State Senate Republicans will be given the freedom to implement one of their education reform ideas in their home school districts if an amendment approved by the full Senate ultimately becomes law. The measure in question, originally proposed by the Senate GOP caucus last week, will require twelve pilot school districts to spend at least 90 percent of their education funding in the classroom.
SB 363 was amended on the floor today to include the 90 percent pilot project. The amendment was approved on a 38-9 vote, even though Democratic legislators raised concerns about the potential impact on cafeteria services, bus drivers, custodians and other items classified as "administration" by Republican members.
"I applaud Republican members for volunteering to test one of their education proposals in their home districts, especially one with so many potential pitfalls. I think it¹s going to be tough to meet the 90 percent threshold without getting rid of things like buses and cafeteria meals, but the Republicans are pretty confident that it can be done in their schools without any major disruptions," said Senator Mike Morgan, author of the amendment.
Under the legislation, only the items and personnel directly linked to classroom instruction, such as teachers, teacher aides and classroom supplies, could be counted toward the 90 percent.
The measure is designed to implement an education proposal originally requested by the Senate GOP caucus in a February 24th press release. In that release, Senate Minority Leader Mark Snyder called for the initiative, saying "This will ensure that 90 percent of the budget will go into the classroom and not in bureaucrats' pockets."
The amendment was tailored to mirror that GOP proposal.
"The Republicans have been pretty clear about what they want. This will give them the opportunity to do just what they¹ve been saying in their home school districts," said Senator Morgan.
Twelve school districts (approximately two percent of the school districts statewide) have been selected to participate in the pilot project. The figure in parentheses represents the percentage of money the schools are currently directing to the classroom:
Edmond Public Schools (59%)
Putnam City Public Schools (60%)
Moore Public Schools (63%)
Yukon Public Schools (62%)
Tulsa Union Public Schools (58%)
Hennessey Public Schools (61%)
Bartlesville Public Schools (59%)
Waukomis Public Schools (62%)
Kingfisher Public Schools (63%)
Bethany Public Schools (53%)
Deer Creek Public Schools (64%)
Woodward Public Schools (65%)
"Those schools are going to have to move millions of dollars away from libraries, cafeterias, bus drivers, security and other vital services to comply with the Republicans' 90 percent initiative. I think it¹s going to be difficult if not impossible to make it all work, but that's why were limiting this to a small pilot project," said Senator Morgan.
The next stop for the legislation is the State House.