Home‎ > ‎

Good and Bad News from Our Legislature

posted Mar 4, 2012, 7:38 PM by Bartlesville Teacher   [ updated Mar 4, 2012, 8:09 PM ]
Bartlesville's Representative Earl Sears co-sponsored Senate Bill 1959, which passed the Senate by a 41-1 vote on 3/1 to fund $92 million in supplemental appropriations, including $37.6 million to fund certified employee and support personnel health benefits and $14.8 million to fund the $5,000 stipends for teachers who attained National Board certification. The measure is expected to easily pass the House and be signed by the governor, and will boost our local district school budget, which was having to pay a significant portion of the cost of the state-mandated insurance.

All is not good news on the legislative front, however. The Oklahoma Senate takes up three major education bills in the next few days. SB 1530 would allow the local and state school boards to strip teachers of the right to collectively bargain and most of the rights afforded by our collective bargaining agreement. SB 1879 requires the state to pay $5,000 stipends for National Board certified teachers, yet also begins funding of a new performance pay system tied to the forthcoming TLE appraisals. SB 1818 would require students to complete four rather than three units of math to graduate.

Senate Bill 1530 by Ford and Holland

Senate Bill 1530 will allow a majority vote of the local and state school boards to strip us of our collective bargaining rights and almost everything in our negotiated agreement.

Our own Senator Ford has revived his effort to allow local school boards, upon approval of the State Department of Education, to be exempted from most state mandates. The "School District Empowerment Program" is promoted as a way to escape from unfunded mandates, but would place your basic rights at the mercy of only four members of our local school board and the state school board. A similar measure passed the legislature two years ago but was vetoed by Governor Henry. Both Senator Ford and Representatives Sears and Martin voted for the similar deregulation bill two years ago.

The bill allows local districts apply for exemptions from all of the state statutes which charter schools already need not follow, save for the following:

ONLY THESE STATUTES ARE PRESERVED FROM BEING OVERTURNED:
  • Students have the right to attend school in the district they reside in
  • State minimum teacher salary schedule
  • Participation in the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System
  • Teachers must be provided a health insurance plan and cafeteria plan for it
  • Criminal background checks
  • Teacher and administrator evaluations and due process rights
  • Payroll deductions for dues and political contributions
  • Only certified or licensed personnel may be employed as teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, superintendents, principals, supervisors, etc.
  • Curriculum requirements for students
  • Required student mastery of state academic content standards
IT WOULD ONLY TAKE A MAJORITY VOTE OF THE LOCAL AND STATE BOARDS TO:
  • Deny teachers the opportunity to collectively bargain:
    • No right to bargain for compensation above the state minimum salary schedule
    • No right to bargain for compensation for additional assigned duties
    • No right to bargain the number of contract days in a school year
    • No right to bargain the length of a school day
    • Any part of our negotiated agreement could be nullified by the school board, including planning periods, duty-free lunch, any pay above the state minimum, grievance procedures, seniority in reductions in force, and all forms of negotiated leave, including sick leave and personal business leave
  • Freely favor certain teachers over others in salary and working conditions, without any required input from the teaching staff:
    • Opens the door to merit pay on any basis, including basing it entirely on test scores
    • Opens the door to playing favorites with different salaries for teachers at different sites, for different subject areas, and for various extracurricular programs

Senate Bill 1879 by Ford and Coody

Senate Bill 1879 provides funding for National Board Certification bonuses, fees, and scholarships while also promoting performance pay based on the forthcoming TLE appraisal system. The bill requires that the state deposit $15 million annually into a fund to pay the $5,000 bonuses for teachers who earn National Board Certification and to pay the application processing and assessment fee for that certification, up to $2,750 as well as a $500 scholarship if they are successful in obtaining the certification.  Up to 100 applicants will be accepted each fiscal year. Any funding left unused at the end of each fiscal year will go toward performance pay based on results of the TLE appraisals.

Senate Bill 1818 by Halligan and Denny

Senate Bill 1818 mandates that students graduate with four, rather than three, credits in math. This will reduce student enrollment in electives and make it more difficult for some students to graduate, on top of the existing ACE end-of-instruction testing requirements.

Beginning with students entering the ninth grade in the 2012-2013 school year, the three units of mathematics required by this paragraph shall be increased to four units.  The four-unit requirement may include a course in remedial mathematics if the student is determined to be in need of remediation in order to complete a mathematics course with the content and/or rigor above Algebra I or completion of a course at a career and technology center that has been certified by the State Department of Education as having the content and/or rigor above Algebra I.