The state Senate was expected to take up a much-talked about school voucher bill this week. It didn’t happen, and lawmakers are taking a spring break through the rest of this week.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1647, would give state dollars to students to spend on private school tuition or other educational expenses instead of attending a public school. Vouchers would be worth an average of $6,000 to $8,000, based on estimates from the Education Department, and the program would cost at least $119 million.
The bill was on the Senate agenda for possible consideration Monday. The deadline is March 24 for the bill to pass the Senate and move on to the House.
Meanwhile, public debate surrounding the measure is heating up.
Coming out against the proposal was the American Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative, a membership organization representing farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Additionally, a new poll found 60% of likely voters in Oklahoma were opposed to school vouchers.
Conservative D.C.-based Club for Growth ramped up its ads attacking Rep. Charles McCall, who has said he won’t hear the bill in the House.
- While the fate of a school voucher bill awaits, lawmakers advanced several other education measures, addressing attendance in virtual charter schools, school library standards, and other topics. [KSOU]
- As a growing number of states pass laws restricting “divisive” race-related topics in school classrooms, some are wondering how AP coursework will be impacted. If instruction is censored, students could end up losing AP credit. [Education Week]
- Two years ago, students across the country went home from school not knowing classrooms would remain closed much longer than anticipated, and the coronavirus pandemic would turn education “upside down.” Photos of the past two years in education. [The 74]
A video of Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters reacting to the state Education Department final rules for HB1775, which bans teaching certain concepts on gender and race, has drawn attention for his comments that “our kids need to know why America is the greatest country in the history of the world” and that “morality and Christian values are the way to live your life.” Walters is running for state superintendent and is a part-time history teacher.
Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, responded, saying, “If Oklahoma is to teach America as the greatest country in the world, it should leave Christianity out of it. America is not a Christian nation; it is a nation where some of its citizens happen to be Christian.”
Help Us Make a Difference
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.