Tulsa Union, Bixby Schools Refuse To Comply With Special Needs Funding Law

Monday, October 11th 2010, 7:48 am
By: News On 6

NewsOn6.com & Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Bixby Public Schools and Union Public Schools in Tulsa will not honor a state law that requires public schools to provide funding for parents to send their special needs children to private school.  Both districts made the decisions at board meetings Monday night.

House Bill 3393, or the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act, went into effect earlier this year. 

10/7/2010 Related story: Battle For Special Needs Student Funds Continues At Jenks And Union Schools

Dr. Cathy Burden, Superintendent at Union Public Schools, said it is unconstitutional to shift public funds to private institutions. 

"They don't have the right to take state dollars that are for the good of all students with them into a private school," she said.

Supporters of the new call the funding scholarships.  Dr. Burden called it something else.

"That is the definition of a voucher and that will erode the kind of funding that is available for public education," she said.

Union and Bixby are the latest districts to reject the law.  The Broken Arrow School Board and Jenks School Board voted last Monday to ignore it. 

Union admitted it's decision was part of a calculated strategy by Tulsa County districts. Union said it has no right to sue the legislature, so the fastest way to get the courts involved is to ignore House Bill 3393 and wait to get sued.

"What they're doing makes no sense, it makes no sense," Jason Nelson, (R) Oklahoma City, said.  "It's just irresponsible, chidishness." 

Nelson authored the bill and said whether or not districts approve of using funds to send special education students to private school, they can't ignore the law.

"I just can't emphasize enough how bogus it is, to suggest that this is the only way they get this into court," Nelson said.  "That's just complete nonsense."

Nelson said he's talked to parents of special needs students who want to sue the districts.  He said the four districts are the only ones in the entire state who have refused to comply with the law.

Owasso Schools, Sand Springs Schools, Sapulpa Schools and Tulsa Public Schools are considering similar action.