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Fallin Approves Statewide Charter Schools Measure

Jay Chilton

Jay Chilton

Jay Chilton
MiddleGround News

School districts gain the freedom to commission charter schools throughout the state following Governor Fallin’s signing of a bill hailed by supporters as a critical step forward in school choice for Oklahoma.

Prior to the measure, charter schools were only permitted in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties, the most heavily populated counties in the state. Bill co-author Rep. Lee Denney said the expansion of charter school opportunities was a natural progression following the success exhibited in public charter schools since they first gained approval in 1999.

“They (charter schools) were a big change, many people were skeptical,” Denney, R-Cushing, said. “So the schools were started in the inner city and gained broad-based support. Now everyone will have the opportunity.”

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, echoed Denney’s thoughts.

“This bill will give the parents of Oklahoma school children more opportunities to create schools that meet the needs of their students through innovative approaches and curriculum,” he said. “Giving parents outside of Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties this same right is a key reform that is monumental.”

Innovative approaches are a key benefit to the charter school model, according to Denney, allowing the school to tailor its instruction to the best learning format and needs of the student.

“They can meet on Saturday. They can meet after school,” she said. “The schools will have accredited teachers, and a fully certified faculty. Charter schools enjoy tremendous flexibility.”

Denney also added that the charter schools would have greater accountability than traditional public schools. She believes the success realized in public charter schools in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties will be mirrored across the state.

“This bill ensures oversight and accountability requirements must be met,” Denny said. “With charter schools, if the school underperforms and does not improve, it can be shut down. I call that real accountability. They say they’ll close an underperforming traditional school, but that almost never happens. The most you get is usually a plan for remediation but that rarely does anything.”

Ryan Owens of the Cooperative Council of School Administrators described his support of the collaborative way the bill was drafted.

“We are pleased that education groups were allowed to help fashion Senate Bill 782 so that this charter school law respects the authority of local school boards to experiment with different educational delivery systems to best serve Oklahoma students and parents,” he said.

However, not all parties were happy with the new measure. Loud and repeated boos were aimed a Rep. Denney when she said she wanted to expand charter schools throughout the state when she spoke to the gathered teachers, parents, activists and students during the OKED Rally on the south steps of the Oklahoma Capitol on March 30.

Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City said it makes no sense to allow rural school districts permission to open charter schools.

“That’s like saying you want to open a new grocery store in a town of 150 people. At the end of the day, there are not enough people there to support it,” he said.

Oklahoma Education Association president Linda Hampton said the charter school option will do nothing to improve education in Oklahoma.

“Our schools are underfunded, class sizes are growing out of control, and we have teacher shortages across the state,” a written statement read.

But when asked why it would be detrimental to open charter schools to relieve some of the school and class overcrowding, OEA spokesman Doug Folks was evasive.

The point of (Hampton’s) quote is that schools are underfunded already and opening more schools would make even more expense, further stretching the budget, he said.

Not necessarily so, claims Rep. Jason Nelson R-Oklahoma City.

“One thing that makes charter schools such a good option is their flexibility,” he said. “A charter school can meet in an empty store or an unused building owned by the district. It (the charter school) could even meet in the same building as the traditional school. The school would be chartered by the district so there would be no reason why a charter couldn’t share staff with the traditional school.”

“In fact,” he said, “that is the situation already at the KIPP Reach College Preparatory charter school ― which earned the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School award in 2012 ― in Oklahoma City. The charter school meets in the same building with F.D. Moon Academy, sharing expenses and staff. It’s a good deal for both schools.”

Nelson continued to describe the value of the added flexibility, particularly for rural communities.

“You could have animal science or ag(riculture) science. Some will be college prep. More options are better than fewer,” he said. “Charter schools give the option to tailor instruction to the needs and wishes of the students and parents. Rural families would like to have that option.”

National organizations supportive of charter schools and the school choice movement praised the work of the legislators and governor.

“Oklahoma continues to move forward by empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their children,” Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children, said. “Expanding charter schools statewide is another step in providing Oklahoma families greater educational choice and Oklahoma’s children greater educational opportunity.”

Nina Rees, president and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who ranked Oklahoma as having one of the weakest public charter laws in the country prior to the signing of the bill, said she expects Oklahoma to rise significantly in their rankings and that with the law, charter schools will become the most accountable form of public schooling in the state.

Charity Hosts Roast Of Mike Turpen


Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation will present A Roast of Mike Turpen on Thursday at the Doubletree Hotel – Warren Place in Tulsa.

This good-natured charitable event features an all-star cast of Roasters including Governor Mary Fallin, the Honorable Kirk Humphreys, Governor David Walters, the Honorable Preston Doerflinger, former State School Superintendent Sandy Garrett. Mike Morgan, formally of Koch Industries, will be the emcee for this evening of fun and fundraising. Silent auction items will be offered.

Thunderbird Youth Academy (TYA), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the only organization of its kind in Oklahoma. A pioneer in the field of positive behavioral and academic skill building for at-risk youth, it provides life and academic skills to meet the unique individual needs of its students.  TYA accomplishes its mission under the direction of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.  The TYA Foundation is currently undergoing a capital campaign, raising funds to refurbish or build new educational facilities, a mess hall and living quarters for its cadets.  Benefits from the Roast of Mike Turpen will benefit this campaign.

Individual tickets are $150. Tables start at $2,500.

Follow us on Facebook to find about more about the event:  https://www.facebook.com/events/930680953629012/

Please contact Susan Cosby at (405) 521-0900 or susan@sagac.com to reserve your place at this unique, once in a lifetime event benefitting the youth at Thunderbird Youth Academy.

Reid Mullins Reports: Inhofe Says ‘There are no normal people in Washington’


Reid Mullins Reports

Senator Jim Inhofe talks about Iran negotiations, the involvement of Russia and North Korea with Iran, recent US Navy movement into the Persian Gulf, and working with Senator James Lankford.

Biggs’ Ag Rights Resolution Draws Support

The House of Representatives Republican Rural Caucus is in full support of a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of agricultural producers in rural Oklahoma, the caucus chair said today.

“In this day and age, there is a concerted war being waged on the rural way of life,” said state Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant. “Environmental and animal rights activists have made life more difficult for farmers and ranchers throughout the U.S. Now, the Oklahoma Legislature is putting forth a solid, constitutional protection for agricultural producers. I could not be more proud of the progress of HJR1012 through the legislative process.”

Rep. Scott Biggs

Rep. Scott Biggs

House Joint Resolution 1012, by Rep. Scott Biggs, would allow Oklahomans to vote to amend the state constitution to protect citizens’ rights to engage in farming and agriculture in all cases unless prohibited because of a compelling state interest. The measure has been approved in both chambers and now simply waits for the Oklahoma House of Representatives to approve amendments.

“Agriculture is a central component of the Oklahoma economy and critical to local rural communities,” said Biggs, R-Chickasha. “We simply are not going to let anyone come in and harm our agricultural producers. We have a right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness and that includes farming.”

Other members of the caucus voiced their support for the amendment.

“I think farmers and ranchers are fed up with the multitude of regulations they often face,” said state Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “Unfortunately, there is often a push at the national level to increase those regulations, rather than decrease them. This amendment will help limit government intrusion into the lives of our agricultural producers.”

“Small farming and ranching operations are the hardest hit by overregulation,” said state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang. “All farmers and ranchers are affected, but the smaller operations have fewer resources to mitigate the costs of regulations. I think this amendment is good for both our economy and our individual citizens.”

“My constituents love this amendment,” said state Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Mulhall. “I have a largely rural district and I think voters are going to overwhelming support better protections for farmers and ranchers. As our population gets more removed from the source of its food measures like this become of paramount importance. I am not trying to score any points in my district by picking on anybody. I am just trying to do what I think is best for my district, and give my constituents the protection they need to make a living and feed the world. ”

“Ranching and farming are the lifeblood of our nation,” said state Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston. “I think it’s imperative that Oklahoma stands up and protects our farmers and ranchers for generations to come.”

“Right to Farm protects the farmers and ranchers in my district from groups that have no idea about how to run a farm or ranch,” said state Rep. Casey Murdock, R-Felt. “Agriculture is a generational business. We want to leave our farms and ranches to our children and grandchildren better than we had it.”

“We can have many debates on the House floor about many different bills that pertains to Oklahoma’s economy, but if we can’t farm and grow our food, there will not be an economy because we won’t be here,” said state Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City.

“We are protecting our agricultural producers because they are the backbone of our economy,” said state Rep. John Enns, R-Enid. “It is easy for the majority of Americans to forget who provides them with the essentials. This constitutional amendment puts up a barrier against any poorly thought out regulation on farmers and ranchers.”

More Controversy Involving Board Of Education

There’s more controversy involving the State Board of Education. This time, it’s over legal representation.


Sooner Survey: Don’t Cut Funds For Education, Public Safety, Transportation

sooneersurveySooner Survey: Oklahomans don’t embrace cutting funds for education, public safety or transportation. And here’s more.

April Sooner Survey – Budget Shortfall

Dacia Harris: The Weekend Wrap Up

Dacia Harris has the Weekend Wrap Up.

Fallin Signs Property Rights Bill

legislationGovernor Fallin has signed into law a measure that would protect the property rights of Oklahomans by restricting how small municipalities annex land.

House Bill 1456, by Rep. James Leewright, will modify municipality annexation procedures by requiring written consent of at least a majority of the property owners to be annexed. The bill also prohibits municipalities of less than 12,000 citizens from annexing more than eight square miles at one time.

Supporters of the measure included the Oklahoma Municipal League and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

Leewright said the state should protect property owners who do not want to be annexed.

“I am very thankful for the governor for signing this important piece of legislation and for my colleagues in the House and Senate who helped me steer this bill through the process,” said Leewright, R-Bristow. “The bill was approved almost unanimously in both chambers, and that shows me that my colleagues believe in the foundational notion of private property rights, which our liberty is based upon. I promised my constituents that I would fight for them when I was sent here, and that is what I will continue to do.”

The bill passed out of the House by a vote of 85-4 and out of the Senate by a vote of 45-0. The law will take effect on November 1.

House Weekly Wrap Video: Senate Bill Deadline At Hand

On the Oklahoma House Weekly Wrap, we hit the legislative deadline to hear Senate bills in the House. Please watch:

Contractors Push ‘No U-Turn’ Campaign

budget1With state budget cuts looming, the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors continues their No U-Turn campaign with a heavy online and television presence. The campaign is aimed at protecting funding set aside to build and maintain the state’s infrastructure during this tough budget year.

Facebook and Twitter campaign efforts featuring a No U-Turn road sign urge Oklahomans to “keep our economy moving” and “keep our roads safe.” The number of online supporters has been overwhelming and can be seen through comments and shares.

“TV commercials continue to air multiple times per day throughout the state, indicating that the threat to roads and bridges funding is real and ever-present. Despite shocking images of dilapidated Oklahoma highways and bridges, the commercials have yet to sway lawmakers to commit to safeguarding this all important funding.” the group said in a statement.

“Thanks to the Eight-Year Construction Work Plan, our economy continues to grow at an astounding rate. Oklahoma is the crossroads of America, and we must keep legislators from stealing funds set aside for roads and bridges if we want to continue growing our state and economy. This plan is responsible for roughly 2,000 construction projects statewide by 2022, but first we must hold our government accountable today.

“If funding is delayed even for one year, our state will never catch up. Our infrastructure has been ignored for too long, and we cannot afford to take a U-turn on progress. We must keep our economy moving.

“Every day, hard-working men and women dedicate themselves to making Oklahoma a better, safer place to live. Legislators should be held to the same standard. The very future of Oklahoma’s economy depends on an efficient, safe infrastructure, and we must demand safer roads now. Insist on an unwavering commitment to bettering bridges. Settle for nothing less than the safety you and your family deserve, Oklahoma.”


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