Thursday, June 2, 2011

Broken Arrow PS Expresses Philosophical Concern About Individual Focus of Scholarship Program

The philosophical issues Broken Arrow Public Schools has with the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act are the focus of a Broken Arrow Ledger news story posted yesterday on
The story by News Editor Nour Habib highlights the changes to the program passed this session in House Bill 1744.  It also discusses  Broken Arrow Public Schools' continued opposition to the special education scholarship program because of "philosophical issues." The program is designed to provide more options to parents of students who are on an Individualized Education Program through the school district.
"It seems the official with Broken Arrow schools doesn't support the program because the school will lose the funding for that student, " said State Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City). "Their rationale is a student that is not being adequately served must stay at the school so  the school can keep the funds regardless of what is best for that student. Stated another way, it’s acceptable for a few students to receive a less than adequate education as long as the school still gets the funding for those few students so  other students can benefit.”
Dwayne Thompson, Chief Financial Officer for BAPS, is quoted in the story as saying:
"Instead of being vague about public schools not doing their job and funneling away more of their resources, educators and legislators need to work to improve our public school system, rather than undermining it in the name of ‘equal opportunity.'"
"Every child having an 'equal opportunity' for a good education is clearly not their focus," Nelson responded.
"The program is not 'vague' about the expectations," Nelson continues. "If a child on an IEP is not being educated to his or her full potential the parents have the option, through the scholarship program, to send their child to a qualified private school they believe will do a better job. Those are the expectations of the program: Children deserve to be educated to their full potential." 
Thompson complains to Habib that the program has problems because public and private schools are not "on a level playing field." He continues to be quoted in the story: 
"If the private schools they go to are under the same regulations, the same requirements, the same testing, all the same things we're responsible to do as a public school, let's compete and see who does the best job."
Rep. Nelson supports competition. The story by Habib quotes Nelson as saying:
"I see us needing school choice, but at the same time we have got to free up public schools to be more creative and innovative in the way they provide education." 
Nelson is the principal author in the House of Representatives of Senate Bill 264. He amended the bill in April to give local school boards and administrators greater freedom from state regulations and mandates so school districts have flexibility to meet the unique needs of their students. 
"Opponents of SB 264 raised questions about whether local school boards and administrators would use the unprecedented ability to make decisions to benefit students or would they abuse the freedom in a way that harms children," Nelson said. "Because of these questions we ran out of time to get the bill passed in the House of Representatives before the session ended." 
"When the legislature returns next session SB 264 is only one step from being sent to the governor for signature," Nelson added. "I don't remember hearing from BAPS in support of SB 264. It makes me wonder if the 'equal playing field' argument is a real problem or just an excuse." 
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