This Journal will be focused on educational issues that will be facing our schools in the next two years as the result of Senate Bill 706 authored by Senator Ford, R-Bartlesville and passed during the last legislative session. This legislation requires that the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission, of which I’m a member, provide recommendations to the State Board of Education concerning the Quantifiable 50% of teachers’ evaluation no later than December 1, 2015. By “Quantifiable” the legislation is referring to the teachers’ impact on their students’ “academic performance or progress.” While the Commission has worked on this in the last two years it’s been decided that we must start over and create a separate evaluation category rather than combining this with the 50% Qualitative Teacher Assessment that’s been operational for the last two years.
In our August meeting, under the leadership of State Superintendent Hofmeister, we were introduced to seven different categories for a new quantifiable teacher assessment format. Before I summarize these, I’d like to make the point that an operational definition of “quantifiable” should be agreed upon by the Commission to insure that what we propose meets the specifics which the law requires. This becomes a bit of a problem because Senate Bill 706 does not provide such a definition. Within this context I’m listing below the seven categories which the Commission is being asked to consider.
(1) Student Learning Objectives (SLO) are those goals that are formulated and documented in a form that can be communicated to the student enrolled in a specific class. In this form, the student would be assessed in pre and post assessments as to their level of mastery of the course criteria. The difference between these two relates to the teacher’s impact on such growth. (2) Requiring each teacher to formulate a “Teacher Portfolio” made up of work samples that’s used in teaching his/her specific classes. This would be difficult to measure the direct impact on student learning. (3) Keeping the currently used diagnostic tools that show student progress with a quantitative component in compliance with state mandated Reading Sufficiency Act. These were presented as “Benchmark Tests” such as standardized end-of-course and/or formative assessments. (4) Other assessments including standardized end-of-course exams, formative assessments and teacher made tests. This category can be similar to the SLO category. (5) Using the guidelines of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also called No Child Left Behind to measure the performance of groups of teachers, the entire school site, grade levels, etc. (6) Having several schools field test a “Student/Parent Survey” as a means of measuring the teacher’s impact of student learning. This created the greatest level of controversy based on the question of whether a survey is even a quantifiable tool. (7) The “Value-Added Model (VAM) which would be based on all state mandated testing. This is problematic in that over 70% of teachers aren’t teaching in these subject areas and to have 50% of their evaluation be based on course material that they don’t teach will no doubt result in a lawsuit. Which of these will be part of your school’s 2016-2017 TLE evaluation for data collection and then used for the purpose of employment decisions in the 2017-2018? That will depend on the focus brought to bear between now and December 1, 2015. It’s my recommendation that as tax payers, parents, local school board members, school administrators, and teachers that you must participate in this dialogue or rue the day that aspects of this are implemented in a manner that may impact you in various and diverse negative ways.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent by email each week or want to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, (918) 448- 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at (800) 522- 8502 or (405) 557- 7375 and fax (405) 962- 7624.
Through the years, I have become more aware of the dangers of our state government disregarding the autonomy of our local county and municipal governments. As a former high school government teacher, I am aware that no level of government in our nation is completely independent or autonomous. However, during the session just completed in the state legislature, I have seen a movement to reduce the local governments’ authority to deal with the following issues: minimum wages; the regulation of vacant and abandoned property; and petroleum drilling operations. Traditionally, our government textbooks described a political line from left to right with the former resisting local control and the other wanting increased local authority. This in turn was correlated to political party positions where the Republicans would be on the right and the Democrats on the left. If I were teaching this today, I would point out that in Oklahoma, the students would be required to question the legitimacy of this approach and analysis. In reality, we find the Democrats filing legislation and fighting for local control while the majority party, Republicans, have been successful in placing state interests above and at the expense of local government authority. We would have to ask if local governments are merely creatures of the state. While we can find some support for this theoretical principle in our Constitution where the legislature with the approval of the Governor and the State Courts have procedural authority over the governments at the county and municipal level, this 1st Session of the 55th Legislature raised issues in the form of legislation which caused the Attorney General to address this issue as to its actual applicability to our Constitution.
It is within this context that I present my “winners and losers” portion of this Journal reflecting on actions taken by your state government this session. This relates to the legislative passage and rapid signing by the Governor of HB 1749 by Rep. Newell, R-Seminole. This bill made it “unlawful for any state agency (such as a local school district) to make payroll deductions on behalf of a state employee for membership dues in any public employee association or organization or professional organization (OEA and AFT) that on or after November 1, 2015, collectively bargains on behalf of its membership pursuant to any provision of federal law.” Emphasis in the parenthesis is mine, not in the language of the law. The language of this bill implies a lack of knowledge on the author’s part and those advising him because of two basic facts. First, if there is an agreed upon negotiation between a local affiliate of one of these groups, it comes under state legal scrutiny, not federal. Secondly, there are no negotiations between the state and the leadership of these teacher groups in any specific school district. So, let’s see—who are the losers resulting from this legislation? All the tax payers of the state will be in that this is being taken to court and will be dismissed summarily as unenforceable because we will be obligated to pay the winners: the lawyers fighting for and against this redundant issue in the courts. The best solution is for our State Attorney General to rule this to be unenforceable or “moot” and therefore unconstitutional based on our Oklahoma Constitution.
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 email@example.com, 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
Having recently participated in this year’s National Academy for Civics and Government with 24 educators from 20 different states, I have arrived at a conclusion concerning how other states have been attempting to evaluate their state’s teachers based on student academic progress or growth. While this was not the purpose of the Academy, I used this opportunity to question these teachers concerning their experience in this area. Uniformly, they all stated that their state had attempted to arrive at this goal but failed to resolve the issue of insuring equity among the teachers. When the states realized they hadn’t reached this goal, each state that the educators were from came to the same conclusion, which was not to pursue this type of teacher evaluation in light of the potential of drastic financial lawsuits that would occur. In addition these teachers from across this nation shared with me that their state, like Oklahoma, has a major crisis in education that may be related to all this hoopla about the state attempting to document the degree of teacher effectiveness based on student performance on some standardized format. This crisis is that college students are selecting other career fields to pursue. A case in point to this is that State Supt. Hofmeister reports that we are short over 1000 teachers in Oklahoma. Some may attempt to marginalize this by saying that this is a small percentage that can be covered by non-certified staff or larger classes. However, the person saying this probably does not have a child in one of those oversized or understaffed classes.
While Oklahoma’s being 48th in the nation in teacher salaries contributes to this problem, there is evidence that there is even more to the problem than that issue. Recently, the New York Times published an article which indicates that teacher shortage appears to be a national problem. “Across the country, districts are struggling with shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science and special education—a result of the layoffs of the recession years combined with an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers.” They go on to explain that there is an increasing number of non-English speaking students entering our schools at a time when it is increasingly difficult to find bilingual teachers. As a result schools are forced to expand the range of their search to fill this newly expanded need. An example of this is that we find that school representatives from the Oklahoma City school district have traveled to Puerto Rico and Spain on their hunt for teachers. This brings back memories of when I graduated from college in 1969 and the Tulsa World published an article titled “The Salary Dilemma: Moonlight or Missiles” with pictures of myself and three other education graduates who were leaving the state for almost twice the salary that was offered in Oklahoma. At that time other articles were written describing what was referred to as the “Oklahoma Brain Drain.” Now we find some 45 plus years later the problem has become worse in that it is now reached beyond the borders of our state and is impacting the entire nation.
I share this with my Journal readers since this will be the focus of the next Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission meeting that is scheduled on August 20th. As a member of this Commission, I am aware that legislation was passed this last year which requires that we make a formal recommendation to the State Board of Education as to what they should require our school districts to use in their teachers’ “quantifiable” evaluation.
Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, firstname.lastname@example.org, 918 448 5702. Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.
As the budget became finalized for the Fiscal Year 2016, we’re informed that the revenue available to fund core services in our state is $7.138 billion, which closely compares to the $7.124 billion allocated on July 1, 2008. The total gross revenue available to the state treasury which includes local sales and use taxes is at an all-time high. While I don’t have a keen statistical insight into the fiscal operation of our state, it’s a bit concerning that 7 years after the nation’s economy was well into the final stage of our last recession, our state budget has stalled there. Except for the current drop in the petroleum market value, our state economy is robust by most analysis that’s available. If that’s the case, why did we struggle to fill a $611 million budget gap this year? With Republicans in control of all levels of state government, you would believe that the answer must be that there is an economic crisis comparable to what took place nationally 7 or 8 years ago. That isn’t the case. What we find is that there have been major increases in spending in areas such as Human Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services along with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority which administers our state’s Medicaid program—Sooner Care. Together these currently receive about $380 million more appropriated funds that they did in 2009.
Unfortunately, that’s only part of the picture. The Department of Human Services (DHS) received $11.8 million less in state appropriations this year than last. Cost overruns in DHS’s foster-care and adoption programs have added to the agency’s budget from the state and federal funding. With the current budget, the agency will be spending $45.2 million in the next year. DHS is the largest state agency; administering 40 programs including food stamps, child support, child-care oversight, adult protective services, and aging and disability services. Employees who are being released are encouraged to apply for jobs in those programs mentioned above that are being expanded based on increased service demands.
This issue of reprioritizing services is very complex and difficult to explain. One aspect of the issue is tied to the success of our economy. As our economy has grown, the amount of federal funding assistance has been decreased. What makes this a bit of problem is that as our economy has expanded, so has the number of those citizens in our state that are seeking assistance. This is evidenced in the fact that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority serves over 1 million of our citizens. While our population has increased by 160,000 since 2009, that should mean an increase in tax revenues for the legislature, but we find that it’s not a direct line of increased revenue for the state because many of these increases are drawing services from our state agencies while contributing little or nothing to the economy. Some in the legislature would argue that we must restrict the availability of these services while others claim that our problem rests in the fact that we exempt too many business groups from contributing their fair share to the state’s revenue. This is done through tax exemptions which are often passed on to other extensions of their business organization. As a result, we allow them to be exempt from paying their fair share while they merely pass the tax break on to areas that may very well not contribute to the growth of employment or economic expansion. It’s in this area that I hope that the Speaker’s proposed interim studies to assess how effective our tax exemption policy is may provide answers to this question. Whether it be providing services or exemption from tax responsibilities, we must be willing to set priorities with the assumption that this will insure those needing assistance and those providing economic growth in jobs and production will be given serious consideration.
Contact info: email at email@example.com, mobile: 918 448 5702, Legislative Assistant Connie Riley at 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375.
As we spend more time studying the budget that was passed after a late night scare to the House leaders when it received a 47 yes 48 no vote that was overcome with some behind-closed-door negotiations, we see that while most state agencies took a 7.5% cut, the Department of Corrections received a $14 million budget increase. DOC Director, Robert Patton states that “this will be used to hire more staff, add more beds for a growing inmate population, make repairs and pay for expected increases in utility bills.” Patton also expressed appreciation for legislation giving judges more discretion in the sentencing of nonviolent offenders. On the other side of the coin, he is concerned that Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation for men and the highest for women. He indicated that the high population levels in facilities with poor prison conditions could lead to federal government intervention. However, sources seem to indicate that the private prison system which receives an increasing number of inmates every year produces twice the number of inmate complaints than those in state facilities. This may be the result of their ability to “cut costs” at the expense of appropriate care for their inmates.
Director Patton is also asking policy makers to take their focus away from the traditional concept that “locking people away is the answer to criminal justice. That has produced a prison population that’s 112% of capacity, with 27,500 men and women in DOC custody as of May 2015.” Based on these figures, he states that this represents an increase of 1,200 over one year ago with a comparable increase anticipated in 2016. The solution to this may rest in the new legislative effort known as the Justice Safety Valve Act which could divert certain offenders to mental health or drug abuse programs. This is based on the belief that this will save money and possibly give offenders a better chance to change their life styles into a more productive citizenry.
Now to bring these issues to District 15 concerns. In order to deal with its own budget issues, DOC began pulling state inmates out of county jails across the state. In the past, most of those inmates, at a taxpayer cost of about $27 daily, were typically held in county facilities because they haven’t yet been sentenced but not yet placed in state custody. During this time, the County is responsible for health care of its inmates until they are placed in state or out-of-state institutions. This change brought about a financial crises for the local county jails with empty jail cells and large holes in local budgets. The entire issue of DOC budgeting has been a real concern for County Commissioners because of the lack of predictability of revenue sources based on DOC’s decision making. How do county commissioners continue providing facilities at standards required by DOC and then for that very same agency to fail to comply with their part of the agreement for prisoners to be housed in local facilities? With the increase in this session’s DOC budget, it would seem logical that Speaker Hickman will have interim studies which will bring a greater focus on DOC not assigning inmates to county facilities that meet delegated standards and sending these inmates to private facilities at almost twice the cost.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week please contact me at the address below. Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, firstname.lastname@example.org, 918 448 5702. Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley: 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375. Fax 405 962 7624