Dems Call for Accountability, Transparency in Education Policy

Mike Seals - March 29, 2021 11:00 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY — Members of the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today to bring attention to the lack of education legislation to address the problems facing Oklahoma public schools.

House Bill 2074 and House Bill 2078, packaged legislation that changes student transfer rules and the state’s funding formula, was one of the main issues House Democrats addressed.

“The Open Transfer Bill (HB2074), while it doesn’t seem particularly harmful, will keep the transfer window open all year long – making effective hiring and course planning practices a significant challenge,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa. “Additionally, the language for this legislation as well as for the funding formula bill (HB 2078) which could destabilize the way we fund schools, was put into the bill less than an hour before lawmakers voted, which leaves no time for review or public input.”

Democrats also spoke on the mixed messages coming out of the Legislature.

“We have received reassurances that proposed changes to the funding formula will not lead to budget cuts,” Provenzano said. “These reassurances are being made while there is also talk about taking money away from public schools for having ‘ghost students.’ There are no ghost students. This is a complete misrepresentation of how the public school funding formula works and why we use a three-year average.”

The lawmakers, many of whom are former educators and school administrators, also took aim at the lack of legislation to reform the way Oklahoma treats education management organizations.

“How does Epic, a for-profit virtual charter school, get away with overcharging taxpayers at least $11 million and then not pay the bill?” said Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. “What happened to the legislation proposed at the beginning of the session to hold them accountable? It went away, that’s what happened.”

Moving forward, the group hopes for more public input and especially input from education professionals.

“The telltale sign that a bill isn’t good for education is if educators don’t support it,” Provenzano said. “There is little to no support for these bills among the education community. Our schools know what they need to succeed, but unfortunately, they are still waiting on their government to figure it out.”

 

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