Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's Legislative Season...Here is My Watch-List of Bills

It's Legislative session...and the fun-and-games have already begun. According to my new favorite website, OpenStates, OK Legislators have filed 1464 bills dealing with education in our state. One Thousand Four Hundred Sixty Four. 1464 attempts to interfere in our business, or to correct earlier interferences in our business. They boggle the brain.

Within those 1464 bills are frivolous ones, sincere ones, ideological ones, and ALEC-written ones. Too much for even a retired grandmother to keep up with, and to make sense of.

With OpenStates, I was able to create a list of favorite bills, with the promise of alerts when there is Legislative action on my bills.

With the exception of Sally Kern's bills intending to legislate hate, I have identified only education bills. My list will not be YOUR list, but together we can keep each other informed.

There are many bills dealing with testing: fine-tuning Reading Sufficiency Act, altering high school End of Instruction exams and substituting the ACT. Some are trying to revise the failed A-F school grading. Some make changes to Teacher and Leader Effectiveness. There are bills to alter teacher pensions, but not the one we feared, changing the system to a defined contribution system that will gut our pension fund.

I have chosen to concentrate on bills dealing with several subjects: parent trigger, charter expansion, vouchers, testing, social studies, AP US History, and National Board Certification. Two quirky bills, Kern's poptart bill, HB1596, and Loveless's Hobby Lobby bill, SB48,  are on my list also. We have rejected Kern's bill again, but she brought it back again.

Didn't we already beat back the failed ALEC Parent Trigger nonsense? This is a bad idea that must be killed again. Maybe we should call it the Zombie Bill. Senator Holt was so unprepared to defend his own bill last year that he could not answer the informed questions of my friend. He seemed to have not even read his own bill. This year he's introducing it again, as SB187.We must be ready to fight again. We don't need American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by the shadowy Koch brothers, writing our legislation.

Speaking of ALEC, Senator Jolley (a favorite ALEC son), and Representative Nelson (I haven't found the connection between Nelson and ALEC except for the word-for-word copying) have introduced the high-sounding "Oklahoma Education Savings Account," or to use plain words, vouchers to take out of public schools and apply at any private school in the state. The bill is HB2003, with Jolley as coauthor. Jolley's version is SB690, with Nelson as coauthor. How very cozy.I've already written about Nelson's bill here and here. Schools in OK have seen funding cut more than any other state in the nation, and yet our policy makers are following the ALEC party line, and trying to further bankrupt our schools. Ironically, the ALEC model legislation actually provides for more accountability for the private schools than Nelson's does.

Nelson is also authoring a bill, HB2004, to modify provisions of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Act...another ALEC invention, even to the suggestion of naming the Act after the child of a prominent state citizen. This will take more money out of public schools at a critical time, and will not ensure better education for special education students.

This seems to be the "Year of the Charter." It seems like lots of lawmakers are jumping on the bandwagon. I'm not informed enough to know which will be bankrolled by the Walton Foundation, but we can be certain they will be back in the state with their wallets open. Our charter laws have worked...there is no need to expand. Bills include: Holt'sSB68, "allowing certain city governing bodies to be sponsors," Pittman's SB286, "creating the Community Learning Act," Loveless's SB171, "creating the Flixibility for Rural Education Act, removing population limits," SB783, coauthored by Jolley and Denney, "providing for calculation of state aid for certain purposes," Jolley and Denney also introduced SB782, "modifying for sponsors," SB302, by Loveless and Kirby, "allowing a federally recognized Indian tribe to be a sponsor," Loveless also is trying to expand charters into rural districts: SB171, creating the "Flexibility for Rural Education Act."

Then there are the intrusions into education standards, curriculum, and courses. Riding high from his 'success' in repealing Common Core in OK, Senator Brecheen has turned his eyes on AP US History courses: APUSH. His bill, SB650, and Fisher's HB1380, attack the college-level courses, the curriculum, and the AP exams that many families count on to lower college tuition costs. BlueCerealEducation and OkEducationTruths have discussed these bills at length. The anti-intellectual stances of these two Legislators embarrasses me, and the overriding hubris of assuming they can strong-arm a national education foundation with their posturing is breathtaking. I feared this kind of attack on education after the Common Core repeal. I feard, listening to Senator Brecheen's attack on Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, implying the book was required reading under CCSS. His disingenuous...dare I say 'lying' about the book, his 'embarrassed' reading of the naughty bits into the Senate record, pretending embarrassment at sharing the bad words, was a bravura performance. His followers did not like my pointing out this fact. His aim is to control and direct what teachers can teach in our classes. These bills must be squashed. I'm calling them an unfunded mandate on parents, since without being able to earn credit with the APUSH test, (up to nearly $1500) parents will be forced to pay for these college courses. Brecheen also has a Senate Continuing Resolution about APUSH: SCR3.

HB1537 by Thomsen would require OK to adopt 'certain' science standards, as would SB665, with no author listed. There are more bills requiring some kind of Civics requirement than one can shake a stick at. I know I will miss some of them. SB407 by Dahm, HB1841, by Banz, HB1145 by Kannady. I fear I missed some...

I will also follow three bills concerning National Board Certified Teachers and speech pathologists' stipends. Denney's HB1692 and McDaniels' HB1141 actually cancel each other out...Denney's withdraws the stipend for nationally-certified speech paths, and McDaniels' assured it. Representative Proctor introduced HB1816, a one-page, introduction-only bill "creating the National Board Teacher Certification Act of 2015." I've contacted Rep. Proctor to learn more.

Senator Loveless continues his war on school administration costs with SB15, coauthored by Denney. I have sent the Senator many links (here and here and here) that show blaming administrative costs for funding woes is an attempt to distract us from the true culprit: policymakers who do not fully fund public schools. I will continue to share...with little hope of success. He much prefers to believe the public-school-hating group, OCPA, Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs.

There are several bills revising the salary schedule...I fear these will be hopeless, since there will be no money for teacher raises this year.

I leave it to others to track the various RSA bills and the TLE bills...I'll have my hands full trying to follow these.

I recommend that you use OpenStates to create your own account, and your own list of favorites. Please stay involved and alert. Be ready to contact Rep. Coody, the chair of the Common Education Committee in the House, and Senator Ford, the chair of the Senate Education Committee. They will make the decisions about which of these bills will be sent out of committee.

I will be attending as many of the committee meetings as I can, and will report back.

So, what bills will you be watching?


  1. Thanks for your thorough review of these bills, Claudia. I think part of the motive for so many pieces of legislation is to a smoke screen to obscure the ones they truly want to jam through, like ESAs, expansion of LNH, and charters. I will start digging into the TLE bills to see what I can find.

    1. Oh, Rob, I live in fear that I've let one slip through the cracks. I'll appreciate your insights into TLE...I don't have a good handle on that at all. Was able to retire just before all that exploded onto the scene. We have this covered between all of us.