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June 11, 2014

Oklahoma Student Standards back to square one

DUNCAN — Has Governor Fallin done a disservice to the students of Oklahoma by signing HB 3399, which nullifies current Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of learning? She championed the Common Core Standards prior to signing the legislation to withdraw from it. Her excuse for nullifying the CCSS law was that the federal government had “usurped” the states’ rights to set education standards. Thus, CCSS is “telling the states what to do.” Yet, the federal government issued an Oklahoma-state request for a waiver to adopt Common Core Standards in place of the failing “No Child Left Behind” program instituted under President George W. Bush!

The No Child Left Behind program was never fully funded during Bush’s administrations which led the National Governors Associations of both parties to push for the development of Common Core Standards. Forty-five states adopted the standards (Oklahoma in 2010) in what 45 Governors believed would lead to consistent standards of education throughout the United States.

Common Core, like No Child Left Behind, was miserably mishandled by our Governor, the Oklahoma Legislature, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Instruction and the Oklahoma Department of Education.

The legislature did not furnish adequate funding to provide resources for smaller rural school districts to upgrade technology needed to handle testing requirements mandated by the program. By passing HR 3399, the legislature believes that it is insulated itself from any criticism for failing schools. Blame can now be cast on the “lazy, incompetent teachers” for students failing in reading comprehension or exhibit poor math or science skills. Blaming all of Oklahoma’s problematic educational system has on teachers and school administrators is only an attempt by our current legislators and state-elected administration to salve their moral consciences.

Factually, our schools are not receiving required financial support to offset ongoing growth in student population and to recover funds withheld in leaner financial times. Fallin and others pat themselves on the back for mathematically approving a greater dollar amount of state funds directed to public schools in the FY 2015 Budget than in FY 2014. However, no mention is made regarding the monies to support Superintendent Barresi’s dream of statewide charter schools which are

included in that $82 Million Dollar increase.

The Oklahoma State Superintendent of Instruction is more interested in starting for-profit Charter Schools than insuring that Public School Districts have the financial capabilities to expand and maintain required technological infrastructure. If Superintendent Barresi had been a more astute leader, with a deep background in education and administration, she could have forestalled some of the problems which have arisen with numerous testing malfunctions during the past two years.

The hand-picked members of the State Department of Education have followed Superintendent Barresi’s directions until the total failure of Common Core is now complete.

How much additional money is going to be needed now to once more achieve a quality education for Oklahoma’s youth? Conservative states that have removed themselves from the Common Core Standards, espousing that the Standards are an “Obama Decree,” have now placed their educational systems temporarily under a federal system instituted by the George W. Bush administration. By reinstituting No Child Left Behind Standards until Oklahoma can develop new educational standards, our Governor has placed our schools in jeopardy regarding continued receipt of long-standing federal funds. A new waiver may be requested if this current Department of Education develops appropriate educational standards.

The question left unanswered is, “How much additional money do the voters in Oklahoma want to allow our legislators and other elected officials to WASTE on inefficient programs simply because they cost less in the short-term?

We have the opportunity to have our voices heard at the ballot box. Ask your candidate if he or she is willing to put Oklahoma’s educational needs ahead of narrow, mean-spirited partisanship and spend our tax dollars wisely instead of foolishly.

If we want quality, we must be prepared to properly finance a quality program!

Kenneth Wells 580-444-2563 twinnwells@gmail.com

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