Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Education reform has been a major part of this year’s session. Unfortunately, some individuals have attempted to mislead the public about those bills.
I have heard from several constituents who were told I have voted to do away with teacher tenure and voted to get rid of teachers for any reason.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is sad that some people would rather make up wild allegations than debate the merits of issues.
House Bill 1380 makes it easier to dismiss underperforming teachers. While most teachers do a good job, we all know of teachers who do not. Parents regularly try to have their children placed in the “good” teacher’s classes.
Unfortunately, the current system incentivizes schools to keep even the worst teachers rather than deal with the cost of dismissal. That’s because tenured teachers who are dismissed by local school boards can currently appeal that decision in district court. Oklahoma was one of only a handful of states that employed that system.
The appeals process, known as “trial de novo,” can be very expensive. The Oklahoman reported that it cost Purcell Public Schools around $80,000 to fire a teacher later charged with lewd acts with a child.
As that example shows, the bill is not designed to make it easier to fire every teacher; it is designed to make it easier to fire those who clearly need go.
The bill maintains legal due-process rights for teachers and even with ending trial de novo it will still be very rare that a teacher’s contract is terminated.
Under House Bill 1380, the school boards who hire teachers will also have the ability to fire them. And since board members have to answer to local parents at the polls, there is an added level of accountability to ensure that board members do not act rashly.
Another major measure, House Bill 1456, requires that Oklahoma’s public schools be given an annual grade of “A” to “F” based on student performance on state tests and other factors.
The state already issues school evaluation reports, but the complicated scoring system used is not easily understood.
On the other hand, everyone understands the difference between an “A” and an “F.”
The new grading system will provide an easily understood way for parents to obtain a true apples-to-apples comparison between school districts.
Those who object to the report card are tacitly admitting they do not expect their school to do well and do not want to face public pressure to improve.
Their objection is not to the school ratings – which already exist in another form – but to putting those scores in plain English.
I believe accountability incentivizes improvement. It works in the private sector; it can work in government, too.
As always, feel free to contact me at (405)557-7365 or at 527-6842, or write me at State Capitol Office 302A, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.