Friday, March 29, 2013

Notes from Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC)

I attended the informational meeting for PLAC, held in Norman. Speakers were informed and helpful. I hope we'll have more meetings in the future.

Parent Legislative Action Committee
Parent Meeting March 28, 2013
Meredith Exline – Metro PLAC – their group is nonpartisan and has no funding
Three legislators attended: Standridge, Nelson, and Martin

OK Policy Institute – Megan Benn, Outreach
School funding is 60% state, 10% federal, and 25-30% local
State has cut $220 million to schools, with an increase of 31,000 students. This means $200 less per pupil in expenditures
34% of the budget for common education…has steadily dropped since 2000
The state’s 20% drop in funding is third largest cut to education in the nation…behind only Alabama and Arkansas
Federal $$ will be affected by sequestration
Local – OK is 48th in the nation in property tax collection per capita – paying 43% of the national average. We pay $597 – national average is $1388
State questions both resulted in less $$ for education: 758 will mean $3.5 less per year; 766 will decrease available funds anywhere from $32 million to $60 million.
FY ’14 Barresi asked for increase of $290,000,000
                Gov proposed increase of $13.5
                Legislature thinks $75-100 million increase is possible

CCOSA – Ryan Owens talked about school legislation
No attempt to work with OU/OSU, who called A-F ‘unsalvageable’…Legislation was to provide accountability program that was ‘valid, reliable and useful.’ Three bills:
HB2044 – Henke – CCOSA supports this
HB1658 – Denney – both these bills are by the original authors, tinkers around the edges
SB635 – Jolley – CCOSA has little confidence in either
Guns in school  
 HB1062 – passed the House. Gives local boards right to arm teachers – MODIFIED CLEET training (cut from 240 to 120 hours). Schools required to pay for training and all expenses. Unclear who buys the gun. Contact John Ford of Senate Ed Committee

HB2101 – Fourkillers – trains personnel to administer epipen injection to student who seems to be in anaphylactic shock from unidentified allergy. Liability issues if the bill passes and schools don’t train personnel, AND if they do. Bill is a solution looking for a problem. No child in an OK school has died of this shock.

School Safety
SB256 – Shannon and Bingman – response to the Lt. Gov. Commission. Requires 8 drills a year – 2 lockdown, 2 intruder, 2 fire and 2 tornado…isn’t that fewer than we do now??
SB 259 – Bingman, Ford and Burrage –  Requires school to report presence of firearm on campus – Owens wonders how that will work with 1062.

SB425 – would allow students who graduate early from HS to take per pupil $$ they are no longer generating to a college for tuition. Will result in less $$ in schools. Early-graduates do NOT generate $$ for the schools they no longer attend, and yet the schools would be forced to pay for them.
OK Education Coalition unanimously opposes this bill

Virtual Charters
HB1660 – Denney
SB267 – Stanislaw – both will stop small districts from setting up Virtual  Charters, and then recruiting from other districts, snagging per pupil $$. Disenfranchises local taxpayers. Sets up a unified Board. In the House Ed Appropriations Committee

Unfunded Mandates
HB1711 – Thompsen, Brecheen – "changed the conversation!" Would demand all reforms be funded at 70% to become law. Owens listed current reforms that are unfunded or underfunded: TLE, CCSS, A-F, 3rd Grade Flunk Law, ACE (EOI testing). This is not active legislation at the moment

Questions and Answers

  • Pointed out OK EOIs are not recognized by higher ed or workforce as predictive of success
  • Talked about deregulation of class size, library and textbook funding
  • Question about the Lottery -- $$ is dumped into common school funding formula and is difficult to trace back to the source. Early $$ was used to fund teacher pay increases…61 districts receive no lottery $$ at all.
  • I asked about ALEC and if they saw its influence. Answer was politically correct, given Legislators in the room: ALEC provides a forum for Legislators, some of our OK Legislators are ALEC members, ALEC does provide model legislation, but they weren’t ‘aware’ of ALEC language. I should have asked a follow-up question specifically about the Parent Trigger bill. My purpose was not to put the speakers on the spot, but to remind the Legislators that we DO know who’s a member, and we DO know that legislation is being given to them by ALEC.
  • IDEA was mentioned…Owens said to contact Sen. Coburn…he is committed to feds paying their share.
  • A question was asked about testing companies and costs…Pearson and McGraw Hill are the two main companies…OK DID have a contract with Pearson – now with MGH – current contract is for $8.9 million. Owens pointed out if OK used ACT or SAT, cost to the state would be $1-2 million
  • Pensions were mentioned. OK’s unfunded liability for TRS is strong, but a new bill popped up in the last 48 hours to combine ALL pension funds into one…cannibalizing TRS (my words!!)
  • A question was asked about the Governor’s proposal to cut taxes…$40 million will be taken out of the budget…still think a $13 million increase in education is possible
  • A mother made an impassioned plea to talk – tell your story. Don’t try to debate the bill, but talk about how actions affect your families and your children.
  • Meredith Exline: “We are not there (State Capitol) to debate the bills (with Legislators), but to share our hearts!”

Next Tulsa PLAC Capitol Day April 23 – 9am-1pm

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