Tulsa Schools To Fully Comply With Special Needs Funding Law

Tuesday, January 18th 2011, 7:39 am
By: News On 6

NewsOn6.com & Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted to reverse its decision regarding a new state law that requires schools to give special education students scholarships to attend private schools. 

House Bill 3393 uses public school money to pay private school tuition for special education students.  The idea was to give those students a chance to attend a school, like Tulsa's Town and Country, that caters to their special needs.

Several school districts argued the law was unconstitutional.

In late October, the Tulsa school board voted to only partially follow the law, accepting six applications it had received, but voting not to accept any more. 

But the district changed its mind Tuesday night and said it will fully implement the new law. 

1/15/2011 Related story: Tulsa Mother Hopeful TPS Will Overturn Decision On Special Need Scholarships

Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard said lawmakers have agreed to change the law to shift the program to the state level instead of the local level.

"I believe that this should be, and can be, resolved and I think my purpose in making this recommendation is a show of good faith, that we're ready to go to the table and see if we can resolve this," Dr. Ballard said.

State Representative Jason Nelson, who authored House Bill 3393, attended Tuesday night's meeting and agreed the law needs some fine tuning to address district concerns.

"This was not one shot," he said.  "This was the first shot of hopefully a lot of cooperative effort to find out what's best for these special education students."

The Tulsa School Board follows two other Green Country school districts who also decided to fully implement the law.  Bixby and Owasso Public Schools both recently reversed their decision not to comply with House Bill 3393.

12/17/2011 Related Story: Bixby Follows Owasso And Drops Opposition To House Bill 3393

Jenks, Union and Broken Arrow are currently not following the law.

Representative Nelson said the law was never about public versus private and said the new version of the law should allow for special needs students to transfer between districts again to try to give those parents more options.