July 2014 Archives

The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation are celebrating the 102nd birthday of Nobel Laureate and educational-choice champion Milton Friedman with snowcones at Tulsa's Mohawk Park Pavilion 2, tomorrow, Thursday, July 31, 2014, from 4 pm to 6 pm. It's a come-and-go event for the whole family, and door prizes will be awarded.


Friedman, with his wife Rose, wrote the best-selling book Free to Choose and hosted a PBS TV series of the same name, showing the essential connection between personal liberty and prosperity. Throughout his career, Friedman argued that meaningful parental choice in education would produce better schools better suited to students. Some quotes on the topic (links to original sources and context at the link):

"It is only the tyranny of the status quo that leads us to take it for granted that in schooling, government monopoly is the best way for the government to achieve its objective."
-- "The School Choice Advocate," January 2004

"Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go. We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that -- a system of free choice -- we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education."

-- CNBC Interview Transcript, March 2003

"Improved education is offering a hope of narrowing the gap between the less and more skilled workers, of fending off the prior prospect of a society divided between the "haves" and "have nots," of a class society in which an educated elite provided welfare for a permanent class of unemployables."

-- "The School Choice Advocate," July 1998

Actor James Garner, born James Scott Bumgarner near Norman, Oklahoma, died this weekend at the age of 86.

Articles about James Garner and his brother Jack report that their parents ran a general store at Denver Corner. The area is now within the city limits of Norman, but it was eight miles east of downtown. The obituary of Jewel Green Bunch says her first teaching job was at Denver School, where she taught young James Bumgarner.

The 1940 Cleveland County highway map shows the community of Denver, with a church and a school, on what is now 108th Street SE, halfway between Alameda Drive, which was Highway 9 prior to the construction of Lake Thunderbird, and modern day Highway 9. Denver Cemetery is still at that location, on the east side of the street; the school is shown on the west side of the street and a bit further north. Highway 9 was gravel; 108th St. SE was dirt. (That map also shows Central State Hospital with more territory than the University of Oklahoma, which was outside the Norman city limits at the time.)

The 1936 USGS Norman quadrangle map shows Denver School and cemetery in the same locations.

Denver Corner is still a known landmark, at the corner of 108th Street SE and Alameda Drive. There's a grocery store and bait shop there that serves as the record keeper for fish caught in Lake Thunderbird.

It's not unheard of for the highway intersection nearest to a rural community to get the name of that community plus a suffix like "Corner" or "Junction." Denver Corner would have been where you'd turn off Highway 9 to get to Denver community, and it would have been the logical place to locate a general store to serve locals and motorists alike.

By the 1952 map, the school and church at Denver were gone, but Highway 9 was paved and the area at Denver Corner was more built up, with a church and a combined dwelling/business. By the 1963 map, Lake Thunderbird had been built and Norman's city limits had been expanded to include it. Denver community was no more.

Somewhere I once came across an interview with James Garner where he tells about growing up in rural eastern Cleveland County. If I can find it, I'll link it here.

bbcmquartet.jpgThe BBCM Quartet, an award-winning young string quartet from Tulsa, will perform as part of the Summerstage Festival tomorrow night, Friday, July 18, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Norman Theater of the Tulsa PAC. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $8 for 12 and under.

The quartet -- Joseph Bates and Nicholas Bashforth on violin, Anthony Conroy on cello, Quinn Maher on viola -- will present a variety of genres, including classical chamber music and movie themes.

The program includes:

  • "Hedwig's Theme" (Harry Potter), John Williams (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • What Wondrous Love is This?, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, Mozart
  • String Quartet No. 1, Andante cantabile, Tchaikovsky
  • The Magnificent Seven, Elmer Bernstein (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • Canon in D, Pachelbel
  • Raiders March, John Williams (arr. Cameron Patrick)
  • Wexford Carol, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • Blarney Pilgrim, traditional (arr. Dana Fitzgerald Maher)
  • String Quartet "Lobkowitz", Op. 77, No. 1, Haydn

The four study music at Barthelmes Conservatory under instructors John Rush, Sheri Neubauer, and Krassimira Figg.

The BBCM Quartet won first place in the 2014 Tulsa Young Chamber Artist Competition (sponsored by Tulsa Camerata and Chamber Music Tulsa) and finished second in the Buttram String Quartet competition sponsored by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. All four members of the group are in the Tulsa Youth Symphony and were at Quartz Mountain last month as part of the 2014 Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute orchestra.

Here's their appearance on Fox 23's Tulsa Live this morning. The sound is a little unbalanced because of the use of lapel mics rather than standard instrument pickups.

MORE: The BBCM Quartet is available for weddings, banquets, and other functions. Contact them through their Facebook page.

A poll of likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters revealed strong support for school choice generally and specific school choice proposals, as strong in the rest of the state as it is in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metropolitan areas.

The poll was commissioned by the American Federation for Children and conducted by the Tarrance Group prior to the June 24, 2014, Oklahoma primary. Scott Jensen, the former Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly and a senior advisor to AFC discussed the results last night at a reception at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame hosted by State Sen. Jabar Shumate (D-Tulsa), a leading proponent of school choice at the Oklahoma Capitol.

Oklahoma currently offers charter schools in metropolitan school districts and two scholarship programs that include private schools as options, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for children with special needs, and the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship tax credit, where donors to scholarship-granting organizations can get a partial tax credit for their donations. The Henry scholarships have the support of 76% of Republican primary voters and the scholarship tax credit is supported by 72%. Support for both of these existing measures is even higher outside of the two major metro areas, 78% and 76% respectively.

Despite overwhelming Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, two broader school choice measures were defeated this year: Educational Savings Accounts and expanding charter schools to rural areas. Jensen noted that legislators often hear first and most emphatically from those with an interest in maintaining the status quo. On school choice issues those voices usually belong to the school superintendent or school board members. Part of AFC's mission is to make the voice of parents who support school choice heard at the state capitol, through polls and through mobilizing parents who want choice for their kids to interact with legislators. ESAs were supported by 64% of likely Republican primary voters, and 82% support allowing charter schools throughout the state.

The local affiliate for AFC, Oklahoma Federation for Children, is co-chaired by Tulsa oilman Bob Sullivan and Oklahoma City publisher and broadcaster Russell Perry. This is the first Oklahoma election cycle in which the organization has been involved in educating voters about the school choice views of primary candidates. The affiliated OFC Action Fund was engaged in four primary races. OFCAF made independent expenditures in support of school choice advocate Rep. Anastasia Pittman (D-Oklahoma City) in her winning primary campaign for Senate 48, Bruce Fisher in his unsuccessful effort to unseat school choice opponent Mike Shelton in the House 97 Democratic primary, and Sen. A. J. Griffin in her successful defense of the Senate 20 Republican nomination.

In House 69, an open seat, the group opposed the nomination of Melissa Abdo, a Jenks school board member and an opponent of school choice. The Jenks district sued parents of special needs children who sought Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarships, and Abdo is personally a plaintiff in a later lawsuit to block the scholarship program. Abdo finished first in the primary but fell short of the majority; she faces an August runoff against Chuck Strohm.


State Rep. Jason Nelson has a collection of links concerning the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships.

A December 2013 Friedman Foundation survey of Oklahoma registered voters found that 59% support educational vouchers, and, while over 90% of Oklahoma children attend traditional public schools, only 39% of those surveyed would choose a traditional public school as first choice for their own children, while 31% preferred private schools, 11% homeschool, and 8% charter school.

Positive Tomorrows is a tuition-free Oklahoma City private school meeting the needs of homeless children. School leaders say that Educational Savings Accounts would allow them to expand those opportunities and serve more children.

This 24-minute documentary reports on the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program and some of the children who have benefitted.

Ballard and Ballard

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Interesting coincidence:

Keith Ballard is the Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. He was appointed to the post in 2008.

Tulsa Public Schools is a client of the law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold. According to the firm's website, that relationship began in 1932. In 2011, questions were asked about the amount of money -- over a half million a year -- the district spends with the firm each year.

Matt Ballard is an attorney with Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold. He joined the firm in 2008 and was made a member in 2011. He is the Republican nominee for District Attorney in Rogers, Mayes, and Craig counties.

Keith Ballard is Matt Ballard's father.

Ashers Baking Co, a Christian-owned chain of bakeries in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, has been sent a letter from the Equality Commission for refusing an order to make a cake featuring a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, the message "Support Gay Marriage," and the logo of an organization called "Queerspace."

A customer placed an order for the cake on a Friday, staff at the location sent the request to headquarters for review, and on Monday, headquarters contacted the customer and advised him that they couldn't complete the order and he would be refunded his money. Six weeks later the company received a letter from the Equality Commission accusing Ashers of discriminating against the customer on the basis of his "sexual orientation."

Daniel McArthur (24), general manager at the Newtownabbey company which has been running since 1992 and employs 62 people, said Asher's had been founded by Christians, and the current directors are Christians.

"That means that we run our business according to Christian values and beliefs, according to what the Bible teaches. It means for example that we don't open on Sundays, that we trade openly and honestly with people," he said.

Mr McArthur said even the company's name was Biblical, as Asher was one of the 12 tribes of Israel. "It was a tribe that had gifted bakers," he added.

The cake was for an "anti-homophobia and transphobia" event hosted by the then-Mayor of North Down, Andrew Muir. Another baker, located in the same city as the event, filled the order. The nearest Ashers location, in Belfast, is 12 miles away, suggesting that Ashers was specially targeted for political reasons.

Northern Ireland has sometimes been called the Bible Belt of Europe. The Ulster Scots (also known as "Scotch Irish") who settled America's Bible Belt are descended from the same stock as the Protestants of modern Northern Ireland. Under the British constitution, England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have different laws pertaining to marriage and family. Northern Ireland has not yet caved to the forces of libertinism but still maintains the civilized definition of marriage, the legislature having voted down three "gay marriage" bills in the last three years.

Since the discrimination charge doesn't match the facts of the case, it will be interesting to see how it is handled. Ashers didn't discriminate against the customer because of his "sexual orientation"; they discriminated against the words the customer wanted on the cake. Surely they would have refused the same order even if a customer of normal sexual desires had requested it. In a video message, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur notes that the bakery has refused commissions involving indecent language and imagery.

Ashers has the support of the Christian Institute's Legal Defence Fund.

Recently, a friend suggested to me that American Christians would have to be cagey about objecting to "gay marriage." Rather than openly refusing service on moral grounds, he said that Christians should find other excuses. In this case, for example, the bakery might have said that they couldn't bake a cake featuring copyrighted characters. I replied that to do so was to surrender our freedom of conscience, which has to include the right to express our disapproval of immoral behavior. Also, as a practical matter, the cramdown artists" (see below) are zealous enough to investigate the validity of excuses. If a wedding photographer says she's already booked for the day of a "gay wedding," expect the diversity mutaween to stake out her house and studio that day for evidence that the excuse was bogus.


William Murchison writes that we have a duty to talk back to the "cramdown artists" seeking to coerce approval of their moral viewpoint:

What this country almost certainly doesn't need right now is more laws and regulations; but it doesn't necessarily need fewer laws and regulations, either. What we appear to need above all else is a deeper -- and that's not saying much -- understanding of the purposes for which a civilized society passes laws and enacts regulations. We need, in essence, moral instruction.

Eeek! "Moral instruction"? "Right" and "wrong"? By whose lights, whose standards? The contraception debate -- to the extent you call it a debate instead of a shouting match -- brings to mind these fundamental, yet generally skirted, issues. In 21st-century America, right and wrong are matters we hand over to the big guns in politics and -- alas -- the chattering profession, my own profession: the media. He who makes the loudest noises and wins the most elections gets to cram his views down the public's throat....

...the proprietors of viewpoints at variance with those of the cramdown artist have a duty only partially fulfilled. That duty is to speak back; to explain why the cramdown artists are morally off base, by widely, and historically held, standards. This task has not been performed well, or at all, partly -- such is my intuition -- because the cramdown artists get lathered up when their judgments meet with contradiction.

Too bad. The time for backtalk has come. In fact, it came a long time ago; we just didn't notice. Alas.

Former Conservative MP and Minister Ann Widdecombe writes in the Daily Express:

Surely it is an elementary feature of true democracy that nobody should be obliged by law to affirm that which he or she does not believe.

Yet Parliament was assured time and again that the introduction of gay marriage would not cause discrimination against those who believed it wrong. What price your assurances now, Mr Cameron?...

In a free country the baker should be able to refuse to take part in what is effectively PR for gay marriage in the knowledge that any customers who do not like that decision are free to buy their morning loaf elsewhere. But then it is a long time since Britain and freedom were synonymous.

Widdecombe reports on a letter from someone who was rejected as a foster parent "because she would not affirm that a gay relationship was on a par with a marriage between a man and a woman."

Presumably the powers that be would prefer a child to be shunted between homes as long as they are run by politically correct care workers than be placed in a loving environment with foster parents who do not sign up to state orthodoxy.

Over on Conversation Catoosa on Facebook, there's a rumor about moving the City of Tulsa's Rolling Hills subdivisions from the Tulsa school district to the Catoosa school district.

This is an area southwest of Admiral and 193rd East Avenue that has been in the City of Tulsa since the massive 1966 annexation and has been in the Tulsa school district since the independent East Central school district was annexed into the Tulsa district in 1964. It is bordered by the City of Catoosa and the Catoosa School District on the north (across I-44 in Rogers County) and east (across 193rd East Ave. in Wagoner County).

Such a transfer would benefit the neighborhood, both school districts, and the City of Tulsa. The neighborhood once had Carl Sandburg Elementary School in the TPS system, but Sandburg closed in 2011. The "neighborhood" school is Kerr Elementary, over five miles away. I'm told that many students in the neighborhood transfer to Catoosa schools, where the furthest building is about three miles away, and the middle and high schools are barely a mile away. The neighborhood has always had strong cultural and economic ties to Catoosa.

Beyond this one half-section, it would make sense to move everything east of 145th East Ave. out of the Tulsa School District. The area was also home to Lynn Lane School and several never-developed TPS sites. East of 145th East Ave and south of 31st is already in the Broken Arrow School District, and that area has seen many new subdivisions in recent years. Transferring the area north of 31st and east of 145th to Catoosa would encourage new residential development within the Tulsa city limits and would increase the value of existing homes, and that increase in value would benefit all Tulsa taxpayers, by spreading the property tax sinking fund burden across a higher assessed value. City of Tulsa leaders would be smart to encourage the move.

Part of the City of Tulsa is already in the Catoosa district: part of the area in Wagoner County annexed in 2001 and the fenceline in Rogers County that extends to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.

TPS would benefit, too, by no longer having to run bus service to the isolated subdivisions and acreages of east Tulsa. TPS might even be able to sell the Sandburg building and proposed school locations to Catoosa schools for their future expansion.

If I'm reading 70 O.S. 7-101 correctly, voters in the affected area could submit a petition requesting an election, and it wouldn't take many of them. Subsection B reads:

B. An annexation election shall be called by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction without the concurrence of the board of education of the school district which is proposed to be annexed, upon the filing of a petition with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for annexation that is signed by a majority of the school district electors in the territory proposed to be annexed, hereinafter referred to as the area affected, said majority being applied to the highest number of voters voting in a regular school district election in the district in the preceding five (5) years as determined by the secretary of the county election board, who shall certify the adequacy of the number of signatures on the petition. The petition shall contain such information as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may require.

The TPS board could choose to limit the election to the affected area or, if they wanted to give the petitioners a bigger hill to climb, could have the entire school district vote. I'd hope that TPS would see the benefit of ceding this sprawling territory with its attendant expenses.

Once upon a time, developers wanted to move rural school territory into the Tulsa district to attract suburban homebuyers. In the early 1950s, voters transferred a large section of the Union district into the Tulsa district -- everything now in the Tulsa district southeast of 21st and Yale.

But for several decades now, smaller suburban and rural districts have been more attractive to househunting parents than Oklahoma's largest single school district. Parents feel that suburban board members and administrators are more accessible and responsive, and a district with one high school is more of a cohesive community than a district with nine where the boundaries seem to be constantly changing. Parts of the City of Tulsa in suburban districts have thrived, while I suspect it's been over 30 years since a new middle-income housing development has been built within TPS boundaries.

MORE: A November 21, 2010 Tulsa World story lists earlier waves of school closings in the Tulsa district.

An excerpt from President Calvin Coolidge's speech on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence:

A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great chapter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.


121 years ago today, Katharine Lee Bates was on a train through Kansas, watching the amber waves of grain, en route to the purple mountain majesty of Pikes Peak. Eleven years earlier on a boat from Coney Island to Manhattan, Samuel Ward wrote down a melody on a friend's starched cuff. Mark Steyn tells the story of the words and tune of "America the Beautiful" and how they came together.

English philosopher Jeremy Bentham didn't think much of the Declaration. He wrote a critique of the document, published as the final chapter of John Lind's Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress.

One of the films created at the recently concluded Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute involved my favorite violinist.

The film was directed and produced by Matt Hanisch and Shauna Rathbun. The music is "River Flows in You" by Yiruma. The setting is Quartz Mountain Resort on Lake Altus-Lugert in southwest Oklahoma.

The Einstein quote from the film:

"Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb, it will live its whole live believing that it is stupid."

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