EDUCATION WATCH BLOG
April 16, 2015
The Oklahoma Senate approved amendments to a bill Thursday that allows the creation of charter schools statewide, a move that sends the legislation to Gov. Mary Fallin.
The Senate voted 35-7 without debate to approve amendments to Senate Bill 782, which clarified language regarding how the state Department of Education handles appeals of rejected charter applications, and how priority can be given to charter applications targeting a struggling traditional school.
Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, who co-authored the bill, said she has been given no indication Fallin won’t sign the bill, adding it’s widely supported across the state.
A representative from education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s office said she’s also supportive of the bill because it provides more local control and accountability to school districts.
Not everyone is a fan of the legislation, though.
During last month’s education rally, Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, who also co-authored the bill, was repeatedly booed on the steps of the Capitol by thousands of teachers after saying she wanted to expand charter schools to all parts of the state.
Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association teachers union, said the bill does nothing to improve education in Oklahoma.
“Our schools are underfunded, class sizes are growing out of control, and we have teacher shortages across the state,” she said in a written statement. “This measure could increase the number of schools in our state, further stretching a shrinking education budget and making it harder to find a highly qualified teacher for every classroom.”
Current law only allows for charter schools to be created in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The new bill allows for any school district in Oklahoma to create a charter school.
While the bill has been nicknamed the rural charter school bill, Denney said Thursday that she hopes to see mid-size cities like Still water, Enid and Lawton will take advantage of it too.
There are currently 29 public charter schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, according to the state Department of Education’s website.
Charter schools make up 2.4 percent or the state’s enrollment, or 16,585 students, according to the state Department of Education. The state currently has 688,300 students enrolled in public school.
The bill also allows a charter applicant to appeal a rejection of its proposal to the state. Grounds for an appeal include community support and the strength of the application.
The House approved the bill with amendments by a 64-31 vote Tuesday. The Senate originally passed the bill with a 27-18 vote on March 10.
How the Senate voted Thursday:
Greg Treat –R
Did Not Vote:
How the House voted Tuesday
John Paul Jordan-R
Did not vote: