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Senate Approves Education Reform Clean-up Bill, Expands Scholarship Opportunities for College Students

More Oklahoma college students will have scholarship opportunities under an education reform clean-up bill approved by the State Senate Wednesday. In addition to correcting flaws in a 1999 education reform act, HB 2728 will expand eligibility requirements for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP).

"All the experts have told us that the only way to attract high-paying jobs and increase personal income is to boost the number of college graduates in Oklahoma. The only way to do that is by helping more students get a college education. I think every dollar that we invest in a scholarship
for a young person will ultimately be returned to us in the form of future economic benefits," said Senator Cal Hobson, co-author of HB 2728.

OHLAP offers college scholarships to working Oklahomans and their children. HB 2728 expands the program's income eligibility level from $32,000 to $50,000 -a change that could bring as many as 4,000 students into the program.

The legislation also revises a number of others sections in last year's reform measure, correcting deficiencies identified by state lawmakers and education officials in recent months. The changes include:

  • Repeals the dual diploma system, returning to one standard diploma;

  • Revises the Oklahoma Higher Education Learning Access Program, raising the income eligibility level from $32,000 to $50,000;

  • Revises the Oklahoma Tuition Scholarship Program, deleting the controversial "diploma of honor" requirement and setting new criteria, including a minimum ACT of 26, minimum GPA of 3.25 and a ranking in the top 15 percent of a high school graduating class.

  • Revises required core curriculum courses, providing students with greater flexibility to take advantage of vocational-technical opportunities;

  • Revises certification requirements for middle school math teachers, allowing certification through passage of a competency test or professional development courses;

  • Stipulates that provisions of the Open Transfer Act do not apply to students who transferred prior to its implementation;

  • Clarifies that school dress codes are decided by local officials, not the state;

  • Requires common education, vo-tech and higher education institutions to coordinate spring break dates by the 2001-2002 school year.

In recent months, Senator Hobson and other lawmakers worked with school officials and others to identify problem areas that needed to be addressed. The final version of the bill was supported by members of the Oklahoma Education Coalition.

"We've addressed all the areas of concern and made last year's reform measure a much better law in the process. This certainly won't address all of the challenges our public schools face, especially when it comes to adequate classroom resources, but I do think it is a step in the right
direction," said Senator Hobson.

The measure now goes to Governor Keating for his signature. He is expected to approve the bill.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605