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OKC Council members slam state legislature for charter bill

Collage by Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
Pete White, David Holt and Ed Shadid
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OKLAHOMA CITY - During the Oklahoma City Council meeting Tuesday, two members were openly critical of a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature that would allow the city to authorize its own charter schools.

Council members Ed Shadid and Pete White both made remarks strongly opposed to Senate Bill 68, introduced by Oklahoma City Senator David Holt, that would give the cities of Oklahoma City and Tulsa the ability to authorize charter schools on their own without any other educational institution being involved in that authorization.

Currently, only school districts, the state Board of Education, technology center districts, colleges, and Indian tribes are allowed by state law to sponsor charter schools.

Existing charter school laws are meant to insure that the authorizers bring educational and oversight experience to charter schools so that they are in compliance with complex state and federal education accountability measures.

The bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House Common Education Committee this week.

During the closing minutes of each council meeting at the end of the “Items from Council” section of the agenda, members are allowed to make remarks if they want to. In many meetings these remarks are short, dealing with cordialities between members or with items of lesser weight.

Instead, in Tuesday’s remarks, White took his turn to directly and bluntly criticize the legislature for the charter school bill that would grant them the ability to authorize their own charter schools.

White prefaced those remarks by reminding the council that he and Councilman Pat Ryan have met extensively over the last three years with Oklahoma City Public Schools leaders to find better ways for that district and Oklahoma City to work together for stronger schools.

He was critical of the proposal by Holt to give the City of Oklahoma City the ability to make an end run around Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“I think that it destroys the relationship that Pat and I have tried to build up over the last three years,” White said. “I think that it is very destructive to try to set up a situation where we could go around them and do something that I can tell you right now they don’t believe is the panacea for education.”

White argued that it’s not the kind of school that makes the difference, it’s parental and community involvement.

White went on to criticize the legislature for interfering with, and “trying to run” democratically elected city governments, county governments, and school boards.

“You need to let the local elected officials run what they were elected to do,” he said.

White closed his remarks by saying he wanted to go on the record and say “this crosses the line. I think it’s time that we, as a body or at least us as individuals, stand up and say that we’ve had enough.”

Councilman Pat Ryan interjected that he “mostly agreed” with what White had just said.

Councilman Shadid’s turn was next and he reinforced what White had to say about the charter school idea in the legislature. He complimented White and Ryan for their weekly efforts to reach out to Oklahoma City Schools in an effort to support that district’s efforts to provide a better education for the children of the city.

He complained directly about learning of the charter bill for the first time in an email from its Senate author briefing them on the bill and promoting what Holt perceived to be its value to the city.

Shadid said that even though the council members receive weekly legislation briefings about matters that concern the city, he had not seen anything about the bill until that email.

He also said that the council has an above board legislative agenda where they give input on what kinds of legislation they might consider to be important, but the charter schools idea had never come up in those discussions.

“We’ve never talked about this before. I’ve never heard privately or here at the horseshoe talking about Oklahoma City or Tulsa wanting the ability to issue charter schools. I’ve never heard that,” Shadid said.

He went on, “And so for the legislature to do that and then say ‘Hey, this is going to be a game changer and all the money is going to follow it and come to you,’ and not think that that’s going to create conflict between us and the school board is incredible.”

Shadid also complained that this idea was “consistent with all of the discussion about TIF (tax increment finance district) funds.” He then reminded the council of the recent flap about the Oklahoma City School Board not being consulted on plans to establish another TIF on top of an existing one which would take even more tax money away from the district.

Shadid closed his remarks on that matter by saying, “I wish if the legislature was really interested in saving schools they would look at the incredible diversion of what is tens and hundreds of millions of dollars away from the schools and what impact that has on schools.”

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Brett Dickerson

Brett Dickerson is an adjunct teacher teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) courses for...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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