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Oklahoma House passed important charter school laws on Monday.
House Bill 2966 would implement accountability measures such as: B. The requirement that all government funds remain public, clarify that charter school authorities are subject to state open meeting and record keeping laws, and require regular audits. Rep. Sheila Dills (R-Tulsa) said this was part of legislature’s response to a grand jury interim report on Epic Charter Schools that said such changes would be required during the ongoing investigation, ahead of Epic on July 1 receives more funds.
“It’s not about Epic. What – the situation with Epic helped us identify loopholes in our laws,” said Dills.
For example, the bill prohibits administrative organizations from controlling charter school authorities and prohibiting authorities from mixing financial records from multiple schools.
“With ongoing high-profile investigations, Oklahoma charter schools are skeptical and ready for clarity on our laws, investigations to the end and changes,” said Dills.
HB2966 was 81-17, with all votes against from Republican members. The measure now goes to the Senate.
The House also passed Senate Draft 229, which creates a construction fund grant program to support underfunded districts. Rep Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) said it will help stationary charter schools, but traditional counties could benefit as well.
“We’re talking about a school district like Lawton that has been chronically underfunded for decades just because real estate values in that school district are much lower than if you look around the state. And what would that mean for Lawton? Public schools cost 1.8 each year Million dollars. I mean, this is a really big deal, “Hilbert said.
SB229 could also offer another ending to a lawsuit the State Board of Education sought to settle in March. The board voted to balance funding for the charter and traditional public schools with the nationwide formula. The board will consider canceling this vote on Monday evening.
The Redbud Grant program set up by SB229 provides a breakdown of the tax on medical marijuana to supplement the state school building fund.
“Well, is there any possibility that the medical marijuana revenue isn’t enough to fill this? I mean, I think technically it is possible, but every month it seems how much the revenue is [the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority] The excise tax on medical marijuana keeps rising, “said Hilbert, laughing from his colleagues in the house.
SB229 does not offer construction fund dollars to virtual charter schools and places limits on mixed options that can qualify. Hilbert said there are currently no qualifying programs.
SB229 passed House 97-1, with Rep. John Waldron (D-Tulsa) the only vote against. Waldron said he had questions about offering charter schools additional funding without increasing their oversight accordingly, pointing out that grants could potentially be used for management companies to buy and renovate administrative buildings.
Waldron, however, called the bill “well-intentioned and probably the right one”.
SB229 was sent to the governor.