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Guest Column

 

March 11, 2021

By Fmr. Sen. Ron Sharp

Oklahoma's legislature appears to be using the crisis of the COVID-19 Pandemic and last summer's nation-wide riots to enact radical changes in public education.

Why the blame for all health and societal problems have been placed on Oklahoma's local public schools is a still a mystery.

The only answer to that question? Never let a crisis go to waste! There was an agenda and the crisis can be used to accomplish the agenda.

HB  2078 is being considered to change Oklahoma's education funding formula. Currently, the funding formula is based on an equalization formula using Average Daily Membership (ADM).

The suggested change in the education formula would be based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA). The average instead of daily attendance was adopted to prevent major funding losses - or gains - in the allocation of state funds to a local school district. 

Teachers would lack any stability with in their jobs under such unstable funding as proposed in HB 2078.

Oklahoma's education funding formula is not based on the number of local school districts. It is based totally on the number of students that attend school in a specific district.

The first tier of the education funding formula is ad valorem. The legislature lacks the constitutional authority to use those dollars from that source. All ad valorem remains in the county.

Subsequently, in 2020-2021 there were 41 local school districts that received 100% of their funding from the county treasurer based on the district's wealth and number of students on the average that attended school each day.

There were another 64 local districts that received 100% of ADM funds from the county treasurer as a result of the wealth of that district. Only the Teacher Incentive dollars were provided to the local district by the state's supplemental funds.

The idea of equalization of the state's supplemental funding is this: as the local school district's wealth declines the State's second tier of the education equalization funding formula kicks in to bring the total to about $9,400 average dollars per student.

Subsequently, since all ad valorem by the Oklahoma Constitution remains within each of the 77 counties, the only districts directly affected in HB  2078 would be the poor Oklahoma school districts.

Whether it was the purpose or not, HB 2078, if enacted, would push more state funds to virtual charters and brick and mortar charter schools. 

Local districts such as Shawnee, Tecumseh, Dale, McLoud, and Meeker would lose thousands of dollars under HB 2078.

Teachers will lose jobs in those local school districts if HB 2078 is enacted.

HB 2673 and HB 2701 are being considered to push additional state dollars to private schools. 

This idea is called "vouchers," in which legislators assert that parents should be able to access state funds to pay for private school tuition. 

Since the wealthy school districts receive zero state aid this "voucher scheme" would affect the rural local school districts.

The voucher scheme redirects funds designated to rural districts to urban communities since that is where most private schools are located.

A bizarre bill is SB 803, which seeks to prohibit Oklahoma's public school teachers from teaching the critical race theory in our state's classrooms.

Apparently, HB 803 attempts to blame last summer's racial riots in other states on Oklahoma's public schools' indoctrination of children.

Whether it is banning Dr. Seuss books or school mascots, the idea of critical-race is that our public schools have been teaching racial supremacy to students. Therefore, all divisive references to minority political and cultural struggles in America and Oklahoma must be prohibited.

What is actually taught in classrooms are Oklahoma Academic Standards (OAS) which were approved by the Oklahoma legislature. 

Each subject area taught in Oklahoma's public schools has standards that each independent school district must be in compliance.

The end-of-instruction tests are based on these Oklahoma Academic Standards.

The Oklahoma Academic Standards require the teacher to remain on task to assure all of the standards are covered within the semester. It is required that each teacher itemize standards be submitted each week in "lesson plans" to their evaluating principal.

Independent school districts have implemented comprehensive policies that require teachers in department content subject areas to be on the same page daily.

If there has been a complaint from teachers, it has been the rigid mandates to strict compliance to the Oklahoma Academic Standards. Individualized instruction is impossible under these mandates.

Subsequently, any legislation presented to infer that Oklahoma's public school teachers are indoctrinating students to critical race superiority is not substantiated with fact.

If there is a subject standard that is questioned, remove the standard, don't fire the teacher for teaching the standard!

Common sense observation recognizes the primary source of indoctrination of children's minds is social media.

Children have not changed. What has changed is the way parents raise their children. 

 

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