An Oklahoma scholarship program for special-needs children is once again under attack.
“A motley crew of plaintiffs has filed a lawsuit asking the Oklahoma courts to toss out the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for students with disabilities,” writes Oklahoma City University law professor Andrew Spiropoulos. “This renewed attempt to sever a lifeline for a small group of disabled students is vindictive because these plaintiffs know that these children suffered horribly in public schools. The program enables these children to escape an environment of bullying, ineffective instruction, and profound neglect and find specialized schools where they can blossom and reveal the beauty of their true nature.”
One of the plaintiffs, longtime public-school superintendent Clarence G. Oliver Jr., professes not to understand why any parent would want to choose anything other than a public school. After all, “there are steps all along the way for parents to appeal” if they’re not satisfied with their public-school experience, he told Dan Thomas of KOCO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City. “The special education program offered in public schools, in my opinion, is superior to anything that they’ll find in the private schools.”
That’s an odd claim (given that only 6 of every 100 Oklahoma fourth-graders with disabilities are proficient readers), and it’s certainly not persuasive to several parents of special-needs children. Parents such as Tom Farrell, who writes in the Tulsa World: “Only a truly challenged child, who needs more help than the public schools can provide to become independent and productive, would motivate a parent to take them to a special-needs school far from their own neighborhood. Merely visiting Town and Country School produces an emotional response in any normal parent. Sweet, gentle-hearted children who simply weren’t prospering in public schools are getting the love, help, and affirmation that they desperately need from teachers and peers. … It is a godsend for them.”
To see for yourself what Mr. Farrell means, just go to YouTube and type in “Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Stories.”
Or consider the words of Robert and Cathy Hansen, the loving grandparents of Dylan Pennington, who uses a Henry scholarship to attend Trinity School in Oklahoma City: “Dylan has been diagnosed as autistic (on the spectrum), dyslexic, and dysgraphic. Dylan previously attended an Oklahoma City Public School where he was under an IEP (Individualized Education Program) from age 3 to 9. Each year he attended this school, he seemed to fall farther and farther behind, both educationally and socially. He received very little help with his learning difficulties and absolutely no help with socialization issues. He did receive strong support at home with completion of homework and other tasks but that was not enough. The educational system was failing him.
“Meetings were held regularly on the IEP and steps were agreed on but never taken. More meetings were held and changes to the IEP were discussed but never made and again there was no action. The last year he was in a public school he was assigned to a teacher who was rarely in the classroom. He had a series of substitute teachers and subsequently no consistency in his class environment. We saw our grandchild becoming a truly lost child, falling through the cracks in the educational system.
“Our daughter was so upset she considered homeschooling Dylan but then she learned about Trinity School. She enrolled him at Trinity and applied for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. In the time since, we have watched him thrive not only academically but socially. His birthday parties are now filled with the happy sound of children’s laughter and excitement and no longer are disappointing events where few if any of the invited children bother to attend. We almost immediately observed a major difference in how he socializes with us and with others. He has learned skills that most children seem to know almost automatically but that he needs to be carefully taught.
“We now have hope that our grandson will not have to go through life as a rejected and dismissed person but as a fully functioning and contributing member of society.”
Sadly, the plaintiffs are unmoved. As Spiropoulos explains, “the lawsuit is driven by the education establishment’s furious need to destroy any initiative, no matter how necessary or successful, that it perceives will cost it funding.”
Unfortunately, as KOCO-TV reports, “this group that’s suing to stop that scholarship fund, they say that they’ve got an unlimited amount of funding for the legal battle — they’re willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to stop this scholarship from helping out special-needs kids.”
BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident, is senior vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. His columns have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, the Tulsa World, Forbes.com, and in 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S.
An Oklahoma scholarship program for special-needs children is once again under attack.
Film critic Turan produces book
Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.
Logan County’s disputed zone
Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.
Russell leads in Sun poll
Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.
Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma
Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.
Medicaid reform a necessity
Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
Remembering lessons from 1974
This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.
RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?
Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.
Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here
To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.
New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”
On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”
OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation
When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.
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