Restore Oklahoma Public Education

P.O. Box 20146 Oklahoma City, OK 73156 President: Jenni White Board Members: Lynn Habluetzel Danna Foreman Jo Joyce Stacy Willis Julia Seay

5/7/2012 Speaker of the House Kris Steele

2300 N. Lincoln Blvd, Room 401 Oklahoma City, OK 73105
CC: House Speaker Pro Tempore, Representative Jeffrey Hickman CC: Honorable Governor Mary Fallin Dear Mr. Speaker: The Board of Directors of Restore Oklahoma Public Education and I are writing to ask you to put HJR1125 on the House Calendar as soon as possible. Though HJR1125 is a disapproval of the rules promulgated by the Department of Education upon which this grading system rests, there is – with certainty – more than that at stake here.

I am linking a copy of the letter that was written by ROPE to the Governor, Assistant Superintendent Kerri White and Superintendent of Public Instruction Barresi requesting them NOT to apply for – or accept – an NCLB waiver. We explain in great detail the reasons for our request, so I will not repeat them here, but I encourage you to take time to read the letter and contemplate our stand on the issue. I mention this in a letter regarding the A-F rules because the A-F system is the backbone of the NCLB waiver. Why is this of such great concern to us – a board composed of mothers, businesswomen, taxpayers and housewives? Because we are also limited government conservatives who have actually read the NCLB waiver requests submitted by the Oklahoma Department of Education to the Federal Department of Education – both the ESEA Flexibility Request (365pp) and the Final ESEA Flexibility Request (108pp) and have grave concerns about its use in Oklahoma. It is exceedingly clear in the waiver that without the A-F system, there would be no mechanism for the State Department of Education to take over schools, subjecting them to a prescription of Federal rules and programming that all but nullify the authority of the local school board. (top of pg 63 [Priority Schools] and pg 76 [Focus Schools]), “At the time of submission of this ESEA Flexibility Request, the State’s newly adopted A-F

School Grading System has not been implemented. Implementation will begin in the 2012-2013 school year; therefore, initial identification of Priority [Focus] Schools will be based on the methodology described below. Identification of Priority [Focus] Schools in future years

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will be based on the A-F School Grading System as well as the following methodologies as explained at the end of this section.)
This set of circumstances can do no other but grow government (please see the number of organizations that will be employed to ‘monitor’ ‘failing’ schools) and reduce the freedom of school administration, teachers and parents to govern their local school according to what is best for the community. The same day the A-F grading rules disapproval was passed in the Rules Committee, the State Department of Education posted a press release touting the nearly 6 million dollars received in School Improvement Grants (SIG). States using NCLB waivers (or who apply for a Race to The Top grant) are encouraged to apply for SIGs in order to assist failing schools being subjected to the Turnaround model. Also that same day, Governor Fallin released a statement to the press supporting the A-F grading system. These events beg the question; is the A-F system about school ‘reform’ and what’s best for students and families enrolled in public education in the state of Oklahoma, or is this about federal grant money? Many of the comments made to the Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee described a lack of communication and attention to the community regarding the A-F rules. One only has to look at the largest of the published NCLB waiver requests to see that such concerns have merit. Beginning on page 113, 15 pieces of public comment on the waiver are included (as required by the application process). Interestingly, of the 15 pieces submitted, only FIVE are actually in FAVOR of the waiver – TEN are AGAINST. Saturday, April 28, I was privileged to serve on the State Republican Party Platform Committee, where I assisted with the Education portion of that document. As I am sure you know, the planks of this manuscript are defined by simple, taxpaying, citizens from every walk of life who give freely of their time to attend precinct and county meetings and submit suggestions to help frame the direction of their party. Throughout the entire document, limited government is espoused - nay specified. The education section of the document is delineated by one single precedent that exists without equivocation; the desire to remove our state from ANY federal entanglements in education (with the Federal initiatives of Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind specified for further clarification). What is the NCLB waiver if not a direct polar opposite of exactly what the grass roots (voting) members of the Republican Party desire? How will Oklahoma sustain NCLB waiver reforms when the Federal government (already trillions in debt) is no longer able to entice our state leaders with the ‘free’ money collected from the brow sweat of millions of hard working Oklahoma men and women? How can the state justify taking the power of the parent to effect the school at which his child is enrolled? How can Republicans support these ‘reforms’? If your interests are truth and transparency in education, I challenge you to allow HJR1125 to come to the floor for a vote. Thank you for hearing us on this issue. Respectfully, Jenni White President, ROPE

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