"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, April 03, 2009

Stealth Bill in Oklahoma Set to Blow Up Public Schools

The conservatives are at it again. You have to wonder which wunderkind from the right-wing sludgetanks came up this newest strategy to dismantle public schools by destroying the state statutory system that maintains standards and practices for public schools--everything from state curriculum frameworks to rules for class size, teacher credentialing, to school libraries, to the qualifications of school nurses and bus drivers. The legislation, Senate Bill 834, just sailed through the Oklahoma Senate on a party line vote, and has passed the first committee hurdle in the House. Unless Oklahoma parents and teachers act quickly, this coming fall will bring the beginning of the end of the state system of public education in Oklahoma.

What the legislation does is give local boards all the jurisdiction and discretion that now resides at the state department of education. It would give local boards the same discretion as charter schools, except that local boards would have to accept all students, which, of course, charters do not:
A school district identified by the State Board of Education for participation in the School District Empowerment Program shall be exempt from all statutory requirements and State Board of Education rules from which charter schools are exempt as provided for in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, except that the district shall continue to be required to enroll all students who are residents of the school district.
So how is a school district "identified by the State Board of Education for participation" in this dismantling? Beginning in the Fall of 2010, all school systems with any schools on the NCLB hit list of "needs improvement" will be eligible for deconstruction. Then from 2011 to 2014, 20 percent of districts each year that meet a particular enrollment criteria will be randomly selected by the State Board for meltdown. At the end of 2014, there will be no state level governance of public schools in Oklahoma.

With changes coming to NCLB that threaten the scheduled dismantling of public schools that NCLB required, the conservatives have come up this new strategy to hasten the end, thus erasing the gains in public education and taking us to the middle of the 19th century in terms of standards and governance of public schools. If you think that fascists like Grover Norquist have taken a holiday, think again. Here, in Oklahoma, is their agenda about to burst into bloom.

STATE OF OKLAHOMA

1st Session of the 52nd Legislature (2009)

SENATE BILL 834 By: Ford

AS INTRODUCED

An Act relating to schools; establishing the School District Empowerment Program; stating purpose; exempting certain districts from certain statutory requirements and rules; specifying certain requirement; identifying districts for participation and implementation of program; specifying method of selection of remaining districts and timeline for implementation; providing for codification; and providing an effective date.


BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:
SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 3-129 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. There is hereby established the School District Empowerment Program which shall be administered by the State Board of Education. The purpose of the program is to empower locally elected school board members to govern school districts and make decisions based on the needs of their students and circumstances.

B. A school district identified by the State Board of Education for participation in the School District Empowerment Program shall be exempt from all statutory requirements and State Board of Education rules from which charter schools are exempt as provided for in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, except that the district shall continue to be required to enroll all students who are residents of the school district.

C. School districts which include a school that has been identified for school improvement for the 2009-2010 school year by the State Board of Education pursuant to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, 20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq., shall be identified for participation in the School District Empowerment Program and shall implement the program beginning in the 2010-2011 school year.

D. 1. By September 30, 2010, the State Board of Education shall randomly select twenty percent (20%) of districts from each of the following categories for implementation during the 2011-2012 school year:

a. districts with an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of less than two hundred fifty (250),
b. districts with an ADM of less than five hundred (500) and greater than or equal to two hundred fifty (250),
c. districts with an ADM of less than two thousand (2,000) and greater than or equal to five hundred (500), and
d. districts with an ADM of two thousand (2,000) or more.
2. The selection of districts as directed by this subsection shall:
a. occur during open meetings of the Board,
b. occur each year thereafter, for implementation by the districts selected during the following school year, until all districts have been selected to implement the program, and
c. be applicable to the number of districts in each category as of September 30, 2010, to allow for all districts to be selected by September 30, 2014.

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective September 1, 2009.

52-1-11 KM 1/14/2009 4:54:26 PM

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:51 PM

    This is an outrage. All of the wealthy legislatures that passed this bogus bill can afford to send their children to private school. They should be ashamed of themselves passing this disgraceful bill in the house.

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  2. Anonymous9:07 PM

    What sickens me is that the NEA of Oklahoma are at it again with driving fear into the hearts of everyone. Oklahoma is ranked 38th out of the 50 states in overall education. They talk about how they what to improve the education system, yet when something is done to improve it they attack. Why? Because of what they are really afraid of in this bill. What is now on the table to each board is the fact that they can hire and fire any teacher that they fill isn't meeting the expectations of the board. So bye-bye job security for those bottom 20% of teachers who aren't doing our kids justice. Also, why shouldn't our board have the job of creating the standards of our districts education. What else do they have to do for their $75k plus income? The point is we elect our board members for a reason, and they should be able to create an education plan that fits our kids and the needs of our district.

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