Provenzano, Swope raise concern for public education following OSDE rules sent to Governor’s desk

Wednesday, 05 June 2024 08:05

Provenzano, Swope raise concern for public education following OSDE rules sent to Governor’s desk Featured

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OKLAHOMA CITY – House Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa, expressed deep concern today for Oklahoma public schools after HJR 1061 and HJR 1059 were not heard this session, despite both being eligible to be heard on the House floor.

HJR 1061 and HJR 1059 pertain to approving or disapproving the rules proposed by various state agencies. Of particular concern are rules proposed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, which seeks to tie high stakes testing to accreditation.

“These resolutions going unheard is a waste of the work of an entire committee and the state agencies who put them together,” Provenzano said. “In not putting them to a vote in either chamber, we have circumvented the responsibility of the legislature and given the Governor sole discretion on approval of all proposed rules across state agencies. 

“Accreditation reports demonstrate the practical functionality of a school, such as completing fire drills or ensuring English classes are being taught by teachers certified to do so. In tying accreditation to high-stakes testing, we weaponize it and put schools at further unnecessary risk. The Oklahoma Legislature received numerous requests to hear these rules on the floor, particularly from rural Oklahoma, and not hearing them shirks the responsibility of the Oklahoma Legislature.”

The accreditation process is being targeted on multiple levels, with bills passing off House and Senate floors that will lower graduation rates via loose transfer policy, and another that will trigger the chronic absenteeism calculation by allowing students to miss a large amount of class time for religious instruction off site. Both bills, if signed into law, will negatively impact the grade a school gets on the A-F report card—through no fault of its own.

During an Administrative Rules Committee meeting, Provenzano was joined by Swope in introducing 10 amendments to the rules resolution. All 10 amendments were declined with party line votes.

“These rules aim to change the sole purpose of the State Department of Education while creating law at the agency level through the administrative rules process,” Swope said. “They allow for accreditation deficiencies to be applied for atypical criteria while giving SDE unrestrained power in areas that aren’t authorized. To neglect to have resolutions heard on the floor allows the Governor an opportunity for a makeshift executive order and neglects our legislative responsibility to provide a check and balance on this process. This negligence comes as a result of countless disagreements surrounding SDE rules and proposed amendments from both sides of the aisle. It ignores the broad concerns of the legislature and leaves other agency rules approved by the committee hanging in the balance.”

Oklahoma House Democrats have issued several calls since last summer for a bipartisan committee to investigate the spending and policy execution of the State Superintendent, the most recent being on May 29, 2024, when they filed HR 1052 to form this committee.

These calls for accountability come after reports from former OSDE employees claiming they have been unable to perform their job properly under the State Superintendent, alleged mishandling of federal dollars from OSDE, and continued refusal to cooperate with Oklahoma lawmakers of all parties.

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