Governor Ready to Sign Controversial Education Bills

Post date: Apr 2, 2011 12:47:07 AM

Governor and Legislature Will Make School Board Termination Decisions Final

Governor Fallin has indicated she will sign two controversial bills sent to her by the state legislature. HB 1380 will eliminate a teacher's right to appeal a school board termination to a district court judge - the trial de novo procedure instituted by the 1990 education reform law known as House Bill 1017. This reduces career teachers to the same level of protection previously afforded to probationary teachers and provides no third party to review the termination, marking the first time since at least 1943 that career teachers could not appeal a firing decision to an independent third party. If a teacher feels that his or her due process rights were violated in the school board hearing, he or she will have to file a civil lawsuit.

State Board of Education Stripped of Power Over State Department of Education

The legislature has also sent HB 2139 to the governor. That bill goes less far than Senator Ford's original senate bill, which would have stripped the board of all of its power and transferred it to the state superintendent, and it does not change how board members are appointed. However, this bill does strip the State Board of Education of its control over the State Department of Education while still providing that the state board set policies and rules for the state's schools, curricula, teacher licensure and certification, district accreditation, and so forth. The bill is a consequence of a contentious meeting early this year when some of the new state superintendent's candidates for various positions in the State Department of Education, including some who are still being paid by private foundations, were rejected by the State Board of Education.


Retirement Credit Update

In December the State Board of Education funded half of the teacher retirement credit and has now agreed to fund the remainder this year. One presumes they've merely redirected money again, so it is likely school districts will have to absorb another hit.

Voucher Bill in Committee

On Wednesday, April 6 at 4 p.m. the House Appropriations and Budget Committee will hear SB 969, a voucher bill which will provide taxpayer credits to effectively allow parents to send their children to private school, including parochial schools, at the public's expense. The scheme tries to avoid the unconstitutional public funding of private and parochial schools by allowing parents to effectively redirect some of their taxes from the public schools to their children's private school. This means parents sending their children to private schools would pay less taxes to support public education than taxpayers with children in public schools and the many taxpayers with no school-age children.

The legislature already provided this sort of scheme for some special needs children in the previous session and the bill would extend it to any students who attend a school on the state department's "Needs Improvement" list or any student in a family with an income equal to or less than three times the amount qualifying for free and reduced lunches. Once a student qualifies, that student and any siblings continue to automatically qualify for the credit until they graduate from high school or are 21 years old.