Thursday, February 09, 2006

TPS Board President Inconsistencies


The current Tulsa Public School Board President, Matt Livingood, is up for re-election in District 7. At the outset, I want to say that he is a very able and capable Board member and has done an excellent job as Board President.

He has been in the public eye more than normal lately, since he is running in an election. Recently, he has made a series of statements that are inconsistent, that I have picked up on and am compelled to pass on to you. As reported by the Tulsa World, Mr. Livingood is an attorney and an adjunct professor at TCC. Having worked for attorneys for a number of years, I can relate that to them the question is not about what's right or wrong, but instead its is it the law or is it against the law?

The first inconsistency was made during his diatribe at the last Board meeting. He had nothing but great things to say about Tulsa's 3 existing charter schools, but he has problems with approving others, due to his belief that the Oklahoma Charter School Act is unconstitutional. First of all, this is not the way a lawyer thinks. If Matt Livingood truly believes that the Act is unconstitutional, how could he possibly support the existing charter schools extensions? Wouldn't they be unconstitutional as well? Of course. But he chose a politically expedient way out, kowtowing to the charter school patrons assembled in front of him.

The second inconsistency relates to what he said his primary responsiblity as a Board member was as he said, "is to approve the expenditure of public funds to provide students with a quality education". He said this during a discussion at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church this week. Here is the inconsistency; At the recommendation of Dr. Sawyer, he will be the one to initiate a lawsuit against the OSDE and the State of Oklahoma, challenging the constitutionality of the Charter School Act. That will involve the expenditure of thousands of dollars of public funds that are to be used to provide students in the TPS district with a quality education. More legal fees means less money for quality education.

We do agree that the state legislature needs to amend the Act to remove any legal barrier. The Charter School Act needs to be expanded and charter schools available statewide. They need additional sponsor choices. They need their own appropriation of funds, administered by the State Department of Education. Would Mr. Livingood like to join me lobbying the legislators to do this?

I did it by myself last year and only got a scowl from the TPS lobbyist. It will go nowhere in Oklahoma with a Democrat controlled House of Representatives and Democrat Governor. For now the dark forces have the upper hand.

The charter school reform effort in T-town is in neutral. There are now no sponsors for charter schools here.

5 comments:

MichaelBates said...

Wasn't there some effort to have Tulsa Technology Center sponsor a charter school, but TTC backed off because they didn't want to offend TPS?

Red Bug said...

Yes there was. I heading up that effort to have TTC sponsor three additional charter schools. Two were middle schools and one a high school. One of the middle schools targeted native american students.

TTC rejected all three applications and we took it through the appeal process. That process ended in mediation with TTC literally walking out of the room. Very rude and unprofessional. By the way, the same law firm, Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold represents both TPS and TTC. One of the issues raised in this process by TTC was the constitutional question.

The main opposition by TTC was that they did not want to get into the back pocket of TPS. They did not want to be perceived as taking money from the primary school district they serve.

Without the substantial charter school law reforms I outlined, TTC will not sponsor a charter school. Too bad, because otherwise, it would have been a great fit, not the "shotgun wedding" Tulsa's existing charter schools live under.

Anne Hutchinson said...

"....We do agree that the state legislature needs to amend the Act to remove any legal barrier. The Charter School Act needs to be expanded and charter schools available statewide. They need additional sponsor choices. They need their own appropriation of funds, administered by the State Department of Education. Would Mr. Livingood like to join me lobbying the legislators to do this?"

My, my, my ... I'm so glad you've embraced this path rather that bashing TPS for the untenable position the current law places them in.

Don't tell anyone I told you, dear, but remember you heard it here first ... this is almost exactly the direction Mr. Livingood is planning. Getting his (or TPS's) committment won't be the problem. Even if you didn't have his committment, though, he's not the one you need to convince to join the call.

We'll see whether the charter schools and their proponents join in the effort or whether they only want to protect the little house built on sand they have and the hell with the litigation risk.

What will be needed in addition to them is to hear from voices outside the metro areas who are presently denied access to charter school opportunities.

TTFN ... Anne (amh1643@yahoo.com)

Anonymous said...

I don't know who Anne is, but I like her! I couldn't say any better mayself. Thanks Anne. Unfortunately, I believe the charter parents are in for some big surprises!

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