Gov. Stitt signs education reform bills, State Superintendent Hofmeister says 1 of 2 bills jeopardizes education for rural Oklahoma students

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Gov. Kevin Stitt signed two bills aimed at education reform at 4 p.m. today, but State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister says one of those bills harms educational opportunities for rural students.

Stitt signed House Bill 2078 and Senate Bill 783 into law during a brief ceremony at 4 p.m. in the Blue Room of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

“This is a monumental day for education reform in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “Education is not one-size-fits-all, and these bills allow parents and students to have the freedom to attend the best public school for them regardless of their ZIP code. Additionally, modernizing the funding formula ensures funding follows the student, not the school. These reforms are vital to getting Oklahoma to be a Top Ten state in education and I am proud of this Republican legislature for its dedication to putting students first.”

Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters said Stitt signing the two bills is historic.

“We have transformed funding for every single student in the state and empowered them to choose a school that best fits their needs,” Walters said. “These two bills will work seamlessly together to have an immediate impact on the way we educate Oklahoma’s students and I commend our state leaders for getting this across the finish line.”

However, House Bill 2078 received sharp criticism from Hofmeister, who issued the following statement shortly before 3 p.m.:

“Today marks one step forward and two steps back for public education. While Senate Bill 783 holds real promise for many families and students, House Bill 2078 unfortunately compromises any gains that would come with open transfers.

Children in rural Oklahoma deserve to have a high quality education and HB 2078 potentially jeopardizes that. This bill removes financial safeguards meant to protect all students from the impact of abrupt changes in the local economy. Kids will lose when schools are forced to make sudden cuts in essential services and opportunities which provide access to a well-rounded education.”

JOY HOFMEISTER, STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

House Bill 2078, according to the bill’s summary, is a school funding bill relating to state aid that does the following:

  • Modifies how initial allocation of state aid is calculated;
  • Adjusts years of data to be used in calculating average daily membership;
  • Modifies the July calculation of per pupil revenue;
  • Revises calculation for Foundation Aid;
  • Alters calculation for Salary Incentive Aid;
  • Increases percentages of allowable general fund carryover;
  • Prohibits assessment of carryover penalty in certain fiscal years;
  • Adjusts weighted calculations for weighted average daily membership;
  • Revises July and December calculations for projected per pupil revenue;
  • Provides an effective date;
  • Provides for conditional effect.

Senate Democrats also oppose House Bill 2078. Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement:

“Today, the Senate majority rushed through legislation making major changes to Oklahoma’s public school funding formula. At a time when we are still battling the COVID-19 pandemic and school districts are transitioning back to safe in-school instruction, this legislation will result in hundreds of districts losing millions of dollars in state funding. Schools will be forced to lay off teachers and staff and cut resources for students. The biggest impact will be in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and in rural communities. Drastic changes to the funding formula will be disruptive to a stable learning environment and will have negative effects on students’ ability to learn.

Instead of destabilizing budgets for already struggling school districts, the Legislature should invest in our public schools. This proposal adds no new funding for public school students. Instead of shifting funds between districts, the Legislature should increase funding so Oklahoma can match the regional average in per pupil spending. HB 2078 is the wrong approach for public education in Oklahoma. Our students deserve better.”

SEN. KAY FLOYD, OKLAHOMA SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER

Senate Bill 783 relates to the Education Open Transfer Act and does the following, according to the bill’s summary:

  • Grants student transfer to another school district at any time;
  • Provides exception if transfer exceeds certain capacity;
  • Directs selection of transfer students if certain capacity is exceeded;
  • Authorizes board of education to determine capacity;
  • Allows transfer students to continue attendance;
  • Allows denial of continued transfer;
  • Permits certain children living in a home to transfer districts;
  • Prohibits more than two transfers per school year;
  • Provides exception for children in foster care;
  • Removes prior transfer procedures;
  • Directs board to adopt policy for student capacity;
  • Sets deadline for adoption of policy;
  • Authorizes including certain reasons for denial in policy;
  • Directs posting of policy on a district website;
  • Requires determination to be made by the first day of certain months regarding the number of students a district has capacity to accept;
  • Directs publication on school district website;
  • Directs submission of certain reporting to the State Department of Education;
  • Prescribes appeal process for transfer denials;
  • Provides for promulgation of ENR. S. B. NO. 783 Page 2 rules;
  • Directs boards of education to submit certain student transfer information to the State Department of Education;
  • Requires certain annual audit of approved and denied transfers;
  • Provides for establishment of capacity if inaccurate reporting is found;
  • Removes time limitations for transfer applications;
  • Requires certain report of students granted transfers to be submitted on the first day of certain months;
  • Removes provisions for cancellation of transfers;
  • Requires selection of transfer students in the order in which applications are received;
  • Provides appeal for transfer application denial;
  • Prohibits denial of transfer unless certain capacity is exceeded;
  • Directs admission to district of choice for certain children regardless of capacity;
  • Amends 70 O.S. 2011, Section 8-113, which relates to transfers for children of school employees;
  • Allows transfer of children of school employees without requiring district approval; Repeals 70 O.S. 2011, Section 8-104, as amended by Section 1, Chapter 85, O.S.L. 2013 (70 O.S. Supp. 2020, Section 8-104), which relates to emergency transfers;
  • Declares an emergency;
  • Provides for conditional effect.

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