Thursday, January 2, 2014

Parental choice in education a topic in OEA questionnaire

State Superintendent Janet Barresi's campaign today posted her responses to an Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) candidate questionnaire. Barresi answered questions on several areas of education policy, including school choice.

The OEA is the state's largest teachers' union and opposed Barresi in the 2010 state superintendent’s race. The OEA also consistently opposes legislative efforts to provide greater educational options to parents.

Barresi answered a very revealing question about publicly funded educational choice programs:

Q. What are your feelings about using public money to support private schools through voucher programs, tax credits, and other mechanisms?
A. My goal is to make sure our public schools are the first choice of every Oklahoma parent. Until that day, I want to give parents as many choices as possible. I have worked to increase funding for the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarships so that parents of those with learning challenges have better options for their students to have the same success as everyone else. There is still more we can do. Every child, every parent should have the opportunity to choose the school that best fits their specific needs, and no child should be confined to a failing school. I won’t rest until that’s a reality.

The premise of the OEA's question is absurd and a clear example of misplaced focus. The union sees programs like the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships Act as existing to support private schools over public schools. They see education in terms of institutional schools -- not individual students.

My two children attend public schools. We do so not out of a sense of obligation to support the public institutions and provide employment for union members who believe they know better than my wife and I do what is best for our children.

Children are more than mere funding units for educational institutions. Common sense dictates that the institutions exist for the benefit of schoolchildren. The children do not exist for the benefit of the system of public schools.

Following the logic of the OEA's question, it must hold that the per pupil revenue generated by students attending public school is for the purpose of supporting that school, regardless of the service it provides to students.

The OEA’s focus is not on providing children with educational services, but with protecting their turf. The union bosses concern themselves with imagined harm to their dues-paying members while ignoring the very real harm of denying help to students who need a different educational environment.

The membership concerns of the teachers' union should not take priority over the sacred right and duty of parents to direct the education of their children.

As the author of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act, I’m grateful to Supt. Barresi for her steadfast support of this important, student-centered education program.

Barresi, along with the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education, are defendants in a new lawsuit filed by educators challenging the constitutionality of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program. I'm working with Barresi and Attorney General Scott Pruitt to defend this law against those who believe that the children exist to support the system and dues paying union members.

Call me naïve, but I think education should be focused on students.

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