Senate Bill 834

Governor Henry vetoed a law Senator Ford authored and Representatives Sears and Martin voted for which would have terminated our collective bargaining rights and prohibited trial de novo

Governor Henry Vetoed 834
On May 8, 2009 Governor Brad Henry vetoed Senate Bill 834. This bill was opposed by the OEA.  Originally authored by Bartlesville's own Senator Ford and supported by Bartlesville Representatives Sears and Martin, the legislation would have placed school districts under charter school rules.

Charter school rules would have allowed local boards of education to ignore all existing state mandates except those spelled out in the legislation.

The bill was first amended in the Senate to preserve the state minimum salary schedule, health and retirement benefits, and employment background checks.  The House version also required certified personnel, personnel evaluations, minimum graduation requirements and state curricular content standards, continuing education courses for school board members, and the district-level due process procedure for career teacher terminations.

However, the bill's removal of state mandates included stripping you of your collective bargaining rights, placing in jeopardy all of the working conditions we have negotiated over the past two decades.  It also went out of its way to specifically prohibit trial de novo, where a career teacher may appeal a termination to the district court.

This legislation:
  • Allowed local school 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, any pay above the state minimum, all forms of negotiated leave, and the duty-free 30-minute lunch
  • Allowed local school boards to freely favor certain teachers over others in salary and working conditions, without any required input from the teaching staff:
      • Opened the door to merit pay, possibly based entirely on test scores
      • Opened the door to playing favorites with different salaries for teachers at different sites, for different subject areas, and for various extracurricular programs
  • The amended bill prohibited the existing tenure protection of trial de novo in district court, where teachers facing termination may bring forth witnesses, submit evidence, and confront and cross-exam witnesses before an impartial judge.

Senator Ford authored the bill and both Representatives Sears and Martin voted for it in the House, so all of our local legislators voted to nullify our existing bargaining rights and eliminate trial de novo.  They chose to allow each local board of education to decide whether or not to bargain and what contract conditions to impose without any required consultation with the teaching staff.

Our Local Board of Education

Board President Marta Manning had indicated that she opposes this bill.  This contrasted to the vocal support it received from local school board members Doug Divelbiss and Charlie Daniels in letters to the Examiner-Enterprise.  Board member Barry Lowe said he supported the bill; both he and Mr. Divelbiss, however, did indicate support for our existing local's collective bargaining process with the caveat that it be a local decision.  Board member Tyler Vaclaw indicated that he supported empowering local boards, but hoped for verbiage to hold boards "more responsible" for their actions.  The positions of board members Sam Springer and Ben Rainey on the bill were not confirmed.