Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 21, 2012

School ‘deregulation’ bill controversial

TAHLEQUAH — Last week, the Oklahoma Senate past S.B. 1530 by a vote of 25-17, a move public school employees believe will effectively muffle their collective voices.

The School District Empowerment Program, also known as the deregulation bill, was authored by Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, and would allow local school administrators and school board members to have sole authority on school-related decisions, operating in the same fashion as a charter school.

Opponents say the bill could eliminate collective bargaining agreements already established between teachers and school districts; reduce the salaries of 70 percent of teachers; take away sick and personal leave; and eliminate extra or special-duty pay.

State Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, voted against the bill.

Tahlequah High School math teacher Chuck Pack, who also serves on the Oklahoma Education Association Board of Directors, said people need to be aware of the legislative actions in Oklahoma City that will affect local students and teachers.

“From my perspective, Senate Bill 1530 is bad public policy,” said the 13-year Tahlequah teacher. “This bill could eliminate collective bargaining in Tahlequah and across the state. Take a look at the negotiated agreements TEA [Tahlequah Education Association] and TESPA [Tahlequah Education Support Professionals Association] have worked for decades, alongside Tahlequah administrators and boards of education to build. Almost every negotiated provision in these agreements could be eliminated should this bill become law. Teachers who are aware of the provisions of this piece of legislation are very concerned, as they should be.”

The deregulation bill could eliminate all education mandates, which could fill three volumes, except for 11 items, which include the state minimum salary schedule; participation in the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System; health insurance coverage; criminal background checks; certification requirements; curriculum requirements; payroll deduction; evaluations; fair dismissal and due process; school residence boundaries; mastering state academic content; and continuing education requirements for local school board members.

“I haven’t seen anything that would indicate to me that the Republican leadership is a friend to education,” said Tahlequah Public School Board of Education member David Morrison. “I can’t think that that would be a good idea. Being able to hire and fire teachers on a whim is not a good idea. Administrators are one thing, but teachers are another.”

In a statement released March 13, OEA President Linda Hampton said the state education association worked with Sen. Ford on the 2010 School Empowerment Act to guarantee that the voice of school employees would be heard during the decision-making process.

“We are very disappointed,” said Hampton. “There are already three deregulation laws that allow schools to opt out of unfunded mandates and exercise local control. This bill makes it very clear this is not about quality public schools, but about eliminating the ability of school employees to speak up for children and schools.”

The negative impacts the bill could have on students include no limit on the money a district could spend on administration, or the savings a district could carry over to the next academic year, which could remove money from classrooms. The requirement for a controlled class size could also be eliminated and would allow local school districts to save money by overloading class rosters.

“It gives them [exempt school districts] charter school status, and I wouldn’t be for that bill,” said Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah. “You’re actually destroying a lot of work that’s been done the past 15 to 20 years to make schools more accountable. I think if you’re going to hold people to the same standard, then we need to hold everyone to that standard. You’re actually empowering the local board to run amok. I’m not saying our schools would do that, but who’s to say what’s going to happen in the future?”

Hulbert Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David Wilkins said the rural school district “has no plan of applying for any exemptions,” but does support the idea of being able to determine funding for school needs on a local level.

“There are several mandates we do not receive money for, and several requirements that force schools to spend money in certain ways,” said Wilkins. “There are some ways we feel the money could better serve our students. For example, HPS receives about $30,000 for text books ... I would rather spend this money on technology and use online books that are a small fraction of the cost.”

Wilkins said the ability of school districts to govern on a local level could be a benefit for students when preparing for state testing.

“There is a strong move toward a more localized control of schools,” said Wilkins. “Basically, the state is demanding certain testing requirements, but is allowing the school board and administration to make the decisions regarding running the schools and preparing the students for these tests and for graduation. This can be beneficial because it eliminates the cookie-cutter approach to education. What may be great for students in Hulbert may not work for students in Tahlequah.”

As of March 16, the bill had not been assigned to a committee after heading to the House of Representatives.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • sr-NSU-Earth-day.jpg NSU students observe Earth Day

    Students and members of the community converged on Northeastern State University’s Second Century Square on Tuesday to spend an afternoon celebrating Earth Day.
    The event featured tables sponsored by campus organizations, prizes and music by Chris Espinoza. NSU’s Earth Day theme was “Gather Here. Go Green,” and was organized by the Committee for Sustainability and the Northeastern Student Government Association (NSGA).

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-smallholders-courtesy.jpg Rural smallholders host annual show

    More and more, many people are showing growing interest in learning the sources of their food, including meat. As such, interest in farm-to-table living is increasing.
    Saturday, the Rural Smallholders Association held its annual spring show at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds, promoting the farming of sheep and goats, along with giving the general public a sample of their products.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • pitts-hurley.jpg Wanted man nabbed during traffic stop

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted man this week after a traffic stop near South Muskogee and Willis Road.
    Hurley D. Pitts, 40, was being sought by authorities on a motion to revoke a previous sentence.
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrick Snyder said he stopped a car after it ran off the road a couple of times. A woman was behind the wheel, and Pitts was sitting in the passenger seat.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-Wikafile.jpg Communiversity Band performs Sunday

    Musicians from on and off the Northeastern State University campus have made their final preparations for an upcoming performance of the NSU Communiversity Band.
    The ensemble performs Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m., in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts. The conductor is Dr. Norman Wika, associate professor of music and band program director. Guest conductor is student Kameron Parmain. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
    “Everything has come together very well this semester,” Wika said.
    “We have about 40 musicians, and everyone who started the rehearsals has stuck with it. This could be the best Community Band concert yet.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council concerned over reports of land contamination

    Negotiations involving the purchase of nearly 20 homes on 7 acres of land near Basin Avenue hit a snag Monday night when concerns surfaced over potential contamination of the area.
    Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols had proposed the city purchase the homes and duplexes as a large step in a greenbelt project, which would establish a solid park and trail system from the downtown area to the site of the city’s old solid waste transfer station.
    Until Monday, details of the negotiations had been mostly discussed behind closed doors, though Nichols confirmed the list price for the property to be $480,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Council tables cell tower permit apps

    Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.
    Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.
    Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

    April 23, 2014

  • SR-WalkaMile1.jpg Walk a Mile 2014

    Men squeezed into feminine footwear Saturday by the hundreds to walk in solidarity with women on the issue of sexual violence – and their clop-clop-clopping echoed down Muskogee Avenue.
    The fourth annual “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes” brought men to Norris Park, accompanied by their enthusiastic female supporters, to walk – and often wobble – in high heels over a mile-long course to raise funds for Help-In-Crisis.
    “It hurts every year,” said John Christie, a Sequoyah High School student participating in his third Walk a Mile. “I get home, sit down, blisters come up and the calves hurt. But it is worth it. It’s for a good cause.”

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • adams-christopher.jpg Michigan man gets 13 years on plea to rape, sodomy of girl

    A 28-year-old Michigan man will spend about 13 years in an Oklahoma state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree rape and one count of sodomy involving a 13-year-old girl.
    Christopher Dale Adams, of Lake Orion, Mich., received a 13-year prison sentence for each of the five charges, to be followed by seven years suspended. All sentences will run concurrently.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • logan-amy.jpg Police take down pair on pot distribution charge

    Tahlequah police officers arrested a pair Sunday night for allegedly possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it.
    Tahlequah Officer Cody Warren said police were asked to investigate when 35-year-old Amy N. Logan, of Tahlequah, allegedly took a family member’s car without permission.
    While Warren was speaking with the owners of the vehicle, Logan arrived along with 26-year-old Theoplilus James Mollie, of Tulsa.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • land-lisa.jpg Two nailed with meth, pot hidden in bag of chips

    Two people were arrested early Monday morning when Tahlequah police stopped a vehicle near Basin Avenue and found methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in a bag of chips.
    Tahlequah Officer Cory Keele said he noticed a Nissan heading north on Park Hill Road, and the vehicle later stopped in an intersection.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks