You Have to Read it to Know What’s in it II: SB1187

I have decided that focusing on some of the specific language of education reform laws might be a good strategy for this blog.

EDITED 3-20-2016
Feel free to click here   to read the bill.  This link is to the final Senate version which they sent to the House after passing it by five votes.  The big amendment concerns the deletion of the requirement for criminal background checks of teachers.  A criminal background check is a Best Practice for anyone employed or volunteering to work with children. And not just in public schools.  This  section that says school districts “may” request …… and then later in the (long) sentence is says “shall”.  Which is poor writing but is ambiguous.  It looks like an attempt was made to fix this error.  Rather than explain further, here is the language from page 10.  The full criminal background check policy continues from page 10 all the way to the new ending of the bill on page 15.

Here is the first sentence.  (You may or may not agree with the ambiguity of “shall” and “may.”)

Section 5-142.
A. Except as otherwise provided for in subsection F of
this section, for purposes of employment, a board of
education may request in writing to the State Board of Education
that a national criminal history record check be conducted of any
employee of the school and shall request such information for any
person seeking employment with the a school, charter school or

empowered school.



Please note:  As time permits I am going to go through the list of deleted sections and leave brief comments after some of them.

Today’s focus will be on little gems from SB1187.  The purpose is to allow school districts to run all or part of the district like a charter school. School boards are already allowed to charter schools within their districts.  One would think this would be enough flexibility.

For the purposes of this blog quotes from bills will be in bold print.

Here is the stated purpose of the bill:

B. 1. Subject to the provisions of this section, a school
district shall be allowed to submit a request to the State Board of Education for an exemption from all statutory requirements and State Board of Education rules from which charter schools are exempt, as provided for in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act.

This is going to require some background on Oklahoma Charter law.

The first question would be, “What are the exemptions provided for in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act?”  I called the Oklahoma State Department of Education during the Barresi debacle and was informed that there was no enumerated list. I have so far obtained no such list.  Here is what the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act “provides” in its language:

Except as provided for in the Oklahoma Schools Charter Act and it (the school’s) charter, a charter school shall be exempt from all statutes and rules relating to schools, boards of education, and school districts.

Here is a list of notable exemptions I compiled from web page.  It seems to be correct and short.

Oklahoma law exempts charter schools from state teacher certification requirements.

Oklahoma law exempts charter schools from participation in district collective bargaining agreements.

Oklahoma law allows for charters to enroll students outside their district if it is also approved in the charter.

The law includes a rather lengthy list of things that are not exempt which were struck from the bill in the floor version.  This is important.   It indicates that some thought was given to these exemptions.  Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to what this means about the motivations behind the bill.

This is substantially the size of it.  All this is to allow schools to hire teachers who are not certified and possibly pay them less than other teachers in the district.  In addition, they are not required observe any other policies that are negotiated.

The first is important to the second.  Hiring qualified and skilled teachers for less pay and poor working conditions would be challenging.  It nearly impossible to imagine that these two things alone would cause charter schools outperform public schools.

The curious and interesting thing about this bill is the sections that were deleted from the original version authored by Senator Brecheen.  (If you have not read a bill before, deleted sections are shown by strike-through text.)  I had to look at both versions to see what was actually deleted in the committee version.  All of these sections will be included as Appendix A to this post.  But here is a summary of what is deleted.

1.  This section appears to be deleted because it makes no sense whatsoever.   It would have been redlined by my Senior English teacher.

2. Deletes requirement to follow the salary schedule. (I believe this is a goal of the current crop of reformers – to totally eliminate longevity raises in favor of merit pay.)

3. Deletes requirement to participate in the Teacher Retirement System.

4. Deletes requirement for health insurance.

5.  Deletes requirement for criminal background checks.  NOTE:   THIS SECTION IS NOW REPLACED PER THE EDIT TO THIS BLOG POST ABOVE.

6.  Deletes all teacher evaluation requirements. There is no small amount of controversy about teacher evaluations these days, but there is general agreement that teachers need to be evaluated.  As in any work place, employees should be able to respond to a performance review.  Employees will do better feedback about their performance.   A bad system of evaluation is worse than no evaluation. But no evaluation is bad policy. This is deleted in both versions of the bill.

7.  Deletes  requirement to payroll deduct union dues.

8.  Deletes due process requirements for firing. (Deleted in both versions.)

9. Deletes all requirements for certification of teachers, counselors etc.

10. Deletes  requirement to negotiate. salary and benefits.  Many people do not realize that teacher negotiations in Oklahoma are non-binding. School boards are required to negotiate but they are not required to accept the results of he negotiations, even if negotiations are settled by arbitration.  Teachers are not allowed to strike.  Negotiations are actually sessions that allow teachers to communicate their desires and concerns.  It a state where teacher pay has been historically low improvements made in working conditions and other issues that concern teachers can play a big part in attracting and retaining faculty.  But this law eliminates this provision. It saves no money and could result in poor treatment of teachers and an increased teacher shortage.  .  This is bizarre.
Some school systems do not like the way issues can be brought to light through this process, but there is no way that this provision can be related to improved academic performance or educational innovation.  (Deleted in both versions.)

11. and 12. Deletes academic content standards and curriculum. With all the hoopla over curriculum in the past year it seems strange to turn around and  delete all requirements for charter schools.  If this is a good idea lets just do this for all schools.

13.  Deletes continuing ed requirements for board members.


Please note that this is what was deleted from the bill. These things were required in the original bill but are not required in the current floor version.  Note that a school district could still follow any of these, but they are now optional.  In order to determine a rationale for excusing the school system from a requirement it is valuable to consider the following criteria:

Does this language impact:

1.   instruction and learning?
2.  the budget?
3.  school/chid safety?
4.  teacher shortage?
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?

There are 13 paragraphs.  One would assume this is all about improving instruction and learning.    How many sections impact the following:

1. Instruction and learning:  Only two directly, by eliminating standards.

2.  Budget:  Four – Everything that impacts costs does so by reducing teacher compensation.

3. Student safety:  Just one. Why not include language to protect students from sex offenders?

4 and 5: How many of the deletions negatively affect teacher pay, rights, and benefits?  Ten.   One could look at it differently since schools could staff classrooms with unqualified teachers and not have to bother with thinks like degrees and credentials.   There would be no “teacher” shortage since anyone could be deemed a “teacher.”  One school superintendent actually praised this section of the law.

Following comments on each deleted section I will list the topics above with my  assessment of how the deletion impacts the process.


…….rule, but a participating
school shall comply with the following requirements:

1. Students who reside in the school district shall be entitled
to attend school in the district as set forth in Section 1-114 of
this title;

This does not impact anything to do with teaching and learning.

2. School districts shall comply with the requirements of the
minimum salary schedule for teachers as set forth in Section 18-
114.12 of this title;

Deletion does not impact instruction directly.  It could have an indirect negative impact.

Excusing schools from the (outdated) minimum salary schedule will not save money in the current economy. Schools are, of course, allowed to pay MORE than the salary schedule.  Senator Jolley seems to be confused about this.  Most schools have had to pay over the state minimum to attract and retain teachers. Intentionally paying teachers less and denying at least ten years worth of experience raises (the state salary schedule only provides raises for ten years) is not going to attract quality.

Doing away with minimum salary schedule also allows for programs like merit pay.  More likely it allows for individual demand and confer style individual salary negotiations. This is a return to a failed policy that has long been gone from Oklahoma schools.  Merit pay is something that politicians keep trying to give teachers even though there is little demand.  Teachers generally do not trust the mechanisms used to determine “merit.”

1.   instruction and learning?
Does not improve charter instruction.
2.  the budget?
It could if teachers are willing to work cheap.  See #3
3.  school/chid safety?
4.  teacher shortage?
No, but the teacher shortage impact this.
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?   Yes. This is a union busting/low pay/anti teacher clause

Employees of school districts shall continue to participate
as members of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma as set forth in Section 17-101 et seq. of this title;
Why would any good teacher want to give up the state retirement program. This could save money at the expense of the faculty.  It has NOTHING to do with classroom

1.   instruction and learning?  No
2.  the budget?  Yes, reduces employee cost at the expense of teacher in the school building/district.
3.  school/chid safety?  No
4.  teacher shortage? Yes. It will make it worse.  Teachers can be expected to try to leave a school or district that  goes “charter.”
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?  Sure.  If you haven’t already gotten the idea, the chief difference in the charter vs regular public school is the way teachers are treated.  There are others, but this is the main difference.

4. School districts shall comply with the requirement to
provide a health insurance plan for school district employees as set forth in Section 5-117.5 of this title and to establish or make
available to school district employees a cafeteria plan as set forth
in Section 26-104 of this title;

1.   instruction and learning? No.
2.  the budget?  Yes. Cheaper employee costs.
3.  school/chid safety?  No
4.  teacher shortage?  Yes – Makes working conditions worse.
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?  More like strictly anti teacher.

I think Obamacare requirements for health insurance will make this one moot.

5. School districts shall require any person employed by the
school district to file with the district board a current Oklahoma
criminal history record check from the Oklahoma State Bureau of
Investigation as well as a national criminal history record check as defined in Section 150.9 of Title 74 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Each district shall adopt a policy regarding criminal history record checks as set forth in Section 5-142 of this title; PER ABOVE, THIS LANGUAGE IS REPLACED

This one is different.   It is not about teachers.
1.   instruction and learning? No
2.  the budget? In a small way.
3.  school/child safety?  YES!
4.  teacher shortage? No
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?  No. It is just curious.

6. School districts shall comply with the requirement to
evaluate teachers and to train personnel designated to conduct
personnel evaluations as set forth in Sections 6-101.10 and 6-101.11 of this title, the dismissal and due process procedures for administrators as set forth in Sections 6-101.13 through 6-101.15 of this title and the due process procedures for teachers as set forth in Sections 6-101.21 through 6-101.26 of this title

So much work on teacher reform and then it isn’t required?  Once again very strange.How are they going to make their merit pay work?
1.   instruction and learning? IMHO, yes, negatively
2.  the budget? No
3.  school/child safety? No
4.  teacher shortage?   Yes.
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?   Yes.  This makes it possible to fire teachers without so much as an agenda in schools that take advantage of the law.
7. School districts shall comply with the requirement to make
payroll deductions for either or both professional organization dues and political contributions upon the request of an employee as set forth in Section 5-139 of this title;

Only this:  5.  Anti-Ed agenda?   Comments above.

8. School districts shall comply with the dismissal and due
process procedures for education support employees as set forth in Sections 6-101.40 through 6-101.47 of this title;

Only this: 5.  Anti-Ed agenda?   It is to intimidate teacher since they have no rights.

9. School districts shall employ as teachers, counselors,
librarians, school nurses, superintendents, principals, supervisors or any other instructional, supervisory or administrative employee only those persons who are certified by the State Board of Education in accordance with the Oklahoma Teacher Preparation Act, except for persons exempt from the certification requirements as otherwise provided by law;

1.   instruction and learning? Hiring unqualified teachers could have an affect.
2.  the budget? Intended to pay staff less
3.  school/chid safety?  No
4.  teacher shortage? Intended to alleviate.
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?  Anti teacher, teachers rights, unions.

10. School districts shall provide for negotiations between
school employees and school districts as set forth in Sections 509.1 through 509.11 of this title;

Just this one:
5.  Anti-Ed agenda?  This is all about removing teacher input. Since negotiations in Oklahoma are non-binding, this is all about shutting teachers up.

11. School districts shall be required to offer and students
enrolled in the school district shall be required to complete the
curriculum requirements as set forth in Section 11-103.6 of this

This is curious because it only impacts this one factor, but in a negative way:
1.   instruction and learning….

12. Students enrolled in the school district shall be required
to demonstrate mastery of the state academic content standards as set forth in Section 1210.523 of this title; and

Just the first one:
1.   instruction and learning? Yes learning/ no instruction

13. Members of the school district board of education shall be
required to satisfy the instruction and continuing education
requirements as set forth in Sections 5-110, 5-110.1 and 5-110.2 of
this title.

This is just bizarre.  The legislature passes laws requiring all this training for board members and does not require it of charter-like schools? 

D. Seventy-five percent (75%) of students enrolled in the
empowered school district or empowered school site, as applicable, shall be required to demonstrate mastery of the state academic content standards as set forth in Section 1210.523 of this title.

Provided, however, a school district may demonstrate mastery if
fifty percent (50%) of its students demonstrate more than one and one-half (1 1/2) years of growth in a measured academic year. A school district that is unable to demonstrate mastery as provided for in this subsection shall be required to implement one of the four intervention models set forth in Section 1210.544 of this title.





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