Oklahoma State Superintendent, Board Member Dispute Changes To Education Board

Wednesday, February 23rd 2011, 10:08 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Will there be more fireworks Thursday as education leaders meet for just the second time?

It's been a month since fiery words were exchanged at Superintendent Janet Barresi's first board of education meeting. She and Board Member Tim Gilpin say they don't want a repeat performance.

1/27/2011 Related Story: New Oklahoma Superintendent's First Board Meeting Erupts In Fireworks

"Well I certainly hope it isn't. I'm doing everything that I can to focus the meeting on the needs of the children of this state," Barresi said.

"I would love to put all this behind us, simply because there are much more important issues than one contentious meeting facing education in Oklahoma," Tim Gilpin, State Board of Education, said.

But the meeting did more than snag headlines; it stirred up a legislative response.

"I think the legislature has seen that, seen the reaction, seen their behavior. And said you know we need to pull back from this and get some order back into this process," Barresi said.

Two bills are working their way through the state legislature to reform the state board of education.

2/21/2011 Related Story: Senate Panel OKs Bill To Replace Education Board

"Well, it's not reform it's really destruction," Gilpin said.

The State Senate version would replace the current board with the governor, attorney general, secretary of state and the superintendent.

The House version would strip the board of the power to budget, staff and govern the department and gives it to the superintendent.

Gilpin argues the system has worked for four decades.

"It's been that way for more than 40 years for one very good reason," he said. "And that is there should be citizen oversight and a check and a balance on the politicians."

"Currently checks and balances aren't there. It's obviously a bullying organization that's trying to hijack an election," Barresi said.

Janet Barresi believes putting elected officials, like the Governor, on the board of education restores it to what the Oklahoma constitution intended.

Both Superintendent Janet Barresi and Tim Gilpin say the board needs to focus on real issues, like the education budget.

Govenor Fallin is proposing a three percent cut to education.  The board is set to discuss her proposal at Thursday's meeting.