Unfunded "Reforms" [Editorial]

Post date: Jul 27, 2010 6:09:24 PM

It is frankly no surprise that Oklahoma was NOT selected as a finalist in the second round of "Race to the Top" money, despite the massive changes written into law by SB 2033. Politically speaking, it seemed quite unlikely that the Obama administration would give $175 million to a state in which Obama did not carry the vote in a single county.

But in its effort to secure the federal funding, the legislature put into law many changes that presumed federal funding for implementation. With no funds being provided, we are left wondering what will happen. The situation's uncertainly is compounded by the first race in two decades for the office of State Superintendent with no incumbent.

The new law requires a new statewide evaluation system for both teachers and administrators by December 2011 and requires that it trump our existing negotiated agreement no later than 2013-2014. But now there is no funding to develop the "TLE" or "Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System" and its move to make 35% of a teacher's appraisal based on test scores, make it harder to earn career teacher status, make it mandatory to fire teachers who do not achieve certain ratings on the new system, and also supersede seniority in future reductions in force.

The new state law also requires the State Board to align its Language Arts and Mathematics curriculum with the 'K-12 Common Core State Standards' from the 'Common Core State Standards Initiative' of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. But now there is no funding to re-align the PASS curriculum or the corresponding state-mandated End-of-Instruction and core curriculum CRT tests to those new standards.

Our own State Senator, John Ford, told the Tulsa World a week ago, “There was a lot of conversation last year if you’re pro or con — Race to the Top being federal dollars — but I’m here to tell you today that every piece we passed last year is very good education, regardless if we do or if we do not get Race to the Top funding. Race to the Top will allow us to implement these programs better, but if there had never been a program like Race to the Top, the legislation we passed last year would be very, very important.”

Sounds to me like we'll be expected to somehow make all of these changes on the cheap. Whoever is elected the new State Superintendent will have quite a mess on his or her hands.

-Granger Meador

BEA Chief Negotiator