If the so-called “school deregulation” bill makes it to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, she should veto it, and, in effect, kill the legislation.
Senate Bill 1187, the School District Empowerment Act, barely passed the Senate on a 25-20 vote last week. It takes 25 votes in the Senate to pass legislation so the reality is the bill passed by one vote. The Republican-dominated House is expected to pass the legislation as well, according to political observers. It takes a two-thirds majority to override a governor veto, which would be extremely unlikely to happen in this case, especially in the Senate.
So right now it looks like it will be up to Fallin to do the right thing. SB 1187, which can be viewed here, would allow school districts to opt out of several state educational requirements, including minimum salary requirements for teachers, participation in the state teacher’s retirement program, teacher certification requirements and due process in personnel matters. It also eliminates the requirement for a criminal background check of school employees through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. School districts, under the bill, could also opt out of meeting state academic standards.
The bill, which was ultimately sponsored by State Sens. Clark Jolley of Edmond and Josh Brecheen of Coalgate, both Republicans, could create an uneven and chaotic K-12 school system in Oklahoma, weaken standards and result in even lower average teacher salaries. Oklahoma’s teacher salaries are already the lowest in the region and near the bottom in the country.
Proponents of the bill make the argument that it would allow districts more flexibility in hiring adjunct instructors, but there are already policies in place to do so. Also, if that was the major reason for the bill, why not just create a measure that focuses on that one issue? Oklahoma faces a current teacher shortage as educators flee the state to work in states where they can make more money and are more appreciated. This bill only fuels the problem.
(Click "Read more" to continue reading.)