2016 Senate Summation – week 8


March 21-23

EDUCATION AND CORRECTIONS SUPPLEMENTAL

  • The governor this week signed into law the legislation providing supplemental funding for common education and corrections
    • The Senate quickly acted on the supplemental request after an agreement was reached with the House and governor’s office
  • $51 million for EDU and $27.5 million for CORRECTIONS
  • Supplemental funds helps the agencies weather the storm this year; but leaves resources for the next Legislature for what’s expected to be as bad (or worse) budget time next year
  • Pro Tem statement:
    • “The state’s Rainy Day Fund is there to help Oklahoma weather financial storms like the one hitting us now. The state budget and economy are suffering because of the downturn in oil and gas. Unfortunately, things aren’t likely to improve soon. Using a portion of the Rainy Day funds this year lessens the impact of budget cuts on students and state prisons, while ensuring Oklahoma has money in reserve to help with the financial challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.” 
    • EDUCATION STANDARDS
    •  
  • This week, the Senate passed a resolution approving the education standards with instructions for SDE
  • Lawmakers two years ago repealed the Common Core standards and determined Oklahoma would develop its own unique, rigorous academic standards.
  • The new standards are supported by the state Department of Education, many local school districts, and the state’s higher education institutions.
  • While there may be room for improvement in these standards, there implementation this year will provide educators with certainty and allow educators to plan for next year and allow them to focus on the most important of their job: our students.

 


EDUCATION:  SENATE BILL 1187

The Oklahoma Public School Resource Center requested SB 1187 to provide school districts with the same flexibilities that are currently afforded to public charter schools. OPSRC put together the following FAQ:

Concern: SB 1187 allows schools to eliminate background checks for teachers.

Response: Background checks are required under separate statute (see 70 O.S. 5-142), and this requirement is also on the SDE accreditation checklist for charter schools. Additionally, the bill version that passed out of the senate includes specific language to clarify that background checks are required for all public school employees, including traditional public schools and public charter schools.

Concern: SB 1187 is an excuse to not increase pay for teachers or fund public education appropriately.

Response: This bill allows districts to consider personnel flexibilities currently available to charter schools. Given the budget issues faced by the state’s legislature, educators are rightly concerned about funding for public education, and some have voiced concerns that this bill is offered as an alternative to increasing funding for public schools. While these concerns are understandable, this bill has no relation to funding.  Furthermore, the OPSRC fully supports increased funding for public schools.

Concern:  Why would any district consider some of the options afforded to schools in SB 1187?

Response: School districts across the state face various challenges, and this bill would provide a multitude of options to address them. At its root level, the premise of the bill is that charter schools currently have access to numerous flexibilities, and it would make sense to offer these options to public school districts as well. A few examples of potential uses of the flexibilities include the following:

  • Many educators have voiced concerns about the state’s TLE system. If a school district feels that an alternative evaluation system would be more effective, SB 1187 would provide a district with the ability to develop such an alternative.SB 1187 would allow a district the ability to draft a plan to implement a different evaluation system.
  • Some districts would like to hire retired teachers and pay above the $15,000 ceiling in place for retired teachers in their first 3 years of retirement. SB 1187 would provide this option to school districts.
  • Some districts would like to hire highly qualified individuals that lack certificates and/or adjunct teachers. Note: School districts can already hire adjunct teachers but are limited to one hour per semester for an adjunct. This bill would allow additional flexibility.Response: Drafting a school empowerment plan is entirely optional. If schools (i.e., teachers, administrators, and school board) do not see a benefit in drafting an empowerment plan, there is no consequence or negative pressure.Response: This bill was written at the request of educators who wanted to access some of the flexibilities currently afforded to charter schools. The bill specifically requires that teachers are involved in developing an empowerment plan and if a majority of teachers don’t support the plan, the plan cannot be approved. This is simply an option for districts to consider.Response: SB1187 is unrelated to ALEC in any fashion. To be clear, nothing in this bill is related to ALEC, nor is the OPSRC affiliated in any shape or fashion with ALEC.
  • Concern: SB 1187 is an ALEC sponsored/related bill.
  • Concern: SB 1187 is an attempt to attack or harm educators.
  • Concern: SB 1187 is a mandatory program for schools or an effort to force options on schools.


BUDGET

  • For the Senate, all options are on the table when it comes to crafting a balanced budget and addressing the $1.3 billion budget shortfall
  • Budget negotiations are still ongoing and until a budget has been signed, all proposals remain valid. The Senate has proposed and is considering real reforms like:
    • Consolidations and eliminating inefficient programs
    • tax credit and tax incentive reforms and apportionment and “off-the-top” money reforms
  • It’s a tough budget year and the situation isn’t likely to get better soon.
  • The $1.3 billion shortfall presents an opportunity to set state spending priorities.
  • It will require some tough decisions and reforms like those proposed by the Senate.
  • But these ideas will allow us to craft a balanced budget that funds core services and delivers a more efficient and effective state government.

 

NEWS OF INTEREST:

 

By the numbers: ‘A priority in public education for hiring people outside the classroom’

OKLAHOMA CITY – “Clearly, there is a priority in public education for hiring people outside the classroom.” That startling sentence is at the core of a detailed analysis of fiscal issues in public education, presented in the Sooner State’s capital city this month. Professor Ben Scafidi of Georgia’s Kennesaw State University supported his conclusion with a range of data he sorted and summarized. In an interview with this reporter, Scafidi reviewed his analysis of widely-unnoticed trend public school finance and expenditures over several decades. Prof. Scafidi’s evidence comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. From Fiscal Year 1992 to FY 2013, the number of students in Oklahoma public schools increased by 14 percent. The total number of school staff increased 21 percent. However, the number of lead teachers only increased by 11 percent. In the category of “other staff” Prof. Scafidi found an increase of 33 percent 1992-2013.

http://city-sentinel.com/2016/03/by-the-numbers-a-priority-in-public-education-for-hiring-people-outside-the-classroom/

 

Libertarian Party is OK’d for ballots in Oklahoma

State officials certified the Libertarian Party on Monday for this election cycle. “This means Oklahomans can register as members of the Libertarian Party, and candidates can run as Libertarian for all partisan offices in the state,” Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. “The Libertarian Party also will receive a ballot line for president and vice president in November’s general election.”

http://www.oklahoman.com/libertarian-party-is-okd-for-ballots-in-oklahoma/article/5486606

 

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