35th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

September 25th, 2014

            I am often amazed at statements made by our state leaders when they seem to ignore the focus and direction of legislation that was recently passed into law.  As recorded, a few Representatives and Senators voted against HB 3399 which proclaimed that all education standards shall singularly be Oklahoma in origin and all influences from outside the state shall be ignored and rejected. Janet Barresi, our State Supt. of Education, is currently stating that our students’ standing as measured by a nationally based group, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is “yet another indicator that Oklahoma’s public education system is in dire trouble.”  While we may disregard her statement as that of a “sore loser,” it is a fact that our state leaders have annually measured our schools success or failure by this assessment form with a very limited scope of students involved in its measurement.  It is equally strange that our State Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, joined Janet Barresi in the false condemnation of our public schools in Oklahoma.  When will our government leaders act rationally and make statements that reflect the position of the current legislature in power which has rejected any exterior or non-Oklahoma assessments or standards of our state’s educational efforts?   Did I say “rational?” That may have been an error in my perception of today’s political reality. 

            The irrationality seems to be on the move as our State Department of Education (SDE) has released our schools’ A-F classification, even though they have no bearing on identifying or classifying a school’s status as to needing improvement.  When Oklahoma lost the No Child Left Behind Waiver, the classification process goes back to the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status which is based on a 0-1500 point scale.   Why then does the SDE release these A-F school scores?  This is even more problematic in light of our two Division One Universities’ (OU and OSU) education research department having documented that the A-F assessment is flawed and does not reflect the true educational progress of a school.  So why is the flawed data being published?  The answer may be that both NAEP and A-F is a distraction to cause the citizens of the state to become despondent and disillusioned concerning our public schools and look to alternatives such as charter, virtual charter, on-line for profit virtual academies.  The tip of the ice burg has become very visible during the past 3 ½ years of the Fallin/Baressi Administration.   

            Along that line of thought, I was amazed that our Governor recently justified her refusal to accept the expansion of Medicaid that would have helped thousands of low income Oklahoma workers provide their families with health care at a reasonable cost.  Governor Fallin explained that if we took this federal program we would eventually have to cut our funding for education programs but, at the very same time, she is pushing to cut state revenue by reducing the state income tax rates and expand tax cut incentives to businesses without any requirement for its resulting in increased employment or lowering production costs.  If this were part of the plan, it would provide a means of reducing the cost of living for Oklahoma consumers.   Well, it appears that our neighbors in Kansas are also experiencing the “tax cut crunch” as their Governor, Sam Brownback, initiated a tax cut policy matched with cuts in funding of services.  This turned out to be opposite of what he and his followers promised with their tax cut plan.  Now it appears that those placing this plan into law are losing ground in their 2014 re-election bid.  In fact, this week’s Meet the Press report indicated that recent polls show that voters in Kansas are responding to the cuts in state services as a result of cuts in state taxes.  This may be a similar pattern that could happen in the 2014 elections in Oklahoma.  I will have more on this in my next Journal.   

           

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

 

34th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

September 18th, 2014

            The word we are receiving from our State Finance Secretary, Preston Doerflinger, is that the legislature will be asked to consider converting our budget assessment to a “performance-based analysis.”  In other words each state agency will approach the House or Senate Budget and Revenue Committee with budget proposals that are based on the extent to which they achieved specified goals identified in the previous year’s budget.  The first concern I have is that this Committee lacks members with the needed level of expertise in each state agency functions.  Let’s take public education for example, where the House Budget and Revenue Committee members would be dependent on the agency to quantify the level of achievement accomplished by the Oklahoma Department of Education and all its districts throughout the state.  If we are to consider this, we would have to go back to the system where the actual budget would first be analyzed by a specific sub-committee made up of members with actual knowledge in the fiscal operation of the agency in question.  An example would be the House Education-Appropriations and Budget Sub-committee.  As a member of that committee I can see the benefit of this focus that has been done away with during the last six years.  It will be a natural reaction by the “let’s shrink government’ coalition in the legislature that this is expanding government and dispersing fiscal authority away from the select few leaders that lack knowledge in the agencies  but are very adept at holding on to their current powerful positions of authority. 

            Along a similar line of thought, we might review the efforts by Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, to bring about reform and accountability of the state’s run-away system of tax credits or breaks.  If we move to performance based budgeting, will we take on the business groups and chambers of commerce that we have seen mobilized to protect their favorite tax breaks.  They were successful in killing legislation coming before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee that would create a moratorium on more than twenty-four tax credits and a bill that would end the transferability of tax credits.  If we are going to look at performance based requirements on the budget, this will be the place to start.  Let’s consider legislation that will require a high positive correlation to every dollar of tax breaks or fiscal incentives to increase performance by any company or entity being considered for these financial rewards given by the State.  If we will do this, we can very well move in the direction of Mr. Doerflinger’s proposal for agency budget analysis.  If we do not, we will merely be playing a game of deception by holding state agencies accountable for their state revenue while ignoring private recipients of tax breaks for being responsible for meeting the reasons for their receiving these gifts from the state tax payers. 

            Our public schools are experiencing a continued series of deception coming from the State Dept. of Education (SDE). In the last two weeks they were informed that the SDE would be releasing their A-F grade at the very time that the U.S. Dept. of Education has informed everyone that our school will be evaluated under the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)   My question is how will a school be classified as a “ Priority” or “Focus” school if there is a discrepancy between its A-F and AYP scores?  It appears that our State Supt. of Education has lost control or is directing as much dysfunction as possible between now and January.  Additional evidence of this is seen in the SDE indicating that they will be holding back Title I “set aside revenue” even though the new rules issued by USDE has stated that this will not take place until the 2015/16 school year.  The following is the exact quote from the instructions from USDE.  “I expect Oklahoma….to resume compliance with the specific requirements regarding SES (supplemental educational services) and public school choice no later than the start of the 2015-2016 school year.”

           

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

                     

 

33rd Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

September 12th, 2014

            Our state public schools are attempting to adjust to the reality of legislation passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor during the last legislative session.  The key legislation was HB 3399 which resulted in our state’s loss of the three year waiver of the No Child Left Behind federal mandates.  While this is placing schools in a state of chaos due to their spending three years preparing for new academic standards under the waiver, now they are waiting for the Oklahoma State Department of Education to identify how they are to proceed and avoid having their local schools taken over by the state or federal government.  At the same time our State Board of Education is attempting to formulate committees with various levels of authority to take us to the legislatively mandated Oklahoma Academic Standards so that we can feel secure that no outside entity or organization will have any influence on what our students will be required to learn or master in their public school experience.  This isolationist approach reminds me a bit of our nation’s approach to international affairs in the early 1900’s which subsequently resulted in our involvement in two world wars and years of what was classified as the cold war period. 

            Moving back into the current educational realm of state politics, we find ourselves in a state of confusion as we approach a deadline period of forming the precise format for teacher and principal evaluation as mandated by SB 2033 passed in 2010 and modified by SB 426 in 2013.  I am referring to the deadline of the 2014/15 school year for  all school districts to use Student Learner Outcomes (SLO) and Other Academic Measurement (OAM) to provide the baseline data for final Teacher/Leader Evaluation (TLE) that must be operational in the 2015/16 school year.  In other words, this year will be crunch time for our state to implement not only the 15 percent OAMs but the 35 percent SLOs.  This latter portion of the 50 percent Quantitative portion of teacher/principal evaluation is currently a work in progress with the TLE Commission’s deadline looming over it in November of this year.   Two months from now.  So what will our solution be for the 35 percent of the evaluation that is based on student academic performance?  We have already worked on a method for the estimated 20 percent of those teaching in areas of state mandated testing which is addressed in a Value Added Method (VAM).  However we have not addressed in any serious measures those estimated 80 percent of teachers that will be accountable for student academic performance outside of the state mandated testing subjects and courses.  The TLE Commission has had no actionable items on their agenda since our meeting in May and it is anticipated that we will not have any until November of this year. 

            However, all district school superintendents in the state received an email from Dr. Jenyfer Glisson, Executive Director of TLE, which asked them to participate in forming 10 regional Focus Groups “to provide feedback on the implementation of Oklahoma’s TLE system that evaluates the performance of teachers and principals.” This email also recommended that each district superintendent “nominate one teacher and one administrator to participate in this half-day project.”   This process of gathering and classifying information on the TLE will be conducted by an Atlanta, GA based group known as the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).  They will be conducting the interviews and no Oklahoma Department of Education personnel will be involved in this information gathering process.  The question that immediately comes to mind is: why are we allowing our evaluation system to be shaped and formed by non-Oklahoma interests when our whole focus on education this last legislative session was that Oklahoma education standards and process shall be determined only by Oklahoma personnel and there shall be no multi-state or national group having any influence on our education.  Well, it has been a while since I have addressed this, but it may be time to have a quick spelling quiz!  How do you spell hypocrisy?  Why does our OSDE turn this critical phase over to others at the very time our state leaders such as our Governor and legislative education expert, Rep. Jason Nelson, proclaim that we do not want any external influence on our education programs?

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

                     

 

32nd Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

September 4th, 2014

            As the election cycle comes closer to the final ballot, it is evident that in Oklahoma politics, education is the most engaging issue confronting candidates as they seek re-election or are being considered for a specific elected position for the first time.  At both the state and local district level, we are going into our fourth year where public education and its local administrators, teachers, support staff and students have been relegated by our state political leaders into the proverbial “red-headed stepchild” classification.  To make this an even greater critical focus, there have been two recent decisions, one by the U.S. Department of Education and secondly by an Oklahoma County District Court Judge. 

As you are probably aware, the state of Oklahoma lost their flexibility waiver which has protected them from the more draconian federal education student academic progress mandates that were created by former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and subsequently carried out by the current U.S. Department of Education under President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan.  Oklahoma is only the second state to lose this opportunity to have a needed level of flexibility from these mandates.  The reason for this action was HB 3399 which was passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed by Governor Fallin.  This legislation repealed one of the three commitments for increasing student academic rigor in our state standards known as Common Core Standards (CCS).  Ironically, this was agreed to by 45 state governors in the National Governor’s Conference of which our Governor Fallin was Chairperson.  However CCS became politicized in our state legislature and then was repealed by a wide majority, 71 to 18 in the House and 32 to 9 in the Senate. On the same day the Governor changed her position and signed this ill-advised legislation, proclaiming her change was an attempt to block any possible “federal over-reach” in our state’s education. 

With this as the backdrop, I would like to share the several responses to the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) rejection of our waiver based on their conclusion that “Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that the State’s standards are college-and career-ready standards.”  This will have numerous impacts on our public schools, including the potential loss of control of Title I funds ranging from $20 to $30 million in its first year of implementation.  This is summarized in an 11 page USDE chart documenting the following: Description of Requirement; Description of Waiver being Terminated; and Resuming Compliance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as amended (ESEA).

            Let’s start at the top; Governor Fallin stated that the loss of the waiver came as a result of “the Obama administration seeking to replace local and state priorities with a Washington Agenda.”  State Supt. Barresi found two targets to blame for our state to experience such a financial hit from the federal government, first by suggesting that the State Board of Education’s tabling her proposal for setting up the mechanism to replace CCS with State Standards.  Then she blamed the State Regents of Higher Education for missing the deadline for “assessing whether our previously used PASS objectives met federal guidelines.”   Of course the House author of the legislation that set this crisis in motion, Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, stated that it was the result of “the Governor’s lack of leadership and her state superintendent’s incompetence” having damaged our educational system in so many ways.”  To balance out this blame game, the Tulsa World quoted Jennifer Monies, Oklahoma Education Workforce Initiative’s Executive Director, who stated, “Today’s news about Oklahoma losing its No Child Left Behind waiver is a direct result of the failed leadership of (State) Rep. Jason Nelson and (State) Sen. Josh Brecheen, who decided to place election-year politics before students when leading the charge at the Legislature to repeal existing college and career ready standards.”    

            The second decision relating to education was made last week by Oklahoma County District court Judge Bernard Jones when he ruled that the notorious Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship funds could not be used to send students with disabilities to religious schools.  Rep. Nelson again was at the forefront of this attempt to undermine funding for our public schools and their students throughout the state.  This was in response to the lawsuit filed last October by plaintiffs holding that ‘the Oklahoma Constitution only authorizes the Legislature to fund a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the state may be educated.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court had already ruled that when a parent wants to send a child to a private secular or religious school, that parent is “faced with the necessity of assuming the financial burden which the choice entails.”  I am sure Judge Jones’s decision will be appealed to the State Supreme Court but that court has already made a stand on this issue.

                         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

 

31st Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

August 28th, 2014

             As a state representative from eastern Oklahoma, I find myself especially sensitive to issues and conversations relating to surface and sub-surface water.  A recent public hearing was called by State Senator Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore to address a rule that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) has made concerning their issuing of permits for removal of groundwater from aquifers (an underground layer of porous rock or sand which contain water and has been identified as a geological formation by state or regional agencies).  The specific point of controversy involves the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer where the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s opposition to OWRB’s ruling on the restrictions on private land owners’ removal of water from this aquifer.  The Farm Bureau’s Executive Director, Monica Wilke, took the position in the meeting that they were concerned with the science used in the six-year long study of this aquifer and the limits placed on the amount of water that could be taken by property owners.  She stated “in order to thrive economically, people must know they have a property right” and that under Oklahoma law, groundwater is considered owned by the landowner above the water source.”  On the other side of this coin, the OWRB has over many years limited the amount of groundwater that can be taken form the aquifer since water is a contiguous material that is not confined to surface area property.  Senator Simpson, took the position that since this aquifer is close to the surface, unregulated use of its water “would dry up surface streams and rivers.”  While this does not directly impact House District 15, it concerns me when there is removal of water from an aquifer or surface body of water within multiple legally define geographic borders without proper legal oversight.  Sen. Simpson has scheduled a meeting with Governor Fallin to discuss this issue so that the Oklahoma City version of this issue is not the “reality” for our state leaders.    

            Another issue that impacts our area came to focus as the Stigler Chamber of Commerce received updates from retiring City Manager Jim Smith.  He described the progress made and funding through state grants and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans used to construct new water treatment and sewage disposal.  Another topic that he discussed was the goal of resurfacing Main Street in Stigler.  However this has been made more difficult and expensive as the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) must comply with the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Act that will require making each intersection handicap accessible.  This has raised the cost beyond ODOT’s ability to provide in a timely manner.  While Mr. Smith did not mention this, the funding problem is made even worse when we recall some of the revolving funds maintained by ODOT for programs such as this were removed by state leaders during this last session in an attempt to balance the budget.   This then raises another concern relating to the state’s budget process and results.

            M. Scott Carter brought this to our attention in a recent article “Fourth Reading: Love of incentives blinds lawmakers” in The Journal Record.  He accurately describes Republican Gov. Mary Fallin as committed to creating a pro-business type of environment by giving away hundreds of millions of dollars every year to be combined with the legislature’s repeated efforts to reduce the state’s income tax rate.  This has created a funding crisis for the state’s service agencies as the legislature “struggled to backfill budget holes.”  This problem exists despite the fact that State Treasurer Ken Miller explains that even with record tax revenues, the state does not have sufficient money to fund the agencies since a large portion of the state’s revenue has been committed through tax incentive earmarks and has been “taken off the table.”  As we prepare to go back into session by having a series of interim studies on funding services, I hope we will have the integrity to look at these so-called “business friendly’ tax incentives to see if they are producing the results  that are proclaimed by their promoters as justifications for their existence. 

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