Monday, August 29, 2005

A Fantastic Little School with a Big Budget

This photo is an aerial view of the hands down best little school in Oklahoma, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM). Its located at 1141 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

This little powerhouse with a voracious appetite just scored 31.3 out of a possible 36 on the ACT, far and away the best of any school in Oklahoma, as reported locally by KJRH here.

No doubt. They get the best and brightest. And I am glad that we have such a prestigious school for juniors and seniors available to gifted Oklahoma students.

As I am getting more cynical as I mature, and with my typical jaded eye on government spending, I decided to do a little research. Here is what I found out. According to their own website, OSSM has a student population of about 134. This breaks down into 71 juniors and 63 seniors. They have 26 full time faculty and 11 adjuncts, for a generous student-to-teacher ratio of under 4-1! You can link here for their budget. They are spending $49,047 per student. Yes, that's right, $49,047 per student, ($6,572,319 for 134 students). And does this include the cost to construct the buildings on campus? I know that they have been supported by the Schusterman foundation from Tulsa, who is very interested in common education, so my guess is that there are even more dollars spent on this school that what flows through the budget.

The admission process is very competitive, by their own admission. I'm glad. I would hate to think we were spending 10 times the amount for any other student on anyone ordinary. But in this case, the requirement in the Oklahoma Constitution to provide a "free and appropriate" public education has been met. Our hard earned tax dollars at work!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Getting Our Money's Worth?

Brandon Dutcher is the Vice President of Policy for the Oklahoma think tank, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He frequently writes scholarly articles about public education in Oklahoma. All too often he can point out misstatements and areas that need improvement. He is a proponent of school choice as I am.

Along with Steven Anderson, he has recently published an article regarding the hidden costs of public education. Here is an excerpt from it: "Unlike private-sector businesses, the government’s school accounting systems exclude many significant costs when computing expenditures. As a result, Oklahoma government officials routinely understate the cost of public education. For example, official reports indicated the per-pupil expenditure in FY-2003 was $6,429. This study, using generally accepted accounting principles to report expenditures that would be included on a regular financial statement, finds the real cost that year was more than $11,250".

The $6,429 figure is from Governor Henry's latest executive budget for FY 2003-2004. The $11,250 figure is from the OCPA's research. You can link to the article here. I encourage you to read the article, it is well done and very informative. By the way, some of the things that are not included in the Governor's figure includes such things as; a significant discrepancy between the State number and the Federal numbers, teacher retirement payments, non-appropriated payments, building depreciation, Career Tech common education expenditures, teacher retirement debt and OSSM (Oklahoma School for Science and Mathematics).

Having been intimately involved with the finances of a charter school, I can tell you that the all in cost to educate those 250 students was about $5,000 per pupil, for everything. And TSAS has consistently ranked among the top ten high schools in Oklahoma since its inception in FY 2001-2002. This shows that more money is not the answer to our public education woes.

Interestingly, at the end of the article there is an analysis of private school tuition. It has a weighted average per pupil weighted average of $4,162.40. I wonder if this number includes the cost of the buildings, I doubt it.

Any way you look at it, in the mainstream, whether the number is $11,250 or $6,429 for our traditional public schools versus $5,000 for charter public schools and $4,162.40 for private schools, IS THE OKLAHOMA TAXPAYER GETTING THEIR MONEY'S WORTH?
How much longer will we as citizens and taxpayers of Oklahoma continue to be duped by our elected officials into thinking that we need to continually pump more money into a failing system (at least here in Tulsa). Thank goodness that we still see some public schools doing their job in rural and suburban Oklahoma.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Is this man a villain?

I don't know Mr. Dan Hicks well, but he is an acquaintance. Actually, we each have sons that were in the same class and played on some of the same teams in the past number of years. Having observed him over those years, I was appalled by the personal attacks and names he was called as a result of his stand against pantheism, hinduism, etc at the Tulsa Zoo.

I know him to be a mild mannered and polite Christian man with a nice family. I respect him for standing up for all Tulsans who believe in the Creation account of Genesis found in the Holy Bible. He has never displayed any of the crusader arrogance of so many other Christians. There is no holier-than-thou attitude, no gossip, no slandering.

He is not a villain. He is a great example and a leader. Heck, I wish he would run for a local office. We sure could use more men like him! Check out this website for more information.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

ACT Scores for Tulsa Area High Schools

The latest ACT scores are just now out. The new state average ACT composite score is 20.4.

Kudo's to my favorite, and Tulsa's first charter high school, Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences. It scored the highest on the composite ACT than any other Tulsa area school. It ranks #7 in the state with a score of 23.1!

Here's a summary of the TPS schools:
#16 Booker T. Washington 22.3
#99 Memorial 20.7
#222 Edison 19.5
#322 Nathan Hale 18.5
#343 East Central 18.3
#397 Will Rogers 17.4
#424 T.S.S.T. 16.4
#433 Webster 16.0
#435 Central 15.8

Other Tulsa Area Schools:
#9 Jenks 23.0
#17 Union 22.3
#23 Broken Arrow 22.0
#44 Owasso 21.5
#62 Bixby 21.2

You can link to the information on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website here.

Its kinda funny that the State Department emphasizes how many more minorities are taking the test and gloss over the overall decline in scores. But there is a map that shows Oklahoma is still doing well as compared to all the other Southern States.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Up to Our Eyeballs in Alligators

As parents and students are preparing for the start of another school year, I am reminded of the person who is up to their eyeballs with alligators in a swamp, looking for a way to drain it. Maybe it's too late to drain the swamp...but I don't think so.

The issue that I have been blogging about the longest,(public education in Tulsa), is now front and center with the local media. Just in time for our poor parents to put their kids in school. Here is a link from KJRH about the ability to transfer, but there is much more to this story.

First of all, the 23 schools is the wrong number and only pertain to the Tulsa elementary and middle schools. The needs improvement list identifies 38 schools, including high schools that failed the API index for two or more consecutive years and is a result of the Federal Legislation called the "No Child Left Behind Act". You can learn more about the list and the law from the Oklahoma State Department of Education website. Schools that don't meet standarized criteria for two years in a row are put on this list. The result is that the local school district must offer parent the choice to transfer to any other school in the district that the parent so chooses.

The spokesperson for Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) was bragging about how last year 11% of parents eligible for the open transfer took advantage of it, and that all indications this year is that percentage would be less. I also noticed that TPS was being very creative by adding additional school days and starting school early for some of the Northside schools (attendance is one of the criteria used to determine the list). This really does not seem "fair" and creates a false sense of compliance as compared to the other schools with fewer school days.

What is not mentioned in the KJRH article, but is so germaine is the situation in the public high schools here in Tulsa. KOTV mentioned it on their newscast last evening. But I think what they said was wrong. I know that 7 of 9 TPS high schools are now officially on the list. This includes Edison. The only two not on the list are Booker T. Washington (BTW) and Memorial. Now Memorial may only be about 6 months away from being on the list as they failed it for the first time earlier this year. It takes two years of failing to make the list. What was said on KOTV was that there were no schools for parents of high schoolers to tranfer to, since all were on the list.

But Memorial is not and neither is BTW.

By the way, BTW is the best school in the district, with the highest API score. But TPS will not let you seek a transfer there. I guarantee the good ole boy network is alive and well at the education service center and the educational establishment.

They have had the bully pulpit regarding education since the beginning. And the results are disasterous and they continue to degrade. Parents, its past time to take a deep breath and dive for the drain plug to empty the swamp of failure in Tulsa's public education. Only then will we begin to see our beautiful city begin to turn around in a meaningful way.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Blue Hole

I have just experienced one of the very best and most impromptu weekends in Oklahoma in ages. It started a little bit early on Friday. My mother-in-law had been in Missouri, visiting with her mother(age 89), who is recovering from heart surgery. She was on her way back to Austin and she called us to say she would be meeting us at our lake cabin near Pryor/Adair.

First of all, this is just a one hour drive from Tulsa. And we had dinner at a smorgasbord in Locust Grove. The food there is fantastic! And the buffet is just $6.95 a person with discounts for seniors. Its down home cookin with things like great fried catfish, chicken fried steak with cream gravy, and the list goes on and on. It's always packed but they are set up to deal with the crowds.

Several people I know have been mentioning "Blue Hole" lately. Its not just a legend. I know, I've been there. The last time was in the early 70's. Well, we asked the waitress if she had heard of it. She gladly gave us directions and we left her a big tip.

We followed her cryptic directions and managed to find it. Its actually located about 7 miles east of Salina, Oklahoma. Take 412 East from Tulsa to Highway 69, go North on 69 to Chouteau and then to Pryor. At the stop light for Highway 20 in Pryor, go right (East) to Salina. In Salina, go to the 4 way stop sign and go straight for 7 miles. Blue Hole is on the right.

Blue Hole is privately owned and operated. They have carved out a large pool by diverting the Saline Creek for a section and have created an ice-cold, clear water, swimmin hole. The cost is $5 per car and $10 to camp overnight. It was fantastic! I mean it.

You never hear about this place in Tulsa. I wonder why? Let's get the word out for a day of family centered fun in Northeastern Oklahoma.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Old Tucson Studio

There goes my image! I just can't help it, I've got to post this on my blog. These are two of the "girls" who sang and danced in several live performances in the saloon. They both are very talented and I had a great time at Old Tucson Studios.

A Mexican Ephiphany-Via Tucson

This is a picture of some of the children I had the privilege to meet in the small village of La Paz in Sonora, Mexico on Monday, ministering with the Risley family.

I have not blogged in awhile. That's cause I have just returned from a fantastic 12 day trip to Tucson and Mexico. The principle reason for the trip was a mission training "boot camp". Eight of us Tulsans joined two from Florida and four from Arizona to see if we could meet the "Faith Factor" challenge of a program designed to prepare us for any mission trip to an extreme country, as in Africa. We set up our camp on beautiful Mt. Lemmon just outside of Tucson.

Each morning, we would make the one hour trek down the mountain, past the saqauro cacti forest and sweeping vistas to Tucson Bible Church. There we had the opportunity to hold the very first Vacation Bible School for them. The first full day we had gone out in the sweltering heat in teams of two to knock on doors and invite neighborhood kids to the VBS. The results: About 15 children attended and there were 4 new Christians added to the family of God! Two were hispanic-speaking girls and the other two were english-speaking. The team was able to immediately put into practice some of the things we were learning on the mountaintop.

We were given a reprieve for one day to be just a tourist. We chose to go to Old Tucson Studios which has been to scene of countless westerns; movies and TV series alike. Things like Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Bonanza. Movies like Rio Bravo and Rio Lobo. It was a blast!!!

After leading the Worship Service on Sunday, after church the group packed into a van and drove to Hermosillo Mexico to visit the Risley family. After going to the local children's hospital and passing out food and gospel tracts to the families with children in the hospital, we went back to the house. The men slept on the roof in our sleeping bags. The next morning we visited a community of people living in tar paper shacks and again passed out food and encouragement. It started to rain and one family insisted that our group come inside to stay dry. The light of Christ shone in their faces and their hospitalily and friendliness were overwhelming! They had very little physically, but what they had they gladly shared. They are certainly poor, but not poor in Spirit!

Then we traveled North to Rayon Mexico and ministered with another of the Risley's. Grady allowed us to accompany him to teach his bible class and also a karate class for the kids in La Paz.

This is a trip I will never forget!