State Capitol, Oklahoma City – On a straight party-line vote late Wednesday evening, Senate Democrats rammed through a controversial education bill that reverses important education reforms and reduces the control of local school boards over the state’s public education system, Senate Republicans said today.
“HB 1767 is very bad news for every Oklahoman who wants to improve our public education system, and is a sellout to the liberal OEA leadership,” said Senate Republican Floor Leader James Williamson, R-Tulsa. Williamson is a former teacher.
“Most of these provisions were never even discussed in committee, yet they were rolled into a single bill and we were told to ‘take it or leave.’ This is just plain wrong, and it is no way to run the state Legislature,” said Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Moore, a member of the Senate Education Committee and a former teacher.
“In a single blow, HB 1767 unravels many reforms we have fought for during the past decade,” stated Senator Mike Johnson, R-Kingfisher, the Chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, a member of the Senate Education Committee, and a former school board member.
“This bill is the embodiment of the backroom deals that are seen during the last days of a legislative session, and it symbolizes everything that is wrong with the Oklahoma Legislature today,” said Sen. Nancy Riley, R-Tulsa, a member of the Senate Education Committee and a former teacher.
Among the bill’s reform-killing provisions are:
A 2-year moratorium on limiting administrative costs, which will allow funding to be diverted from the classroom to other school functions.
Reduced control by local school boards by placing a state “floor” on teachers’ salaries that even prohibits teachers from voluntarily accepting pay reductions to avoid the layoffs of fellow teachers.
Expands the $5,000 National Teacher Certification bonus to non-classroom personnel, which will add an additional financial strain on school districts.
Creates more rules and regulations to make it more difficult for local school boards to fire bad teachers.
Changes the renewal notice requirement for charter schools from one year to two months, making it more difficult for these schools to remain open. (Charter schools were a key education reform enacted in the 1990s.)
“I am concerned the current Democrat governor will support the efforts by the Democrat-controlled Legislature to reverse these important education advances made during the Keating administration,” Williamson added. “Hopefully, Governor Henry will see that this bill will take Oklahoma in the wrong direction and veto HB 1767.”