, Muskogee, OK

April 5, 2010

Education big topic at state Legislature

By Rep. Ed Cannaday

We have had several education bills come to us (the state House) from the Senate in both Common Education and Education Appropriations and Budget Committees. Most of these had the “titles” off, so they were a “work in progress” and as a result would pass but demand watching due to potentially dangerous additions.

An example is Senate Bill 2212, which would allow a charter school to receive federal funds without going through the sponsoring institution or district. When I raised questions on the possibility that this would allow them to avoid the 5 percent administrative fee that normally goes to the parent organization, the author took off the title and its enacting clause. As a result of this it passed, but the word is that they may put language in it now to allow charter schools to have their own power of bonding with the community in which they are located. Thus, “vigilance is the price we must pay for good governance.”

This week we heard SB 2139, a call for schools to strive to improve their graduation rate by 20 percent per two-year cycle or be placed on a “plan for improvement.” The problem is that the state’s data is not reliable, as seen in the state graduation rate being 75 percent while stating that the dropout rate is merely 3 percent. If you have 3 percent of your students dropping out each year (grades 9-12) then at the worst your graduation rate would be 88 percent.

We are still hearing bills relating to deregulation of requirements for class size and textbooks, but when we pose questions about possible unintended consequences of these and others, we are told that the title is off and it is a work in progress.

A fourth-grade teacher at Checotah asked a pertinent question on this for which no one seems to have an answer: “If we keep the current math textbooks for an additional year will the State Department of Education keep the previous year’s standards for an additional year or will that change with the new adoption cycle?”

We had two bills that I found myself voting against; one was SB2218, a Task Force on Creating Administrative Efficiencies or finding ways to reduce administrative costs and the impact on school district operations and student learning.

While this is said to be an attempt to reduce duplicate overhead costs, it sounds more like a rural school consolidation bill.

The second bill was an OEA-sponsored bill, SB1633, calling for OSDE to create a Web site with each school’s monthly fiscal data on it. This sounds like a good transparency proposal but this is already available upon request from the local district. In addition, each district has an annual fiscal audit and an investigatory audit is not difficult to implement.

My “no” vote is based on the message it sends that there is widespread impropriety in our local boards and administration.

While there have been few cases that indicate this, it does not justify adding another layer of government and tasks for our education personnel.

E-mail District 15 state Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, by Clicking Here