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Oklahoma AG To Schools: Follow Special Needs Funding Law Or Face Legal Action

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Attorney General Scott Pruitt speaks in Tulsa in December 2010. Attorney General Scott Pruitt speaks in Tulsa in December 2010.
Dr. Cathy Burder, Superintendent of Union Public Schools. Dr. Cathy Burder, Superintendent of Union Public Schools.
Jenks Public Schools has said it will comply with the law. Jenks Public Schools has said it will comply with the law.
Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools Dr. Keith Ballard speaks during Tuesday's night's meeting. Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools Dr. Keith Ballard speaks during Tuesday's night's meeting.

NewsOn6.com

TULSA, Oklahoma – Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has threatened legal action against schools who refuse to comply with a new state law that requires public schools to provide funding for parents to send their special needs children to private school.

Pruitt sent a letter to Jenks, Union, Broken Arrow, and Liberty Schools.  The districts have said they will not honor House Bill 3393, also called the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act.

School officials have said the law is unconstitutional because it shifts public funds to private institutions.

But in his letter, Pruitt reiterates "only the courts may authoritatively determine the Constitutionality of our laws."

The letter goes on to say "willful neglect or disobedience to performing duties established by the law exposes you and members of your Board of Education to legal liabilities, both official and personal."

Read the letter

Pruitt said the four school districts have until Monday, January 24, 2011, to reverse their decision, and "promptly give scholarships" that were requested, or face legal action.

State Representative Jason Nelson, who authored the law, praised Pruitt's action.

"It was the stated intention of the school boards to end up in court over House Bill 3393. Judging from the letter from Attorney General Pruitt, it appears that these board members and their superintendents may get their wish – but for a much different reason than they anticipated," he said.

The letter was sent on the same day Tulsa Public Schools changed its policy regarding House Bill 3393. After voting to only partially follow the law last October, the district said Tuesday night it will fully comply with it.

1/18/2011 Related Story: Tulsa Schools To Fully Comply With Special Needs Funding Law

Owasso and Bixby Public Schools recently dropped their opposition to the new law as well.

"I'm hopeful that the four school boards that are currently in noncompliance will revisit their position soon and follow the Tulsa, Owasso and Bixby school boards in reversing the votes they cast last fall," Nelson went on to say. "If they do not, I fully support the Attorney General pursuing legal action against the school board members and superintendents to the fullest extent of the law."

News On 6 reporter Ashli Sims contacted Broken Arrow, Jenks and Union to get their reactions to the attorney general's letter. All acknowledged receiving the letter, but didn't want to comment until their boards could meet to review its contents.

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