Lawmakers Looking To Unleash Some Schools

Friday, April 11th 2008, 10:05 pm
By: News On 6

State lawmakers are pushing to unleash some schools from state control.  Senate Bill 2100 would allow 10 school districts to act like charter schools. Charters are exempt from certain state rules in the name of innovation, including bargaining with teachers unions.

The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports some teachers believe the bill threatens their rights. Some say local charter schools are the picture of success.

The Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences sports some of the highest test scores in the district.  Deborah Brown Community School has won state awards for achievement.  Now some state lawmakers want to spread the charter success by treating whole school districts like charter schools.

"There are a number of schools in Tulsa and Oklahoma City that are charter. We've seen great success there. And we wanted to allow those school districts that wanted to try that to have the opportunity to do that," said Rep. Tad Jones, (R) Claremore.

Representative Tad Jones co-authored Senate Bill 2100.  It's a pilot program for deregulation.  If the bill passes, 10 school districts could apply and opt out of some state rules in favor of local ones.

"What it means to me is that it's going to start taking away teachers' rights," said Denzel Kesterson of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.

Kesterson says deregulation means school districts don't have to negotiate with unions.  No written curriculum following state standards, no minimum salary schedule for teachers, in fact, they wouldn't have to hire certified teachers at all.

"They could actually say all the teachers no longer have a job and they have to reapply," said Kesterson.

"Charter schools can do that right now and their teachers love it. They love the deregulated environment they're not afraid to go into the classroom or what happens with management. They love the situation," said Jones.

Jones says it's really about taking control out of the hands of the state and putting it back into the hands of local school boards.

"We love to push down and put some local control in the hands of local school districts and let them have more creativity, more flexibility," said Jones.

"Do you really want our district, with all of the problems and the lack of overseeing, do you really want them to have more responsibilities?" said Kesterson.  

The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association says there's already a law on the books that already allows some deregulation.

Representative Jones says this would cut out the bureaucracy.  And he emphasizes it would be voluntary.

The state house will vote on the bill in the next two weeks.

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