Tulsa Rep, Parents: TPS Should Follow The Law

Tuesday, October 19th 2010, 4:58 pm
By: News On 6

By Scott Thompson, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa Public Schools takes a stand against a controversial new law. The school board voted Monday night to give six special needs students scholarships to a private school, but that's it.

10/18/2010 Related story: Tulsa Public Schools To Comply With Special Needs Funding Bill

TPS has more than 6,000 special needs students. The new law would require the district to pay for those to attend private schools.

But now the district is alongside 5 other eastern Oklahoma school districts that are claiming the law is unconstitutional.

House bill 3393 was made law last spring. It requires public schools to pay the tuition for students who want to attend private schools, like Town & Country in south Tulsa, that specialize in teaching children with special needs.

Tulsa superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard says it's bad for public schools. "I absolutely believe that 3393 could have a serious financial impact on Tulsa Public Schools. I think it will divert sorely needed dollars to private school tuitions," said Ballard.

The Tulsa school board voted to honor the scholarships for six students who had already applied but the district will not consider any more applications.

Jenks, Broken Arrow, Union, Bixby, and Owasso have already decided not to comply with the law.

Tulsa Representative Democrat Jabar Shumate co-authored the law. "As an agent of the state and as elected officials they should follow the law," he said.

He says the districts are out of line by refusing to follow it, he even suggests the schools may need a lesson in civics.

"I'm really disappointed that they have students in their hands that they tell everyday to follow the rules of the school and follow law, but it's sort of do as I say, not as I do, and that's just not a good example," Shumate said.

Tulsa resident Gerald Buckley has a special needs child. "I want the board to take the law seriously and that's what this is intended to do," he said.

He's so upset with the board's decision that he's sent the district a letter complaining that they're violating district policy by not following state and federal law.

"I'd like to wait and see if the posted speed limit is the law but I can't do that, it is the law...the law is the law," Buckley said.

Doctor Ballard said in a statement Tuesday that he does not believe the district is violating its own policies by not following the law.

Representative Shumate says the law is constitutional, but the districts do have options, other than openly ignoring it, if they think it should be overturned.