours of biology to get a teaching degree in Biology and only 37 hours of Chemistry to get a teaching degree in Chemistry. Any additional work teachers attempt toward making them better able to produce learned students should certainly be lauded.

This disappointment comes into stark relief when realizing that 100 million dollars will be spent on programs for pre-K.

Over the years, researchers have argued about the value of prekindergarten programs – especially those implemented with state or federal tax dollars. However, more research is coming to light indicating that pre-K programming is a failure, over all.
 
Darcy Ann Olsen of the Cato Institute wrote in her paper, “Universal Preschool is no golden ticket: Why government should not enter the preschool business,” the following: “Public preschool for younger children is irresponsible, given the failure of the public school system to educate the children currently enrolled. The desire to "do something" for young children should be tempered by the facts and proposals for universal preschool should be rejected.”

As an example, the federal government contracted a large study of the Head Start program in 1998 only to squelch findings until last year, ostensibly because results indicated zero long term benefits from the publicly funded program begun by LBJ in 1965. Head Start, as well as the first federal funding of education (dubbed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA), were begun in 1965 during President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, based on the incorrect assumption that poverty causes illiteracy.
 
Preschool was begun in Oklahoma in 1998. In 2009, Lindsay Burke of the Heritage Foundation assessed a number of studies done on Oklahoma pre-K and concluded the following, “The experiences in Georgia and Oklahoma suggest that a federal program to encourage states to offer universal preschool would be costly and ineffective in delivering the significant, long-term benefits that its supporters promise.”
 
Beyond the studies, however, is what we believe to be a real conflict of interest on the part of the Oklahoma State Board of Education.  Phil Lakin is the newest member of the OBOE. Mr. Lakin’s profile on the State DOE website says the following, “Phil serves as a director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Tulsa Beautification Foundation, and Tulsa Educare.”

Just last month (June) George Kaiser of the George Kaiser Family Foundation joined with the Obama administration in announcing a new Race to the Top contest.
 
Wouldn’t EduCare stand to gain some of the 100 million budgeted?  It does seem that a board member presiding over millions of dollars of TAX PAYER money might want to see his organization benefit from such largesse. The close connection certainly raises the question of conflict of interest.

Just this month ROPE completed a large body of research including, among other things, relevant history of public education in America.
 
We found the “father” of universal preschool to be none other than Dr. John Dewey, a neo-Marxist and the Father of Progressive Education. Dewey, who witnessed the socio-economic upheaval of the American Industrial Revolution first hand, came to the conclusion that (particularly) urban families were ill-equipped to raise their children in the manner they should be raised. Therefore, the school should be all things to all children and supplant the family as the center of existence.  Perhaps Mr. Lakin and our new Superintendent do not know this critical bit of history.  

Americans have the opportunity and freedom to express Marxist thought and/or ideals, but this may not be done from a state-run institution with taxpayer funds. This, coupled with studies which show no lasting educational value to Pre- K programs, leads use to urge withdrawal of funds to Pre-K and restoration of stipends to National Certified teachers. 

Sincerely,

Jenni White

Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE)

Jenni White

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