Saturday, January 13, 2007

Some Top Legislators Weigh In on Charter Schools

For your convenience I thought it would be good to post the article brought to my attention by an anonymous commenter to my previous blog. Here it is:

House & Senate Education Leaders Disappointed by Tulsa Board Action

CONTACT: State Rep. Tad Jones
Capitol: (405) 557-7380
Claremore: (918) 342-5899

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 10, 2007) – Three of the state Legislature’s top education leaders say they are disappointed by the Tulsa Public School board’s recent decision to limit the growth of charter schools in the Tulsa area.

On Monday, by a 4-3 vote, the board passed a resolution placing a moratorium on new charter schools within the Tulsa Public School system and restricting the growth of the three charter schools already in the district.

State Rep. Tad Jones, who chairs the House Education Committee, state Rep. Jabar Shumate, another member of the committee, and state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, co-chair of the Senate Education Committee, say the board’s actions not only limit a parent’s ability to choose the best school for their child, but also limit the range of options for individuals working within the education system.

"I was very disappointed by the actions of the four school board members who voted for these restrictions," said Jones (R-Claremore). "Charter Schools are good for the administrators and teachers who want to be more innovative, and for the parents and students who want new opportunities. These four school board members have denied them those chances."

In 1999, the Legislature passed the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, which allows charter schools in certain school districts around the state, primarily in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

But according to news reports, Tulsa School Board President Matt Livingood, who introduced Monday’s resolution, says the 1999 act may be unconstitutional, as it effectively places limits on specific school districts. Livingood says the Legislature has not helped to solve the issue.

Jones introduced House Bill 2578 last year to do just that. It would have allowed the Oklahoma Department of Education to sponsor charter schools, which would have adequately addressed the Tulsa School Board’s concerns.

But after the measure passed the House last year, it died in the state Senate. Jones plans to reintroduce his legislation this year.

Either way, though, Shumate (D-Tulsa) says the four school board members who voted in favor of Monday’s resolution are just searching for excuses to limit charter schools.

"We must protect charter opportunities," he said. "Students are succeeding in the charter schools and we are going to allow new sponsors who want to allow these opportunities for the students."

McIntyre (D-Tulsa), praised the members who opposed the charter school restrictions, saying, "I applaud the three school board members who voted against the resolution. They get it – it’s about allowing new opportunities for the students to succeed."

Under current state law, only individual school districts and CareerTech boards may sponsor charter schools. The Legislature will consider higher education as a sponsor, and other states have even allowed cities and counties to sponsor charter schools.

My apologies for misspelling the names of certain legislators.


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