Sunday, January 26, 2014

OK Senate Bills Includes an OPT OUT Bill!

In anticipation of the 2014 OK Legislative Session, 291 education bills were filed in the House and Senate last week. Nearly 300 opportunities to deeply affect the classroom work of teachers and students. Nearly 300 attempts to change policy.

Earlier, I wrote about my take on the House bills…and have contacted my Representative about the bills I like and don’t. Not surprisingly, we’re pretty much at odds on each…

So, I’ve now made it through the OK Senate education bills as well…remember, I’m just reading the thumbnail annotations from this link…but you’ll find a link to the full bill for your reading pleasure. Just thought I’d save myself that task for another day.

I see some pushback on OSDE policies, some honest attempts to clear some of the mandated clutter of schools’ lives, and some misguided, “I went to school so I’m an expert” bills. And one bill that has me jumping up and down with joy…

These are the bills that made my “Yes, Hmmm, Eek” criteria – ‘yes’ – I like that, ‘hmm’ – something’s going on here, and ‘eek’ – this could be a disaster. I highly recommend you check my work for mistakes, read the bills for yourself, and contact both YOUR legislators and the authors of these bills if one sends off warning bells in your head.

1143 – Introduced by Standridge – requires the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited once a day in elementary schools, and permits it to be recited once a day in other schools. Big Hmmm for a couple of reasons. First, We already do that every day in Norman schools. I thought it WAS a law, along with the moment of silence. My other Hmmmm reflects my experience: often mine is the only voice in the room reciting…we cannot legislate patriotism – that begins at home. Bottom line, harmless but redundant.

1146 – Introduced by Fields – removes alignment with CCSS.  Not sure of the intent behind this one. Hmmm.

1154 – Introduced by Fields – allows third graders unable to read at grade level to be promoted. My concern here is that’s not what the original bill says. But Yes. Get rid of high stakes!

1156 – by Shaw – prohibits schools from giving homework over the summer…Hmmmm.

1157 – by Fields – requires OSDE to carry over funds for midyear adjustments. I’m not smart enough to understand this, but I’ve heard smarter educators talk about the problems…Hmmm, and maybe yes, when someone explains this.

1169 – by Garrison – prohibits OSDE from adjusting the cut scores of new tests as well as performance levels. This may not go far enough, but it sounds good. Yes.

1179 – by Fields – allows schools to do formative testing to align with state testing…don’t we already do this? Hmmm.

1180 – by Brecheen – another Christmas bill…That’s three total. Don’t these folks talk to each other? My Representative who introduced a similar one assures me it’ll pass the courts. Hmmm.

1320 – by Loveless – modifies the school funding formula…again, I am not smart enough to understand current practice and how this will change it. Lucky for me, I have lots of smart friends! Hmmm.

1321 – by Loveless – seems to consolidate administrations of small districts, under 250 students total. Yes!

1334 – By Bingman – modifies language related to Teacher Retirement…alarm bells are going off. Eek.

1348 – by Stanislawski – provides exemptions for third grade flunk law for ELL kids who’ve been in the country less (sic) than two years. Yes!

1349 – Also Stanislawski – does the same thing for IEP kids. Yes!

1376 – by Sharp – reinstates corporal punishment if parents approve, bringing us back to the 19th century.  Eek!

1378 – by Paddack (aside – I remind her every time I write that I voted FOR HER for State Sup!) – prohibits OSDE from administering any standardized test not mandated by federal law.  Requires that the savings be used to provide teacher raises. YES! And YES!

1381 – by Paddack (see above) – requires that the OSDE retain the services of ‘an established, independent agency or organization that is nationally recognized for its expertise in psychometrics and statistics to conduct a reliability and validity study’ of our A-F grading scheme. Beautiful!! Will not allow OSDE to use its own employees to review. YES YES YES!

1383 – Also Paddack – raises the amount of money the OSDE would pay districts to remediate kids who scored ‘unsatisfactory’ on state tests…to $180-$240 per student. Still not enough, but currently, I think it’s less than $80. Yes.

1422 – by Jolley – permits AP computer science classes to meet math requirements for graduation. Yes.

1460 – by Stanislawski – LONG description about modifying the definition of a private school. I googled and couldn’t see a connection to ALEC, and need those smart friends to figure this one out for me. Hmmmm.

1464 – by Stanislawski – RIF changes involving career teachers. Requires TLE evaluations by used when reducing force. Hmmm.

1470 – by Newberry – “Protection of Parental Education Act” requires ALL instructional materials to be used for an AP course be available by parents prior to the beginning of the course…including any ‘salacious materials’ which must be identified. Consent forms will be required. I wonder what his definition of  ‘instructional materials’ is…just the texts or any teacher-made materials? Hmmm.

1500 – by Boggs – also requires Pledge to be recited. Labels his bill an Emergency. Hmmm.

1653 – by Halligan – permits engineering, technology, math courses to be counted as meeting math and science requirements for graduation. This makes sense. Our kids need as many pathways to success as possible. Yes.

1660 – by Ford – requires private schools operate under rules of the OK Regents and be accredited. This is a ‘well, duh!’ Yes.

1661 – by Ford – seems to mess with Career Tech funds. ‘Transfers all powers…’ from OSDE to Career Tech. This SOUNDS like a good thing…but another one I need friends to translate for me. Hmmm – maybe Yes.
1662 – also Ford – creates ‘Oklahoma Career Promise Act.’ It appears that this expands the Oklahoma Promise Act to cover kids who fulfill the requirements, but want to attend a two-year institution, or obtain training for a career. This sounds…promising. Yes.

1663 – also Ford; he’s on a roll – requires charters who receive D’s or F’s for two or three years to terminate their contract. Yes.

1690 – by Sparks (he’s my Senator) – amends language in Ok TRS. Hmmm – will be asking him about this.

1734 and 1735 – both by Brinkely – more amendments to TRS. These make me nervous. Hmmm

1765 – by Brecheen – ‘Oklahoma Science Education Act’ – ‘directs [educators]…to create an environment…that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.’ And, ‘…the act only protects the teaching of scientific information ans is not to be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious believe or non-beliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.’ I KNEW there was something 'hinky' here....It's a bill designed to weaken the teaching of science! A link to another review shows how harmful it is. I've revised my response to ICK and EEK.

1766 – by Sykes – directs Career Tech to develop guidelines for working partnerships between schools and businesses to create apprenticeships, internships, or job shadowing. Sounds interesting. Yes.

1805 – by Standridge – ‘Oklahoma American Heritage Education Act.’ I googled this and couldn’t find ALEC ties. Adds a list of primary sources of American history that are available to schools…Requires they be in the school libraries. As far as I know, most schools DO have and use these sources. This one seems frivolous…especially since school libraries haven’t had funding for years. Hmmm.

And my favorite of the year….drumroll, please!!

1827 – by Newberry – permits a parent or guardian to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of OK testing. Requires districts to grant this request. This is the “Opt Out” bill we all want and need! This one is huge! YES, oh YES!

1944 – by Burrage – repeals existing salary schedule, replaces it (with what, he doesn’t say). Establishes what constitutes fringe benefits. Lots of nit-picky things here… Hmmmm.

1960 – by Burrage – creates ‘Oklahoma Teacher Loan Repayment Program Act.’ Teachers who teach in OK public schools for three years would be eligible for an award to the bank holding their college loans, of no more than $5000. This could be helpful to lots of our teachers. Yes.

Whew! Lots here…the bills seem to be pretty thoughtful, and positive for the most part.  As a whole, these bills seem to address real concerns. I think there’s a lot we can get behind.

I’ve found several I just do not understand at all, and have not taken the time to read the full bills.  I’m hoping all those smart friends I have will do that for me and explain!

Our next steps? Contact these Senators. Ask them to talk to you about their bills. Contact YOUR legislators. Tell them which bills you support and why. Tell them which bills you are concerned about and why.

Begin that conversation.  Let them know you’re aware and watching.


  1. Ms. Swisher, you are doing a great service to educators, and an amazing job providing information to all citizens. I can't thank you enough for continually fighting for our profession.


    1. Thanks...I DO have more time now that I've retired. I don't have to spend my weekends grading and recording and planning.

    2. Yes,Thank you for your effort and diligence here.I just stumbled across your site today after a FB link and was very pleased to see this index of bills...just what I need to become more informed on important discussions in my circles and passing on information for parents and teachers.

  2. Here's what the National Center for Science Education says about SB 1765 .

    1. I KNEW there was something bad about this bill...I didn't read the entire thing, just the sounded like it was going to protect teachers who teach evolution...but it will do the opposite! Thank you for the information! I told you I needed smarter friends to read this for me. I'll revise my assessment of this bill with your link!

  3. Ack, what happened to the link?

  4. in regards to 1169 - you have to wait until after the test is given to change the cut score. The process depends on the scores. I am curious about the verbage of this bill. It makes more sense to say that if the cut score changes, it gets phased in over several years or doesn't apply for that round of scores.
    Interesting indeed. :)

  5. 1470 is probably in response to some videos posted by parent groups about AP textbooks "summarizing" the Bill of Rights and textbooks that don't necessarily support the idea of American Exceptionalism. Many are asking if textbooks are trying to "rewrite" history.

    1. I am betting 1805 is tied to this concern.

    2. Niky, I soo appreciate your eyes on this see things that fall through the cracks with me. Thanks!!

  6. I'm appearing on OETA's Oklahoma Forum this week, and I would like to reference your blog. Email me at for questions, etc. A KGOU listener referred me to this site. Thanks! Kurt Gwartney, news director, KGOU.

  7. Hi, Kurt...I'd love to hear more...will email you now.

  8. Claudia, thanks for reading up on these bills and providing this handy summary. I'll be referring my teacher-friends to this.

    1. Thanks, Jill...the disheartening thing? I hear there are about 200 MORE out there that aren't labeled 'education' but deal with schools...that's over 500!