Honoring the anniversary of United States Constitution, signed on this date in 1787, United States Senator Tom Coburn, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Former Congressman Dan Boren and Tulsa Councilor G.T. Bynum today announced the Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative.
This state legislative effort aims to ensure all Oklahoma high school graduates have a basic understanding of American civics and history.
“Our country has endured because of the wisdom of our founding fathers and the system of government they established,” said Senator Coburn. “Everyone should have a basic understanding of American civics and why our country has prevailed for more than 200 years. The Civics Education Initiative seeks to ensure that our young people understand what makes America great.”
According to the Pew Research Center, only about one-third of Americans can name the three branches of the United States government, much less say what each does. Further, studies of high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona showed less than a four percent passage rate on the Unites States Citizenship Civics test – the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the civics test as part of the naturalization process, 92 percent of immigrants who take the test pass it on their first try.
The Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative will promote an active and engaged citizenry by requiring that all Oklahoma high school students and those seeking general educational development equivalency (GED) pass the 100-question civics test administered by USCIS. The state legislation will allow students to take the test any time during their high school career, and to take the test as many times as necessary to pass.
By using the well-established USCIS test, there will be no need or expense to create a new test or study materials, as these materials are already available online and for free. The legislation will allow individual schools to administer the test in a way the school as deems adequate to meet the requirements.
“We can do better for this generation of students,” said Attorney General Scott Pruitt. “This initiative is a concrete first step to ensuring that Oklahoma high school students graduate with the fundamental knowledge to become engaged citizens. Those who are educated about our government, by and large, participate at a higher rate.”
The USCIS Citizenship Civics test consists of 100 basic questions about American civics and history, such as:
What is the name of the President of the United States now?
Name one branch or part of the government.
What is the capital of your state?
What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
To date the CEI has seen broad support across the state. Co-Chairs of the Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative include U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and former Congressman Dan Boren.
Six other states today are announcing similar state legislative efforts including Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. The goal of the Civics Education Initiative is for every state in the nation to pass this legislation by September 17, 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the Constitution.
The Initiative’s national board of directors includes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, and actor Joe Mantegna who has been nominated for both Golden Globe and Emmy awards. (National Board Video Message)
The Civics Education Initiative is an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, which was founded to educate American youth on the importance of our country’s unique freedoms, and to inspire them to public service. Joe Foss was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, former governor of South Dakota, and first commissioner of the American Football League.
Sep 17 2014 | Posted in Education
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Governor Fallin announced today that public schools, colleges and universities have received record earnings during the last four fiscal years from funds distributed by the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO).
More than $519.9 million has been distributed to the CLO’s education beneficiaries during the 2011 through 2014 fiscal years, according to the agency. That amount is 57 percent, or $188.7 million, more than the $331.2 million distributed during the next-highest four-year period in state history (2007-2010).
“This is great news for public education,” said Fallin. “This money provides much-needed additional funds for school districts, colleges and universities. The increase in CLO dollars is one more way to supplement the $150 million increase legislators appropriated for K-12 education in the last two years. I appreciate the hard work of the land office commissioners and CLO Secretary Harry Birdwell for helping to produce these high returns.”
The CLO distributes money from oil and gas exploration and land leases on the agency’s controlled property as well as dividends from investments made by the trust fund.
Public schools received most of the money, or $381.9 million of the $519.9 million, distributed the past four fiscal years by the CLO. Higher education received $137.9 million.
The money for kindergarten-through-grade-12 schools is distributed to each of the state’s 517 school districts based on school attendance numbers.
The value of the CLO’s permanent trust fund since 2011 has grown by nearly $700 million, from $1.606 billion to $2.304 billion.
It took 95 years for the CLO’s permanent trust fund to reach the $1 billion threshold. It took only 11 additional years for the permanent trust fund to pass the $2 billion mark.
The CLO is assigned the task of managing, leasing and selling properties set aside decades ago to be managed for the maximum financial benefit of Oklahoma’s common and higher education schools.
Republican schools superintendent nominee Joy Hofmeister today criticized the Obama Administration’s penalization of Oklahoma for its repeal of Common Core.
Here’s her statement:
“In revoking our ESEA Waiver before the current academic standards review
process could be completed by our State Board of Regents, the Obama
administration has rushed to penalize Oklahoma for the repeal of Common Core.
“This is an example of a punitive overreach by the federal government that shows
a lack of caring for our students, and I consider it an outrage to penalize
students and children simply because the Obama administration is angry that our
state has chosen to chart it’s own course on educational standards.
“This is a classic ‘Big Brother knows best’ approach.
“It is the right of a state to chart its own education standards. I have
confidence in our State’s Board of Regents and their process to review our
academic standards. It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has shown a
lack of willingness to work with Oklahoma children, their teachers and their
“I have full confidence in our teachers’ ability to navigate standards and focus
on student learning. However, the redirecting of funds away from our school
classrooms to outside supplemental providers is a terrible waste of our taxpayer
dollars. I witnessed this waste in the early years of No Child Left Behind.
Our children cannot afford to lose teachers and classroom funding due to this
required diversions of funds. It’s wrong and our children deserve better.
“I will continue my work to fight the federal over-regulation of this failed
national initiative. We must focus on what’s best for our students,” Hofmeister
House Media Division
Oklahoma House leaders expressed disappointment today after learning the federal government will pursue a punitive course of action following Oklahoma’s repeal of Common Core State Standards earlier this year.
Oklahoma officials received a letter today from the United States Department of Education stating they will not renew Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver. This heavy handed decision comes after the passage of House Bill 3399, a measure which repealed the untested Common Core State Standards and put in place a process to develop and adopt new, superior standards with the help of Oklahoma higher-education and CareerTech systems. The U.S. Department of Education has deemed Oklahoma’s pursuit of proven college and career-ready standards to be a failure to adhere to the NCLB waiver principles.
“We knew the federal government could opt to take some actions when we passed HB3399,” said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. “None-the-less, this decision is troubling because it sets back the efforts of our local schools to continue improving by imposing on them unhelpful and unnecessary regulations. This situation makes it even more imperative that the State Board of Education move quickly to begin the process of creating and adopting new superior standards.”
In a letter to Oklahoma officials, Deborah Delisle, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, explained the basis of their decision stating that “Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that the state’s standards are college and career-ready standards.”
“I challenge the U.S. Dept. of Education to ‘demonstrate’ that Common Core is college and career ready in Oklahoma before they begin dictating how we run our state’s education system,” said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “They can’t do it. Each state’s college remediation requirements are different and they have absolutely no idea if Common Core meets their own requirements.
“In the Obama administration’s determination to compel Oklahoma to stay with Common Core, they plan to impose onerous federal regulations on our education system that were unnecessary this morning but are now, amazingly, necessary this afternoon. It’s obvious that states like Oklahoma must not flinch in taking back control of our standards if we truly want standards that can be ‘demonstrated’ to be college and career ready. Unfortunately, this letter is the latest example of the slow death of federalism which is being replaced with flawed logic.”
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Thursday he would appeal a ruling that invalidated a portion of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, which allows parents of children with disabilities to obtain scholarship money from the state to fund their child’s attendance at a school of their choosing.
A district court judge ruled funds from the scholarship program cannot be used to send students with disabilities to sectarian schools. The judge’s order is stayed pending appeal, which means the scholarship program remains unchanged for now.
“This scholarship program empowers parents of children with disabilities to obtain scholarship monies from the state to fund their child’s enrollment and attendance in a private school of their choosing,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “Prohibiting the use of Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship funds from being used to send students with disabilities to sectarian schools would require the state to discriminate against those schools. That is highly troublesome and why we will appeal the ruling.”
John Cox has a commanding lead over Freda Deskin in the race for the Democratic nomination for schools superintendent.
With returns just starting to accumulate, Cox had 62 percent of the vote,
Robert G. Holland
Never let it be said that Common Core (CC) entirely lacks educational value.
By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.
The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.
A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:
“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”
That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.
In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”
The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.
The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.
It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.
Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.
Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.
Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.
Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.