With nearly 150 education-related bills filed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, covering several important education topics, such as student suspension, technology and technology training for teachers, district annexation, charter schools, and school choice; education received a great deal of attention. Legislation addressing student suspension (HB 2130) and technology training for teachers (SB 398) successfully passed the Legislature to be later signed by the Governor but district annexation, charter schools, and school choice had a more difficult time.
District annexation proposed in SB 751(4) (Gustafson) came under fire primarily by the school administrators and parents of elementary school districts who expressed concerns over losing the autonomy and quality of their small schools. Independent school districts in support of the measure called for a sharing of the costs of education services for students from the elementary school districts. Currently none of the ad valorem taxes collected within the elementary school district follows the students as they enter into the independent school district. This measure was held over in the Senate Education Committee, pending an interim study.
Charter schools presented another issue that piqued the interest of many this session. Out of the six charter school measures introduced only three--SB 13(5) (Williams/Roach), SB 592(4),(Williams/Bryant), and HB 1418(4) (Bryant/Williams)--would be heard on the floor of either chamber. All failed, despite the open endorsement of charter schools by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett.
Although no charter school measures were approved by the Legislature this year, charter schools will still remain the education terrain. At least one public school district, Oklahoma City Public Schools, will initiate its own charter school pilot projects in the near future.
School choice in SB 203(5) (Wright/Steidley) was clearly on friendlier turf in the Senate, passing overwhelmingly with a vote of 33 ayes and 9 nays. In the House of Representatives, the measure failed to reach a House vote.
Expanding educational opportunities through technology was also high on the Legislature's list of priorities. With the passage of SB 1(1) (Fisher/Tyler), the Legislature expanded access to the Oklahoma Schools of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) throughout Oklahoma via distance learning communications networks at vocational-technical and local school sites. With popular support, SB 398(1) (Roberts/Begley) which provides technology training for teachers sailed through both chambers with a vote of 36 ayes and no nays in the Senate and 98 ayes and no nays in the House of Representatives. Technology also got a substantial boost through HB 1815(1) (Adair/Robinson) under which the local telephone companies will provide $7 million dollars for training teachers to use technology at the rate of about $1 million dollars a year over several years.
Significant education-related legislation is summarized as follows:
SB 1 (Fisher/Tyler): Requires the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) to solicit proposals and award grants for pilot projects that develop and establish model programs implementing advanced science and math curriculum via distance learning through area vocational technical school districts and/or public schools. The OSSM will establish an advisory council to determine pilot project criteria and curriculum needs to recruit and hire faculty.
SB 202 (Roberts/Hager): Authorizes the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation to establish the Oklahoma National Board Certification Program, a program to assist teachers seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
SB 337 (Roberts/Begley): Requires the State Board of Education to establish the Oklahoma Advanced Placement Incentive Program to be administered by the State Department of Education for the purpose of establishing, organizing, and administering a program designed to improve course offerings available to Oklahoma high school students and to better prepare students for post secondary education. Provides criteria by which Advanced Placement Incentive Awards will be made.
Requires the State Board of Education to evaluate and recommend revisions to the performance standards for the criterion-referenced tests and report to the Oklahoma State Legislature by December 1, 1997.
SB 416 (Williams/Hager): Amends the membership of the Education Oversight Board. Requires the State Board of Education to provide a line-item in its budget request for the Office of Accountability and to include the Office of Accountability in its budget work program. Grants Education Oversight Board responsibility for the personnel, the budget and expenditures of the Office of Accountability. Places the Oklahoma Educational Indicators program under the Education Oversight Board.
HB 1049 (Reese/Milacek): Provides for the consolidation of two or more school districts on a conditional basis. Establishes a procedure by which conditional consolidation can occur and provides for the dissolution of a conditional consolidation.
HB 1458 (Wells/Fisher): Consolidates the Alternative Approaches Grant Programs, Alternative Education Academies, and other Alternative Programs into one statewide alternative education system. Provides that after the third year of funding, the funds for Alternative Education Academies pilot program shall be appropriated through the statewide system. Standardizes certain requirements and procedures for all alternative education programs within the statewide system that includes an evaluation component. Requires the State Board of Education to contract for technical assistance centers. States the responsibilities of the technical assistance centers.
HB 1557 (Hager/Williams): Tightens residency definition by removing language that allows residency to be established by living with a relative to the fourth degree who has assumed the permanent care and custody of the child. Allows residency to be established by affidavit attesting that the individual, whether a relative or not, has assumed full care and custody of the student in question. Expands definition of a child's residence to include an eleemosynary child care facility, a hospital, or a state-licensed emergency shelter.
Allows emergency transfers of therapeutic foster care children except when that transfer will increase the proportion of therapeutic foster care children to exceed 2 percent of the average daily membership. Shortens the time in which school district responds to voluntary transfers from 7 to 3 days. Authorizes the State Board of Education to waive the twenty percent (20%) penalty for late payment or non payment by a student's district of residence to a district where the student in an out-of-home placement received educational services if delay was due to process and procedures regarding student's individual educational plan.
Provides that the State Board of Education require students who are residents of their current district pursuant to Section 1-113 of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes to be included in required norm-referenced testing.
Contingent upon enactment of HB 1657(5), this bill (HB 1557) would have modified the weight in the State Aid Formula from .5 to .7 for early childhood education, reduced the weight for underage students enrolled in kindergarten from 1.3 to .7, added a new weight of 1.45 for out-of-home placement students, and established special weights for students in juvenile detention facilities. HB 1657 failed in the Legislature, preventing these weight modifications from becoming law. The new weight of 1.45 for out-of-home placement students was enacted, however, in HB 1873(1).
HB 2017 (Boyd (Betty)/Williams): Expands the Advanced Placement Incentive Program by providing grants for summer institutes, reimbursement for students who successfully test for AP credit, and payment of testing fee for students demonstrating financial need.
HB 2083 (Hager/Williams): Would have allowed district boards of education to place advertisements on school buses and auxiliary transportation equipment used to transport school children. (Pending in the Legislature)