Forty-Sixth Journal Entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

December 14th, 2014

After several months of cancelled meetings or meetings with no actionable items on the agenda, the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission (TLE) met on November 18th with the somewhat strange agenda calling for approval of two new teacher evaluation systems. I say strange because our state schools have been operating under the qualitative assessment criteria of systems they accepted two years previously and are expected to create bench mark data for the quantitative 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations to be fully implemented in the 2015/16 school year. To accept a totally new system at this point is evidence of foolishness to put it mildly. After three hours of presentations and questioning, the commission concluded that it would be the worst possible approach to approve these new systems at this late date. The key to breaking this move by our out-going State Superintendent of Education was the realization by the members that these two programs were actually qualitative approaches that did not address the current problem in teacher quantitative assessment approaches and the Student Learner Outcomes (SLO) and Student Outcome Objectives (SOO). While these were interesting programs, they did not address a large portion of what our laws require for teacher assessment to qualify for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver that was lost this last legislative session.
As I prepare my thoughts for the new legislative session that begins in February and the priority need to focus on our public education programs that have been treated like a “red-headed step-child” by our state leaders, I am hearing conversation that causes me to question the absolute dedication to the idea of meeting a criteria to have a waiver from the mandates of NCLB. A case in point is a presentation by the Oklahoma Assistant Superintendent of Education for Special Education at a recent Oklahoma School Advisory Council meeting at Wilburton High School. In this presentation, approximately 20 local school district superintendents were told that we are testing our Special Education Students through the same assessments or tests that our regular or mainstreamed students are being administered. This is done as a means of qualifying for the so-called waiver. In other words, the waiver seems to come at the expense of those students with low or limited cognitive skills as measured by their IQ scores. Is the waiver from NCLB really worth this ill-advised student academic assessment approach? Maybe it is time to re-think this approach to our schools’ assessment strategies.
As legislators, we are often reminded that we grow business by having tax policies that are “business friendly.” I would add to that mind-set that we grow business when the consuming citizens of the state are able to purchase those items that the businesses are producing or making available for purchase at a competitive price. Based on this month’s report by State Treasurer Ken Miller, the following tax revenue sources increased annually by the following percentages: gross production from oil and natural gas rose by 14.6 percent; personal income tax revenue increased 1.9 percent; sales tax by 6.3 percent; motor vehicle taxes was up 13.8 percent; while other tax revenues including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse racing, gambling and alcoholic beverages, increased by 6.7 percent. However, those corporations that contributed to business activities benefited by a total percentage decrease in tax revenue by an impressive 48 percent or nearly half of what they paid in 2013. I suppose, while the other sources increased in paying taxes, the corporations which benefited from this increase in business growth was blessed with a tax policy that gave them blessings from two different directions.
A brief snapshot of the election results relative to the newly elected members of the state House of Representatives includes the fact that, while education appears to be the number one issue in possible legislation and problem solving, only one out of the twenty-two elected is from the field of education. This indicates a direction that will determine future state tax policies for our public schools. Education may continue to be the proverbial red-headed step child standing in the corner of the room. The election results and tax policy can very well be connected to the fact that the masses of voters stayed home while the minority placed a large segment of the governing body into office that have vested interests in business. In years past, out of 22 new House members, there would have been a majority of the newly elected coming from the field of education.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

45th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

December 3rd, 2014

As we begin focusing on the 1st Session of the 55th Legislature, there are many issues that will draw our attention and cause an intense effort to be made to attempt to solve problems that may have been made by the previous legislative and/or executive actions. First, I would ask you to recall a Journal where I expressed concerns when our House and Senate leaders, in conjunction with the Governor’s office, attempted to comply with the state’s constitutional mandate of achieving a “balanced budget” after each session. The problem that some of us recognized was that we were asked to transfer funds from one agency to another resulting in allocated funds being used for purposes other than what was originally assigned. A case in point is taking $5.5 million from the Workers’ Compensation Commission fund and $5 million from a trauma care fund to be used for unrelated purposes. These actions violated the Constitutional stipulation that a tax raised for one purpose cannot be used for another. This raiding of one agency’s revenue to cover funding for another has been a practice that has gone unchallenged, at least since I have been a legislator. I appreciate the Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, for responding to those in the legislature calling for action against this violation of our state Constitution. This was preceded by the legislature reducing funding for Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) scholarships by $7.9 million in the general appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015. This program is critical for our students leaving secondary schools and entering college with these funds being available based on their meeting specific academic requirements. It is interesting to have our Governor, who had signed off on these illegal moves, to say that “she and her staff will have a discussion with legislators about how to proceed in light of the AG opinion.” Does that mean she is going to try to find another way of taking revenue from one needed area and assigning it to another to meet the balanced budget mandate? Perhaps the discussion should be on the issue of maintaining an atmosphere of integrity in government actions and policies.
The State Supreme Court has announced that House Joint Resolution 1033 is scheduled for a hearing before an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee on December 2 of this year. As discussed in Journal 44, Attorney Jerry Fent is committed to provide transparency in the state’s repeated attempts to circumvent its Constitution stipulation on how the state can borrow money while claiming to have an annual balanced budget. Since the Governor, Attorney General, and House and Senate seem to be indifferent to this stipulated guideline, I am hopeful that the State Supreme Court will have sufficient integrity to rule based on existing law.
Leaving those points of controversy, let us look at the issue of health care for our local citizens. First, let me share some of the report by Haskell County’s Hospital Director, Don Buchanan, at November’s Stigler Chamber of Commerce meeting. The economic impact of this facility is seen in its having 71 full time co-workers with a total payroll last year of $2.5 million. The hospital served 739 acute or serious illness patients last year and 2,323 patients received what is classified as “swing bed” or treatment and/or observation needs of the patient. We were told that several area hospitals are struggling to meet new guidelines and that Haskell County Hospital was focused on meeting these by addressing the more diverse needs of patients in our area. This report was presented within the context of news reports that the nation and state are in the early stages of the new sign-up period for the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is being reported that there is a significant increase in the individual participation in this health care program. However, we are hearing that the newly empowered majority in the U.S. House and Senate is planning on removing this program once their new majority can be sworn in and enough votes put together to remove this ACA option for the citizens of the state and nation. Stay tuned because the “rest of the story” will soon be arriving.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to you by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

44th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

November 26th, 2014

As the 54th Legislature comes to a close and we focus on our responsibilities to adjust our legislative agenda to match the economic reality of our state and the political horizon, let us consider some issues that demand our focus. First, State Treasurer, Ken Miller is challenging his fellow Republican state leaders concerning their attempts to lay the foundation to move our budget to a two-year process. He bases this on his observations that our state revenues are too volatile to allow for realistic two-year budgeting since revenue growth and contractions are tied to the energy boom-bust cycle. He is opposed by those who are attempting to use this volatile growth as an excuse to cut taxes and thereby reduce available revenue for needed services. My eight years of experience in the legislature causes me to have concern in our current budgeting process which has been done behind closed doors with only those representing the Governor, House, and Senate leadership. They have exclusive control of the budget analysis and the results of this process are submitted to the full legislature in the final hours of the Session with virtually no amending process available. Perhaps a lengthy budget analysis process connected to submitting a two year budget would force more diverse input into this if we had a “budget only session.”
Secondly, we have been informed that thirty state agency directors were given raises of at least $10,000 last year and 16 of them received double that amount in raises. One even received a 58.5 percent raise and another 30 percent increase which brought their salaries well above $100,000 annually. In an oblique form of justification, we read that the House Speaker indicated that some agency directors may need to be adjusted to keep or attract the type of leaders we want in Oklahoma. What about our schools being funded at the 2008 level with annual increases in state mandated responsibilities in assessment and accountability? Another interesting contradiction that these raises bring to our attention is that the state has released data that documents the fact that we have 250,000 youth that are living in an environment of poverty in our state. How does one live with the fact that his/her salary increased to $100,000 dollars annually when this many of our youth are struggling to have food and shelter needed for a human being to survive.
Another approach to the budget is being considered by the State Supreme Court with Attorney Jerry Fent filing a lawsuit to determine if, according to the state Constitution, what constitutes a “raise” in state taxes based on “triggers” of revenue levels. He contends that this would require a mandatory three-fourths majority vote since the law in question addresses “decreases” in taxes. Fent holds that the law merely addresses revenue bills whether they are in the form of language that either raises or decreases state revenue. This law came in the form of Senate Bill 1246 calling for the gradual reduction in the state top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 and following this there will be a second revenue based trigger to reduce the top marginal personal income tax rate to 4.85 percent. Fent’s first argument against this bill is that the state Constitution requires that such a bill originate in the House of Representatives rather than the Senate. The first cut is set for the 2016 tax year if the general revenue is greater in that year than that of 2014. Given the fact that SB 1246 failed to receive a three-fourths majority is unconstitutional. The fact that the Court has agreed to hear Fent’s case indicates the possibility, if not probability, of an affirmative decision. Such a decision could have a major impact on the way the legislature does budgeting.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

43rd Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

November 20th, 2014

It was an honor to be sworn in as a member of the 55th Legislature on the 18th of November to continue representing citizens of District 15. The House Democrat caucus has maintained their numbers, 29 out of 101. We have new members who will add new perspectives to our various working groups. As in the past, as a member of the minority political party, it becomes absolutely necessary to maintain and build working relationships with those of the majority party in the House. I have already been working on this by meeting with those members who have shown an interest in correcting some of the ill-advised policies of previous legislative actions and State Department of Education policies.
As we begin to bring our focus on the beginning of the 55th Legislature, I will be spending time meeting with groups within the District to determine what issues will require legislative action to bring about needed change. An example of this was a meeting with Eastern State College President, Dr. Steve Smith, and his administrative staff. Legislators present were reminded again of the financial challenges that our community colleges face with a continued flat budget from the state, while the cost of providing competitive programs to address the current trend in declining enrollment continues to increase. Another problem area is that colleges are providing concurrent enrollment opportunities to our high school students who receive both public school and higher education credits, but the college receives only 72 percent of what would be the normal cost for course offerings to college students. This seems to be a state created problem in meeting an increased demand by high school students who enroll in college course work during their high school senior year. Another area that I hope to have discussed in the next session is the fact that the mandated high school End of Instruction testing does not correlate to the ACT, which then requires that a high percentage of new college enrollees are required to take 0 level or non-credit course work during their first two years of college. I am confident that we will be able to address these and other critical areas during the legislative session beginning in February 2015.
As I have reported in the past, educators are facing a December deadline for providing a base-line-data system for the entire “quantifiable” 50 percent assessment of teachers and other certified school personnel, including the site administrator or principal. A recommendation for this was to be submitted to the State Board of Education by the Teacher/leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission, but this has not been achieved. This was to be based on “student academic achievement” related to the teacher’s area of academic responsibility. There are training sessions occurring across the state, but at this time it appears to be creating total confusion for both those presenting and receiving this training. A case in point would be in the area of how do school sites and districts come up with an enforceable evaluation system for those under state mandated testing as compared to those teachers with subject areas outside of this area. There are three categories in this student academic performance area which makes up 35 percent of teacher’s evaluation.
I realize that I have addressed these at previous times in my writing, but they are now becoming a serious reality where as in the past it was believed that they would go away like they did in other states. Documenting this crisis is that the discrepancies between the assessments for those teachers in subject areas under state mandated testing or Value Added Method (VAM) and those with subject areas outside of state mandated testing known as “Student Learner Outcomes” or SLO and thirdly those certified school personnel identified and assessed under the title of Student Outcome Objectives or SOO. This last group includes school nurses, counselors, speech language pathologists or librarians. Those conducting the OSDE training are claiming that the SLO and SOO groups will be evaluated in the same manner. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen since the VAM and SLO teachers are employed under identical contracts while the SOO are not under the same contract language.
It is time to learn from our neighbor from the north, Missouri, who placed this question on the ballot for the November election. This called for their State Department of Education to create an evaluation document with its majority being based upon quantifiable student performance data as measured by objective criteria. The citizens of Missouri considered this proposed law and voted against it by an overwhelming majority of 76 percent. It is time Oklahoma regain their common sense and reject our ill-advised method of behind closed door assessment manipulation and put this to a vote of its citizens.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

42nd Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

November 13th, 2014

As a U.S. Army veteran and having served in the 25th Infantry Division from 1959 to 1962, I was honored to speak at the annual Veterans Day event in Stigler. My talk was focused on the contribution made by those who have and are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces as a means of preserving democracy which our citizens often take for granted but fail to participate in the process of selecting our leaders. Evidence of this is found in the voter statistics in our state. First, there are 2.3 million Oklahoma citizens who are eligible to vote. In the November 4th election this year only 800,000 actually voted. That means that only 34 percent of those registered went to the polls, leaving 66 percent who chose not to go vote. Wow!! Then this embarrassing fact is swept under the proverbial rug with the meaningless statement to a veteran “thank you for your service.” My response is “I and others have or are serving so that you could cast your vote and I must ask: is this service in vain? Arnold Hamilton captures this thought in his Guest COLUMN in The Journal Record when he describes our state as a military hub. However, he concludes the following: “How can we look our uniformed personnel and veterans in the eye and tell them we don’t care enough to exercise a sacred right that they defend with their lives.”
As this Journal will be published in the third week of November, it should contain information from the October’s Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission (TLE) meeting. However, the State Department of Education leadership notified all members that this meeting was cancelled. That is disturbing in that we were scheduled to hear results from the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) focus group studies on proposals for the TLE to consider making formal proposals to the State Board of Education for their November meeting. The Board is under the gun to make decisions on the 35 percent of the Teacher Evaluation during their November meeting. Page 20 of the TLE Update: Step Back 10,000-foot Review by former Assistant State Superintendent, Dr. Kerri White, presented to the Commission in August of this year the following: “The intention of the OSDE is to compile any recommendations for the TLE System by November in order to provide ample time for public feedback prior to the legislative session and final semester of the pilot process.”
How can the Board make this mandated recommendation without the required input from the Commission? Was Dr. White just kidding with the above documented mandate? Why did the critical October Commission meeting get canceled? Perhaps, deadlines are not applicable to the OSDE!! However, our schools are being held accountable for creating the baseline data for the 50 percent quantifiable portion of the teacher evaluation during the 2014/15 school year. How can they do this when the Commission and the State Board has failed to identify the Student Learner Outcomes (SLO) as mandated by SB 2033 and HB 456? What will our school administrators use for data in this portion of Student Academic Growth without this decision being made by the Board? My next Journal debate will describe how our neighboring state, Missouri resolved this problem—stay tuned.
The last interim study that I participated in was focused on how we effectively prepare our students for a smooth transition into college and career productive participation. This was conducted in joint meeting of the Higher Education/Career Tech and Common Education. The presentations were coordinated by the Cooperative Council of School Administrators (CCOSA) and the first focus was on Oklahoma’s historical connection with the ACT assessment programs. This material was presented by Dr. Sonoble, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. He documented our involvement with this assessment form going back as far as 1959 with an intense focus on measuring and predicting future success of students taking this series of tests. The program currently has expanded from the 8th grade Explore, 10th grade Plan and 11th grade ACT to the ACT ASPIRE which provides assessment tools from the 3rd grade through 12th. It is well documented that the ACT is the only agency that can give data based on predictability of academic success for our students. We are presently spending millions of state dollars on tests that do not correlated or predict futures success potential of our students. The committee heard testimony that we should never accept any one assessment tool as a means of determining the status of a high school graduate’s placement in high education. It was recommended that we use Grade Point Average and Class Rank in combination with the ACT results.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday