In my 54th Journal, I reported that I planned to file a bill that would require the State Department of Education rule on Cohort graduation records to come into compliance with our Oklahoma Constitution. Currently, the SDE classifies “home-school” students as drop-outs or in violation of the Compulsory School Attendance section of our Constitution. The urgency for such corrective legislation comes when one reads the 11/26 edition of the Tulsa World which reports a mother being sentenced to jail time after she was found guilty of 10 counts of violating the Compulsory Education Act. What if that mother claimed to be home schooling her child? Could the judge then sentence her to 10 days in jail and $150 fine? According to our SDE rule, yes, he could, even though our Constitution states a child can be educated by “other means” than “public or other school.” In addition to this news report, I received documentation through Congressman Mullin’s office, from Thomas Kelley with the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs—U.S. Department of Education, that “we do not have homeschooling data. The Feds do not collect data on this.” I wonder what our SDE’s source is that contradicts this person’s statement? That is a bit of a conundrum!!!
While District 15 does not have any state prison systems within its boundaries, numerous constituents of mine are employed by the Department of Corrections. It is in this context I address the recent report on our Governor’s pension plans that would negatively impact these state workers in our prison systems. To be specific, Governor Fallin states her top priority is to increase our state’s bond rating from AA+ to AAA and, to help achieve this, she proposes to reduce the retirement benefits of state employees. Part of her rationale for this reduction is she wants to classify corrections employees’ retirement as “the non-hazardous duty plan.” To demonstrate the foolhardiness and offensive nature of this proposal, we must look at this “non-hazardous” working environment of our state prisons.
As our state’s violent crime rate has escalated with an increase of 14 percent per year during the last thirty years our prison population continues to increase. Just last year the increase in inmates rose by 700. At this very same time, our Department of Corrections (DOC) employees are decreasing as they find higher paying jobs with less “hazardous” working conditions. To put numbers to this, we find their workforce has dropped by 1000 employees in the last five years. This increases the “hazardous” conditions, as their work week is extended to 60 hours in the form of five 12 hour shifts or two eight hour shifts per day. To quote the Executive Director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals: “the job is dangerous, the hours are ludicrous, the pay is awful ($11.83 an hour to start) and the state treats the employees like they don’t matter…..The one thing keeping DOC employees on the job today is the promise that at the end of this grueling career, they’ll receive the modest pension they were promised by the state to take the job in the first place.” As their elected legislative official, I am determined to get the word out concerning the plans to remove that one incentive from those working in our prison system maintaining control of a very unstable, if not violent, criminal population.
A group of state employees formed what is called “Keep Oklahoma’s Promises.” They formed in response to the Joint House and Senate committee meeting to consider the formation of a 401(k) style defined contribution retirement plan for state employees. In addition to this, the Republican leadership is considering the consolidation of the administration of the state’s seven different pension systems. Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, indicated he would attempt to exclude those state employees whose jobs are classified as “hazardous duty” from this consolidation. There we go!! That fits into the Governor’s plan to classify DOC workers as having “non-hazardous” duty. How convenient!! In closing, I must raise the question of Governor Fallin’s motive to increase our bond rating on the backs of state employees. I thought our Constitution forbid the state from going into debt. Isn’t that what a bond is when you obligate the state to pay for the money received from the sale of such AAA rated bonds. This sounds as if our Governor is not only ignoring previous promises made to state employees, but is also ignoring our state Constitution!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
Continuing on from Journal 54, I have another bill to file which deletes the language of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness which makes up the 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation that is based on the “Quantifiable” portion of their evaluation. Our schools have been developing and implementing the 50 percent “Qualitative” portion with rather high degrees of success. However as we (TLE Commission) attempt to create a pilot program for the mathematically measurable student academic performance we seem to be entering the “twilight zone” of teacher assessment since only 30 percent of our teachers are in state mandated testing areas which provides uniformity of student academic growth. To create standardized testing for these other areas would be cost prohibitive for the state.
The need for this proposed bill came after participating in the TLE Commission’s November meeting at the State Department of Education. We were given presentations and recommendations for this 50 percent by an out-of-state research firm, Mathematica. My first concern was raised when their presenter indicated that he was not familiar with the actual wording of the law which states that this area must be based on multiple years of standardized test data. He specifically said that the “roll out” of their plan would be based on only one year’s data. In addition, they had no plan for all teachers that operate outside of the current state mandated testing format. It was in this area that our State Department personnel proposed that these teachers would use their choice of the Other Academic Measures which constitutes 15 percent of the Quantifiable. Another possible answer to the lack of compliance with the law is to have these teachers outside of the mandated testing area is to use “Student Learning Objectives” which may be based on an individual teacher’s creating a pre and post test for students in their classes. This, while being a reasonable approach, does not compare to those teachers in the mandated testing areas and this lack of equity is a law-suit waiting to happen. With the Commission lacking adequate members present to form a quorum, I was concerned when Supt. Barresi indicated that we would circumvent the law requiring a quorum to perform an official vote to advise the State Board of Education. Instead she took a survey on which of the above is the better approach and this survey would act as a vote. That decision would make an interesting Attorney General Opinion Request!!
A third bill that I will file is to allow a student who takes high school math credits in the 7th or 8th grade taught by a high school certified math teacher and scores satisfactory or above on that high school math course’s End of Instruction Exam to have such a course listed on his/her high school transcript as one of the three mandated math courses required for high school graduation. Currently they can only count such courses if they are taken during grades 9 through 12.
The fourth approach I will take to solve the numerous problems in our state education system is to co-author a bill with Rep. Condit-D, McAlester, which will replace the current A-F school assessment with the Academic Performance Index with a specific letter grading scale of A=100 to 90%, B=89 to 80%, C=79-70%, D=69-60%, and F=59 and below based on the total possible of 1,500 points. The reason for using this is that the API is time tested and with letter grade assigned this will communicate the school’s degree of success in their student’s academic performance without all of the failed attempts as the current A-F fiasco.
I thought that Governor Fallin and Supt. Barresi were on the same page concerning the refusal to use Common Core Standards. However, based on a press release by Barresi it appears that she is onboard with rolling out the Common Core next year in English and Math tests for third through eighth-graders. While these are field test questions, they will be used for the actual questions to which schools and students will be held accountable in 2014/15. If that is not the case, she is throwing away $34.5 million to the test vendor, Measured Progress, to run a field test; the results of which would not be used in the future. Now that is government waste in action!!
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 7408 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday
As member of the House Public Safety Committee, I was surprised to find we had only one interim study during this interim period. However, the one that was scheduled brought to light issues this Committee and the legislature should consider during the next session. It created a much needed focus on the fact Oklahoma has the dubious distinction of being ranked #1 in the nation for the percentage of women incarcerated in the state’s prison system. While its focus was on possible options to reduce this number, while at the same time maintaining a viable deterrent to criminal behavior, we were also reminded of the factors that seemed to be associated with this high rate of incarceration. They included lack of education, family dysfunction, trauma and violence, single parent, substance abuse, low economic status, medical issues, and mental health issues. Of these, substance abuse constituted 60 percent of the reasons for convictions. It was pointed out 50 percent of women surveyed had not completed high school prior to being sentenced to prison. Another shocking fact is that, on a given day in our state, there are 26,106 children with an incarcerated parent. This, in turn, has a cyclical effect, with children experiencing many of the factors that contributed to their parent’s behavior resulting in their being in a state prison. While these are depressing statistics, we were informed of several “diversion” services and programs provided through the following agencies: Drug Court, Child Welfare, TANF, Probation and Parole, and Community Sentencing. One particular program that has the potential to be replicated in multiple prison sites is the work done through the Technical Institute of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences. Research shows there are two key factors that can be attributed to the successful reintegration of people with criminal histories back into society: (1) their ability to work and earn an adequate living wage and (2) their attainment of a high school education. This program was described as having a significant impact on those trained while in prison and avoiding the very high statistic of reentering due to lack of adequate training in marketable skills while in prison. This summary would not be complete without mentioning the fact that our exceptionally high ranking in this category is that it does include those that are imprisoned for less than one year. It is especially evident that the recidivism, or re-entry, rate is only 14 percent, which is very low compared to that statistic for incarcerated women in other states.
As we move toward the beginning of the 2nd Session of the 54th Legislature, I am reminded of the need to consider legislation to file. My standard criteria when proposing bills is for them to contribute to solving problems that have developed in state government. One that I will file is the result of a recent policy released by our State Department of Education which states a public school will receive a negative score on their “Cohort” or class member graduation rate. This new policy is said to be based on federal policy which requires that a student enrolled in a school district can only leave that district without being considered a “drop-out” if they die, emigrate to another country, or transfer to another institution that grants a high school diploma. The problem here is when a parent removes their children to home school them, then these former students become drop-out statistics to the school and the state. To me this policy violates our Oklahoma Constitution under Article 13 paragraph (4) Compulsory School Attendance. It states “the Legislature shall provide for the compulsory attendance at some public or other school, unless other means of education are provided…” This authorizes the state to recognize Home Schools as a legal form of education even though they may not issue a diploma. I plan to file legislation to correct this by placing into statutes that a home schooled student in the state of Oklahoma shall not be classified as a drop-out provided that the parent has documented their responsibility to comply with our Constitution. If any constituent would care to suggest a proposal for legislation, please contact me at my email address below. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
In my last Journal, I talked about the interim study that focused on the conflict between the state and federal government. However, many of the witnesses in that study concluded our state agencies have a positive working relationship with the portion of the national government that has responsibilities in the same area. This focus seemed to be continued in our next interim study that was conducted by the House Common Education Committee dealing with school safety.
The testimony that took place first dealt with the need to provide safe and secure school structures to withstand the ravages of natural disasters, especially tornadoes. Evidence was presented which documented that only 38.5 percent of our state’s school sites have a shelter or designated safe area, and only 15 percent of them have a storm shelter that is Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) rated. We had testimony from experts in climatology who indicated the predictability of tornadoes exceeds our ability to schedule our school days or events around the probability of a damaging storm event that occurred last year in our state. With reports from both FEMA and state Emergency Management officials, we were informed of the close working relationship between our state and federal agencies in both funding and design. In the afternoon, we moved into other areas of school safety, including providing protection from armed intruders. Witnesses and security experts made numerous suggestions to improve security in this area but they agreed it would be foolish to believe a school can absolutely prevent this from taking place. Instead, they agreed the main focus would be to slow the armed intruder down or direct him to a non-populated area so those trained in dealing with this threat could be brought in to minimize damage and harm. Additional testimony was presented showing the state maintained a close working/fiscal relationship between our state department of education and numerous federal agencies.
Another Interim study headed by the House Judiciary Committee focused on possible changes in the manner we select our state justices. There seemed to be a pattern similar to issues addressed in the States Rights Committee. Our House Speaker, T W Shannon, R-Lawton, indicated displeasure with the decisions of the State Supreme Court in overturning legislation, as they saw the laws as being in violation of the state constitution. Several of these decisions by the state court have gone to the U S Supreme Court on appeal by the state, but the higher court sided with the state court’s ruling. Speaker Shannon described their action as their becoming “activist” courts. He has indicated he will seek legislation to change the process by which Judges are available to be placed on the Court. One speaker that was selected to testify was Carrie Severino, Counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network. She advocated the state move away from our Judicial Nominating Commission vetting potential judges to move instead to the federal model of selecting judges or direct partisan elections. Her presentation was well received by those wanting to change our state’s judicial system and possibly limit the courts decisions our state leaders do not agree with. On the other side of the coin, Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Colbert recently put this issue of conflict between the Courts and the Legislature in the following context, “When you serve in this position, you take an oath to support the United States and the Oklahoma Constitution. As a judge you are going to have difficult issues. There will be adversaries on both sides, but your responsibility is to the truth.” In total, the testimony at this hearing indicated the current system produces our courts with high quality judges. However, it appears we may see legislation calling for change in the form of direct partisan political elections, term limits for judges and, ironically, using a similar system to the federal executive appointment and Senate ratification. It is ironic because those advocating this latter approach are the same ones expressing contempt for our federal government. Oh well, no one said you had to be consistent!
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 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
As a veteran (25th Infantry—1959-62), I am proud of District 15 for its recognition of veterans at this time and the dedicated to such efforts. I appreciated joining Sen. Boggs in having legislation passed to name the new bridge on Highway 9 entering Stigler from the West honoring veterans that have given their lives in defense of this country. To represent their sacrifices, the bridge was named “The Cost of Freedom Memorial Bridge.” Mr. Ed Tatman and the Stigler VFW Post and the Stigler Class of 1963 took the lead in raising the money and providing an appropriate setting for this signage and event. Secondly, I was honored to be asked to speak at two Veterans Day events, Checotah downtown memorial event and Keota Public School. I feel honored to be able to participate in these events in that they are designed to honor both current and past veterans for their service and sacrifice for this nation.
Our state has had a reputation for being both politically and fiscally conservative, irrespective of political party affiliation. In my seven years as a member of the state House of Representative, I have supported some aspects of this tradition and opposed others. The part I struggle with the most is when we say one thing but do another. This hypocrisy provides the primary setting for the context for this Journal.
First, we in government pride ourselves in being fiscally cautious and vigilant on spending that may be seen as frivolous. The recent report in the Oklahoman presents us with disturbing news of extreme pay raises going to state agency administrators while the rank and file state employees are told they may be considered only after a thorough study is completed. This seems to ignore the study that was done on this issue last interim. Some of the annual administrative pay raises include the following: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation-$47,000; Department of Mental Health-$40,000; Tourism Executive Director-$40,000; Banking Commissioner-$10,000; and Secretary of State-$50,000. Other agency administrators’ salary increases have not been published, since the agencies do not have to report them to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services until August. Some of the contradictions these present are the fact that many of our state parks under the Tourism Department have been closed or services minimized, and our state troopers are understaffed by at least 30 percent and salaries are ranked 17th to 20th compared to other law enforcement personnel in various cities and counties in the state. Combine these with the fact our state public employees have gone at least 8 years without being considered for raises produces the basis for evidence of hypocrisy.
This leads me to my next topic of hypocrisy which was evident in an interim study in the House States Rights Committee, which had as its themes “Is the Federal Government taking over our State Agencies?” and “How to protect state sovereignty in uncertain times.” The average cost to conduct an interim study is approximately $40,000 for travel and other expenses. While the chairman of this committee, Rep. Moore, R-Edmond, was very fair in allowing questions of the presenters, who primarily consisted of state agency heads or their spokespersons, the theme was that the federal government has been intrusive in their operations. However, each of these agencies receives a large amount of federal money for their operation and many admitted they could not function without this money from the federal coffers. It was estimated in this hearing we receive back from the U.S. Government $2 billion more than we send in from our state. As one agency head admitted, without this, his agency’s operation would be marginalized. I guess what bothers me most is the above extreme and grotesques pay raises came as a result of their agencies being nursed by the very institution (U.S. Government) for which they often express contempt.
On a more positive note concerning that interim study, several of the agency heads testified that they did not have a problem working with the federal government relative to their stipulations on the budget that was provided. While this was not the desired message for the committee leaders, when several of us asked questions concerning the Health Care Authority, Department of Public Safety, Conservation Commission, Homeland Security, Dept. of Human Services about their working relationship with the federal government agencies, they almost uniformly expressed recognition the federal government was a workable partner in their fulfilling their mission for the citizens of the state. My next Journal will provide examples of federal and state cooperative efforts when it comes to school safety—both structural and operational.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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