MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 15, 2013

Limit on mandates passes House

Bill ties requirements on local school boards to funding

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A bill designed to protect public schools from unfunded legislative mandates overwhelmingly passed Thursday in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 1100, filed by Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson, prohibits the Legislature “from enacting any mandates on local boards of education unless sufficient funding is provided.” Hulbert said unfunded mandates were one of the most common complaints he heard from school administrators as he campaigned for office in 2012.

Hulbert amended the bill after it was passed out of committee to provide for oversight by the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability overseen by the education secretary.

“I am very pleased with the passage of this bill and feel the voices of our educators were heard,” Hulbert said. “In my opinion, we need to promote more local control of our schools and decrease the number of unfunded mandates.”

Hulbert said the measure was referenced Thursday during debate on other bills on education. Those references, Hulbert said, came as questions about the financial impact on school districts.

“This is a big deal — what is happening with the bills we are considering today before each vote is the financial consequences of these bills,” Hulbert said. “This can shape the way people do things around here and hopefully it will benefit our schools.”

HB 1100, which now moves to the Senate for further consideration, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 79-7. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, signed on to sponsor the bill as it moves through the Senate.

Hulbert said he believes the measure has a good chance of passing through the Senate with Sharp as its co-author. Sharp has been an educator for 38 years, earning teacher of the year three times at Shawnee. In 2011, he was named state teacher of the year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.