Department of Education criticizing Gov. Fallin’s veto of reading bill

OKLAHOMA CITY - The state's Department of Education is criticizing a recent decision by Governor Mary Fallin to veto a bill related to Oklahoma's reading assessments.

"Frankly, I believe the Governor has had the wrong idea on education policy in the past. We’ve seen failed policy — and this is an example of something else that is not right. It’s the wrong decision," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Education, Senate Bill 1190 is a "technical bill" that was necessary to adjust cut scores of the Reading Sufficiency Act ('RSA') in order to align with Oklahoma's current academic standards. It passed 88-1 in the Oklahoma House and 42-0 in the Senate.

Governor Mary Fallin vetoed the measure on Thursday night.

"Because this bill was vetoed, it creates instability for our schools," Superintendent Hofmeister said. "It could mean that then our students would be forced to take a much longer reading assessment. I don’t think that’s good for kids. I don’t think our children should be focused on a test in the spring that is not really showing the full measure of what they have done in the full year."

According to Governor Fallin, there were concerns that criteria in the bill that moved from the traditional reporting of the RSA from four-tiered bands to two-tiered bands creating a "pass/fail" system.

"With a pass/fail system, parents, community members, and state education policy makers will not be able to understand if a school is missing the pass level by a point or by significant margins," Fallin explained.

The Governor added the bill does not require a certain performance level to be achieved in order to promote students to the fourth grade, but rather left the educational standard based on the criteria established by the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability.

"This leaves the potential for lessening of criteria in future years. SB 1190 also takes out reporting requirements regarding a school district's RSA school plan with annual improvement goals and reporting to the State Board of Education if a district is not meeting achievement goals," according to Fallin.

Hofmeister said perhaps, the bill was not well understood; however, she said the consequences of the veto are real.

"Some of the tools that have just been evaluated to be approved to be aligned with the third grade reading assessment now are also in question and those are tools are used for teachers to talk with families," she said. "This is part of what contributes to our teacher shortage. Our teachers are weary. They have initiative fatigue."

Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, was the House author for this bill. He said it was not a surprise the Governor vetoed it.

"When I asked what was going to happen, I got a pretty strong answer...not 100 percent...that it wasn’t going to go forward," Rep. Casey said. "I believe one of the few times the Governor ever had a veto override was over an RSA bill four to six years ago, I’m not sure exactly when that was, and so that's always been a hot topic. I believe the executive branch believes strongly that you have to have extremely high standards in that area."

A spokesperson for the Governor said because the Legislature has adjourned, a veto override cannot occur for Senate Bill 1190.