Tulsa Education: October 2010 Archives

Next Media Animation is a Taiwanese media company that is making a name for itself with video-game-style retellings, often hilarious, of American news stories, narrated in Chinese. You may have seen their version of the Al Gore "crazed poodle" allegations or their take on the 2010 midterm elections.

Here's NMA's take on Waiting for "Superman", the new documentary on the failings of the American education system. Even if you don't speak Chinese, the two-minute clip sets out the key points of the school choice debate in memorable images.

For the real trailer (in English!) for Waiting for "Superman", for updates on school districts refusing to comply with the new law providing scholarships for disabled students, and for all the latest developments, click the banner above to visit SchoolChoiceOk.com, a valued BatesLine sponsor.

On Friday, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett spoke to CapitolBeatOK regarding the decision by several Tulsa-area school boards not to obey House Bill 3393, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act.

"When I took office as Superintendent of Public Instruction, I swore an oath to obey federal and state laws. I have sought every day to uphold that promise. Whether or not I like a particular law is not material. It is my job to obey the law and to implement it.

"The way I look at it, the local officials on these boards of education who have acted not to comply, or to prevent implementation of this program in their districts, are not fulfilling their duties.

"I believe they are in violation of their oaths of office. This law was passed, and implemented in a timely manner by the state.

"To be clear, in my work every day there are laws I don't necessarily agree with but which I am required to carry out."

Garrett concluded, "I think these school board members have been ill-advised."

Garrett is retiring at the end of this year after more than 20 years as State Superintendent.

An October 6, 2010, CapitolBeatOK story has some interesting details about the scholarship program and the number of students involved:

The Oklahoma program is similar to laws in Florida and Georgia that have easily withstood legal challenges. The Florida program has been in place since 1999 and now serves approximately 20,000 students with special needs. The scholarship program was designed not to require new spending, but to redirect existing state funds that are currently spent on the student.

School officials claimed the transfers authorized by the scholarship program would somehow harm their financial standing, but only seven students have applied for the scholarships at Jenks and eight at Broken Arrow, according to the Tulsa World. Both schools are among the largest in the state.

Somehow I don't think it will take the law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold much time to burn through the amount of money that would cover such a small number of scholarships.

Tonight the board of Tulsa Public Schools will discuss whether to join Jenks, Union, Bixby, Broken Arrow and other area school districts in disobeying a new state law, HB 3393, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act, which provides scholarships to meet the special educational needs of students with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other disabilites. From the text of HB 3393, as signed by the governor:

The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program is established to provide a scholarship to a private school of choice for students with disabilities for whom an individualized education program (IEP) in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been developed. Scholarships shall be awarded beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.

The parent or legal guardian of a public school student with a disability may exercise their parental option and request to have a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship awarded for the child to enroll in and attend a private school in accordance with this section....

School districts are required to award the scholarship if the applying student was at a public school the previous year, and the student has been accepted at an eligible private school. The amount of the scholarship is the private school tuition or the amount of state aid and local revenue allocated for that student, which ever is lower. The school district can retain 5% of the scholarship amount to cover the cost of administering the program.

On his blog, the House author of the bill, Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), rebuts the claims made by the school districts:

The cost of the scholarships is covered in the law. The Tulsa area districts act as if the funding for the student stops when they transfer on a scholarship and that the district must find the money to pay the scholarship on their own. That is not the case.

The BALedger.com reports that Doug Mann, the school board attorney for Broken Arrow, claims that HB 3393 "can get very expensive very quickly." The story goes on to quote Mann, "The fact of the matter is that the program that that child was in still has to be funded but it now has less funding for that program."

What districts are not mentioning is that the money for the scholarship is fully funded. The district keeps 5% of the scholarship amount to cover administrative costs. In addition to that, the district can continue to count the transferring student for funding purposes for up to two years after the transfer to allow them to absorb their fixed costs. Added to all this money comes less expense because they have one less student.

The reality here is that school districts lose the funding for each student that transfers out of their district after two years even if the student transfers to another school district or to a private or home school setting. However, under HB 3393 the districts retains 5% of the scholarship amount that they would not receive for any other transfer.

House Bill 3393 is a win-win. School districts are protected financially and will have smaller class room sizes with each student that transfers with a scholarship. Most importantly the children benefit because they have more options so they can find and receive the very best education services for their particular special need.

Rep. Nelson has been blogging up a storm on this issue, publishing emails from parents of special-needs kids who tell of their struggles with these very school districts; for example, this email from a Jenks parent:

Jenks is currently being audited by the Office of Civil Rights for violating ADA laws and a list of Special Education Laws that they are in noncompliance. ...

Jenks also has a reputation for interpreting the law so that they don't have to offer services and/or water the services down so it is very minimal. They also are in violation of offering the same services to all students rather than individualized as required by law.

Jenks spends a unbelievable amount of money to keep the law firm on retainer because Jenks does not follow the law. I wonder what the public would say if they knew how much of our schools tax dollars went to pay the law firm? If the tax payers had a say in whether that money went to the law firm or the general education fund I know they would say the money should go to our kids! It is disgusting how much money the law firm gets.

It is ridiculous that Jenks insists that they educate and care about their special education kids. Since we [have been in Jenks] my [child] has regressed two years. They have such low expectations and do very little to increase their intelligence and more to teach the kids "life skills".

One law firm, Rosenstein Fist Ringold, provides legal services to Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow, Union, Bixby, and, until Monday, Skiatook. The Skiatook board voted 3-2 to dismiss the firm and seek new representation, following a grand jury recommendation. The firm has represented the Tulsa district going back at least as far as the 1970 Federal racial desegregation lawsuit. An attorney for the firm, Doug Mann, has said that he is "expecting -- almost hoping" that lawsuits will be filed against the school districts over the scholarship issue, according to a Fox 23 report.

One of the attorneys at RFR is Matthew Ballard. Keith Ballard is superintendent of the Tulsa district, and his bio mentions a son named Matthew who is an attorney in Tulsa.

The Tulsa school board meets tonight, Wednesday, October 13, 2010, at 5:30 pm, at the Education Service Center, north of 31st St. on New Haven Ave. (New Haven is the traffic light between Harvard and Yale.) If you care about giving children with disabilities the education they need, or if you just care about the school district spending money on education instead of lawyers, show up and let the school board know how you feel.

MORE: The State Department of Education's page on the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program, with a list of participating schools.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Education category from October 2010.

Tulsa Education: August 2010 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Education: November 2010 is the next archive.

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