Here’s news out of the House of Representatives:
Legislation that would discourage “abusive and frivolous” lawsuits by schools districts passed out of the House of Representatives today and now heads to the Senate.
House Bill 2160, by State Rep. Jason Nelson, would require school districts to pay students’ and parents’ court costs and attorney fees when they initiate civil action or proceedings against students or parents.
“We saw a disgusting abuse of power when the leaders of Jenks and Union schools targeted the parents of special-needs children with a completely bogus lawsuit that could only be understood as an intimidation tactic,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “I’ve visited with numerous people who shudder at the idea of a school district suing parents. These two districts eventually lost the case upon appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, but it still angers me that they put these families through such an ordeal. The only thing that the parents could have been guilty of was doing what they thought was best for their child with special needs.”
The Jenks and Union school boards voted to sue the state attorney general to challenge the successful Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act. They never filed that lawsuit, but instead, without ever specifically voting to do so, sued parents who legally obtained scholarships through the new program.
“These two school boards had earlier voted to ignore the new State law and later voted to sue the attorney general to get their question in front of a judge,” Nelson said. “When that didn’t work they sued the parents without ever voting to do so specifically. They left that decision to the school superintendent and the school’s law firm. They didn’t even have the courage to vote in a board meeting to sue parents – it was shameful.”
Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships allow a student with a disability (such as Down syndrome or Autism) who has an individualized education program (IEP) to receive state-funded scholarships to attend a private school that parents believe can better serve their child. The scholarships come from the amount of money already designated for the education of those children.
Nelson said his legislation would deter schools from filing such lawsuits, which are inappropriate because schools serve the public and should not be persecuting students and parents.
“I never doubted that the lawsuit was inappropriate and the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling confirmed that a school board should not be suing parents. My bill says that if a school district sues parents again, they will have to pay the court and attorney costs,” Nelson said.
HB 2160 passed out of the House by a vote of 55-37. The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Read more about it in the paper or on NewsOK.com on Tuesday, but in the mean time, here’s a news release from the district now:
When the 2013-2014 school year starts on August 5, 2013 all 74 school sites will require school uniforms. In a 5 to3 vote, the Oklahoma City Public School District Board of Education approved the plan to adopt a uniform policy for every school, prior to the board’s vote 17 out of 74 schools in the district did not require uniforms.
In September of last year, the Oklahoma City Public School District’s Dress Code regulation was suspended while a task force committee researched and participated in focus groups to develop a recommendation on a revised dress code for the district.
The committee made up of district administrators, teachers, parents, students, attorneys and the Oklahoma City Police Department met regularly to discuss the issue and devise a plan. The task force recommended that the Board of Education adopt a uniform policy at every school.
“This is a great idea for the students of OKCPS,” said Anna King, OK PTA President and former OKCPS District PTA President. “It shows that the district is united and working as a team, it supports fairness for all district students and continuity. I am hopeful more businesses, civic organizations and churches will support this new policy by providing discounts, uniform donation drives and clothing closets to help the students at the 17 schools transition to uniforms next year.”
Under the new uniform policy each school can designate the colors and types of shirts which may be worn, but one choice must be white and each school. The schools can also select the colors for pants, slacks, shirts, skorts or dresses but must allow khaki pants; this helps address the district’s high mobility rate among students.
Students who violate the policy may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the district’s Student Code of Conduct. Students enrolling in OKCPS for the first time during the school year shall be granted a 20 day grace period before being required to comply.
“We are really proud of the hard work from the task force in developing this policy, they were all very thorough in addressing the concerns of parents, students, staff and the community,” said Sandra Park, OKCPS Deputy Superintendent.
This just came out of the state House of Representatives:
State Rep. Leslie Osborn said today that House Bill 1721 will help protect the state’s tuition assistance program for low-income families.
“The intent of my legislation is to redirect the tuition assistance to families who truly need it,” said Osborn, R-Mustang. “Oklahoma’s Promise, or the Oklahoma Higher Access to Learning Program, was originally created to help the children of poor, working families to qualify for tuition assistance. With several changes made to the program since its creation, it has grown into a program that could potentially make 81 percent of the families of four in the state eligible. This was not the original intent of the program.”
The program currently serves families that have a household income of $50,000 or less at the time of the student’s application to the program in the eighth, ninth or tenth grade and a household income of $100,000 or less when they enter college.
Osborn’s bill would lower the second income threshold to $75,000 and an amendment to the bill would further lower it to $60,000.
“We have to contain the program’s costs to ensure its long-term viability for those families it is intended to serve,” said Osborn. “Opponents may characterize the bill as breaking Oklahoma’s Promise, but I would characterize it as keeping our promise.”
Osborn noted that current enrollees in the program would not be affected.
“No one would lose what they’ve already attained under the current law,” she said. “That would be unfair.”
This news release just came out of the state House of Representatives:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma schools could increase school safety and security by expanding the use of fingerprint background checks of adults who regularly interact with students, according to one state lawmaker.
House Bill 2228, by state Rep. Joe Dorman, would allow schools to authorize fingerprint background checks on anyone interacting with students in school-sponsored activities, including volunteers. Currently, schools cannot conduct these checks unless specifically authorized by state law.
The legislation was approved by the House Public Safety Committee and now advances to the House Calendar Committee.
“I have consulted with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and local school administrators on the need for this legislation,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “I feel we need to better protect our students from pedophiles and other criminals who are slipping through the cracks by providing false identities to schools.”
Last year, House lawmakers approved a similar bill, but it did not make it to the governor’s desk. This modified bill address concerns expressed last year by lawmakers in opposition, Dorman said.
State Sen. Kyle Loveless, who will carry the legislation in the Senate, said that parents who entrust their kids to public schools expect their children to be in a safe environment.
“At the legislature, not only are we responsible for providing our students with the highest quality of education, but we must also look out for their safety while at school,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “This bill will help ensure that those working with and around our students are not criminals or people who would put our youth’s safety in danger. I’m hopeful that this bill makes its way through the legislative process quickly so schools can start instituting this important safety measure.”
OSBI provided information showing individuals have applied for employment at schools in previous years by providing falsified identities in order to seek a job. Those applying for jobs must submit to this type of background check, but schools are not currently allowed to apply this type of background check to volunteers due to federal prohibitions requiring authorization by the state. Oklahoma law does not provide this option, but House Bill 2228 corrects that, Dorman said.
“House Bill 2228, nicknamed the Protect Against Pedophiles Act, is not a mandate, but voluntary,” Dorman said. “The use of this type of background check will be up to the discretion of the local school administration and costs associated with the background check will be assumed by the school district if they decide there is a need to do background checks of this nature.”
Thursday, Feb. 28 is the final day for committee approval of House bills.
Read the full story in the Tulsa World. Here’s info from the school district about the proposed bond:
TULSA, Okla. – Tulsa Public Schools shared the details of a proposed technology and school security bond at last night’s meeting of the TPS board. Called the 2013 SMART & SECURE SCHOOLS bond, the prospective $38 million bond would focus on improving classroom technology and infrastructure, as well as installing fire sprinklers in 11 buildings and upgrading school security systems district-wide. The 2013 Bond Development Committee, co-chaired by Rachel Maze and Rodger Randle, unanimously recommended to the TPS board that the district proceed with the proposed bond. The board is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation on Monday, March 4.
“Our children need to be given every advantage to succeed in an increasingly digital world,” said Dr. Keith Ballard, Superintendent. “We want to give our students every opportunity to become competent in the use of technology, as their college and career readiness will very much depend upon it. Given the large number of our students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, we have the opportunity to bridge the digital gap by providing teachers and children with the tools they need to be successful. We know our students aren’t performing at acceptable levels in math and reading. While technology is never a replacement for having an effective teacher in every classroom, we know that great teachers can leverage technology to improve student achievement.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education and recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association, technology-based instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by up to 80 percent.
One school district – Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina – went almost completely digital five years ago, using laptops and MacBook Air computers districtwide. The district has not purchased a textbook in over five years, with the exception of those required for high school Advanced Placement classes. With the change, graduation rates and test scores are rising. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 89 percent of students across grades met proficiency standards in 2012, compared with 73 percent four years ago.
Graduation rates are up 10 percent over four years ago, to 90 percent, and more graduates are attending college, the rate rising 8 percent to 88 percent in 2012.
2013 SMART & SECURE SCHOOLS BOND
Features of the bond that are under consideration:
· The creation of a “standard classroom,” with tools that would include a desktop computer; interactive whiteboard with speakers; iPad tablet, a document camera and Internet Protocol TV, all interfacing with the interactive whiteboard; and wireless Internet access. (Art, music, science and other special subject areas will be provided with additional equipment beyond the “standard classroom”).
· Classroom computer funds would be distributed at $337 per pupil, to include desktop and laptop computers, with a minimum student-to-computer ratio of 3-to-1. It is the goal of TPS to have no computer over five years old;
· 100% of all desktops and laptops will be compliant with PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) standards;
· Multi-function devices (copiers, printers, scanners and faxes) will be upgraded, with more efficient printing services and functionality;
· All principals and teachers district-wide will have a tablet device and related curriculum for classroom and office use;
· Library ebooks will be purchased for circulation/downloading on to computers and tablets;
· Replacement of district support computers, as well as extending the licenses associated with educational videos and learning materials;
· A new professional development system that will be used to schedule, track and enroll teachers and support staff in professional development classes; and
· Technology infrastructure will be improved, with wireless access at every school site and increased Internet bandwidth based on federal standards.
“It is absolutely critical that we upgrade and add computers district-wide so we can meet the technical requirements needed for standardized testing under Common Core,” said Dr. Ballard. “Not only are we lagging behind other neighboring districts, but TPS today does not have the computers and infrastructure required for the implementation of Common Core.”
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Other features of the proposed bond include important district-wide safety and security updates:
· Install fire sprinkler systems in all wooden structures that do not currently have them. (There are currently 11 buildings in the district that were constructed from 1910 to 1920, and while they meet all current fire codes, steps can be taken to improve their safety for students and staff);
· Fire sprinkler systems would be added in the following buildings: Burroughs, Eliot, Lanier, Lee, Lombard, Project Accept at Roosevelt, Sequoyah, Springdale, Street School, Tulsa MET at Bryant and the Cherokee building;
· Upgrade the existing fire panels and intrusion alarm panels district-wide. This supports the security system used to monitor fire alarms, smoke detectors, motion detectors and cameras; and
· Provide hardware and materials for the replacement of damaged, destroyed or expired equipment for cameras and door systems.
“Safety is paramount in so many ways,” said Dr. Ballard, “and it only takes one fire like the one at Barnard last year to impact the lives of our students, staff and our historic buildings. We pride ourselves on the progress we have made in school safety and security. With a few minor additions, we can ensure that our school environments are the safest they can be.”
THE DISTRICT’S BONDING CAPACITY
Tulsa Public Schools currently has a sinking fund rate of 23.45 mills, which is used for the retirement of existing bonds. This is lower than all of the adjacent districts in the Greater Tulsa area, even though TPS has a larger bonding capacity given its size. By approving the 2013 SMART & SECURE SCHOOLS bond, citizens owning a house valued at $100,000 would experience a tax increase in 2014 of $3.38 per month or $40.50 per year.
“We hope parents, teachers and interested Tulsa citizens will come out to one of the three forums to learn the details of this proposed bond initiative,” said Dr. Ballard. “After a brief presentation, we will take questions from the floor. We look forward to this important dialogue with the Tulsa community.”
Tulsa Public Schools will host two public forums to discuss the possible bond initiative:
· Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6-7 p.m., Education Service Center, 3027 S. New Haven Ave. (in the 1st floor Selman Room)
· Thursday, Feb. 28, 6-7 p.m., East Central High School Auditorium, 12150 E. 11th St.
Members of the 2013 TPS Technology Bond Development Committee are: Rachel Maze and Rodger Randle (co-chairs); Randy Blattner; Ellen Duecker; Eddie Evans; Bob Howard; Susan Harris; Chris Hudgins; Joe Jennings; Bob LaBass; Stacy Loeffler; Charlotte Manning; Dennis Neill; Richard Ryan; Stephan Sargent; Peggy Spillman; Lynn Stockley; Ben Stout; James Stuart; O.C. Walker; Trish Williams and Blaine Young.
Please visit the TPS website at www.tulsaschools.org for additional information about Tulsa Public Schools.
This came through the House today:
State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman said today that health education is the best way to prevent some of the most common afflictions of the day such as heart disease, substance abuse and diabetes.
“We can’t afford to ignore the opportunity we have in public schools to educate our young people about healthy diets, exercise, drugs and other health concerns so that they can begin healthy habits that will benefit them for their entire lives and reduce health care costs,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “It is also an opportunity to inform emerging young leaders about the health opportunities and risks in our communities.”
House Bill 2279, by Pittman, which would create health education courses in middle schools throughout Oklahoma, was approved unanimously 7-0 by the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education.
The Oklahoma State Education Department already has a Priority Academic Student Skills for Health and Safety and a health textbook list, which would both be used under the bill.
The following 10 units would be required: physical activity; nutrition; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; behavioral health; oral health; environmental health; growth and development; injury prevention; bullying prevention; and wellness.
“I am especially excited about bullying prevention being taught in middle school,” said Pittman. “It is a problem that is leading to suicide and violence in our schools. I think we must address bullying across the state to better protect our young people.”
The legislation encourages making health education instruction available online. It also gives parents the right to exempt students from health education.
School districts will have local control of in what grades – sixth, seventh or eighth – and how they would offer the courses, Pittman said.
This came out of the state House of Representatives yesterday:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that would give private schools the ability to set policy in regards to firearms received unanimous support by a House committee today.
House Bill 1622, by state Rep. Sally Kern, was approved by a 12-0 vote in the House Public Safety Committee. Kern said private schools would be able to arm teachers to defend the school if they so choose, under her bill.
“The bill allows private schools to set a policy for arming faculty to protect students and themselves if an active shooter were to come on campus. The bill does not mandate private schools do this. It just leaves the decision up to each governing board to make that determination. Private schools are private entities and the state has no business telling them who can and cannot carry a firearm on their property,” said Kern.
Churches are a good example of a private property on which a law-abiding gun owner might be charged with a crime for carrying a weapon on a Monday, during a church-run school’s hours, or have no charge on Sunday, when they are attending a service, Kern said.
Current law punishes gun owners who carry a firearm onto private school property with a felony charge, a fine of up to $5,000 and two years in prison. Under Kern’s bill, the penalty would be a misdemeanor charge, a fine of no more than $250 and zero jail time.
“Although we now have open carry, there are a number of laws still on the books that severely penalize what could easily be a simple mistake by a law-abiding citizen,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City. “Lawmakers are working to lower the penalties for some of these infractions, so that we are not jailing citizens that mean no harm.”
If approved by the House Calendar Committee, the legislation will be available for a hearing on the House floor.
This just came out of the state House of Representatives:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that would end the practice of forcing unfunded education mandates on local schools recently passed unanimously out of the House Appropriations and Budget Common Education Committee.
House Bill 1100, by state Rep. Arthur Hulbert, would prohibit the legislature from enacting any mandate on local education boards unless sufficient funding was provided to cover the costs associated with the law.
“When I was running for office, one of the most common complaints I heard was that our schools were being overwhelmed by unfunded mandates,” said Rep. Hulbert, R-Ft. Gibson. “In my opinion, we need to promote local control of our schools and decrease the number of government mandates. I am very pleased this legislation has cleared the first hurdle toward protecting our schools, though I am certain the fight will intensify as the bill moves forward.”
HB 1100 passed the committee on a bipartisan 8-0 vote. It now proceeds to the House Calendar Committee, which will determine if the measure will be heard by the full body of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
This came out of the state House of Representatives this morning:
State Rep. John Bennett said today that the state should not ban free speech by students in schools.
House Bill 1940, by Bennett, would allow school boards to adopt policies giving students the right to deliver an inspirational message, even if it has a religious theme, at school assemblies.
The legislation was approved by the House Common Education Committee.
“I think our constitutional right to free speech trumps any tradition in our schools of separating church and state,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “It may be appropriate to limit what a school official can say about religion, but I think students should be able to talk about their faith outside of the classroom at school assemblies.
Bennett said the bill is not partisan in nature, but simply about protecting constitutional rights.
“The Declaration of Independence refers to God four times. In some public schools, children can hardly refer to God one time without being sent to the principal’s office,” said Bennett. “Religious expression is being treated as second-class speech in many schools. The Constitution does not turn schools into anti-religion zones, nor teachers into prayer police, nor students who express their faith into enemies of the state. Instead, schools are required to ensure neutrality in their approach to voluntary religious expression just as they must show neutrality towards a secular belief. This bill pushes schools to settle this issue and adopt policies with an appropriate approach to religious expression.”
The legislation would give student volunteers organizing the assembly the authority to determine the content of a message and who will deliver it.
If approved by the House Calendar Committee, House Bill 1940 will be available for a hearing on the House floor.
Last night, three Oklahoma City School Board members ended their terms in office, and three new folks stepped in. District 1 Board Member Lyn Watson gave this parting speech. She outlined the successes that came to pass during her four years in office, and she challenged the board to keep pushing for a better school district. Very interesting.
First I have many people to thank:
Foremost God: to him be the glory, for it was his wisdom, strength and love that called me to run for this position. This board was never on my radar until God directed my focus in 2006 to the children of this district that did not have a voice. I was called for such a time as this.
My family: Brad, Emily and Ben who sacrificed time, family meals and events so that I could serve a larger population of 43 thousand students of our great city. They believe as I do, that every child deserves a voice and I thank them for letting me be that voice for others.
My friends and prayer warriors: who graciously carpooled my children to Klife on Monday nights, supported me and decisions made when tough issues came to our board, prayed unceasingly, and surrounded me and my family during life changing events over the last 4 years.
My constituents of District 1: thank you for calling me regularly so I would be “in the know”, being proactive with educational issues and trusting me with decisions that affect your children and the future of this city.
There are many areas of success that I must highlight from my term in office:
- Streamlining our high school curriculum with ACT/America’s Choice. Truly a move that was student centric as our district’s mobility rate is 30%
- Implementing Great Expectations district wide at the elementary school level
- Creation and implementation of a strategic plan
- Banning pop tarts and hopefully chocolate milk is next
- Creation of academies in our high schools
- Teach for America
- Passage of the John W. Rex charter elementary school in downtown okc
- New Evaluation system from the Studer group that will provide continuity when we experience change in leadership
- Fields & Futures – giving our athletes encouragement and the ability to compete
Now I would like to put forth several challenges or encouragements:
- I encourage the administration to work as a team, to eliminate any divide between our schools and “downtown”, to eliminate any “fear” and to truly be people focused. I encourage you to be proactive, to follow up and follow through with every internal and external customer and conversation. I encourage you to execute effectively and efficiently with corporate partnerships and realize that the Foundation of Oklahoma City Public Schools is our partner and engage them in the day-to-day conversation. I encourage our principals to get creative with their buildings: host community events, invite neighbors to be mentors and be the center of our neighborhoods. Reach out and engage! I encourage the administration to assign a staff person to work and support our charter schools, they are responsible for educating our kids too!
- I challenge the union to walk the talk. If your “blue print” is student focused, then I encourage you to institute real change and help get ineffective teachers out of the classroom and take this burden off the administration.
- I encourage the teachers of this district to continue to love and inspire your students! We all have a story of a teacher that changed our life. I thank you for being “that” teacher!
- I encourage the parents of this district to be the voice of your child and train them in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not turn from it.
- I encourage this board to engage the community as a whole. I encourage you to work together with respect and civility; be a model for our students and administrators. Lastly, I encourage this board to put prayer back in our board meetings. If we cannot pray for the success of our students and district, then how can we expect others to cover our district in prayer? Be bold and pray fervently; for it was the church that created our education system and it will take the boldness of this board to continue this legacy.
I truly feel blessed to have served on this board and am encouraged by it’s direction! I do not know where God will have me serve next, but I am certain that when it’s time, I will be obedient to his call!
Congratulations to Bob Hammock, Justin Ellis and Lynne Hardin. I am thrilled to welcome Bob (another 3 letter name) to take my seat! May he continue to shine God’s light on this board and District 1.