Home > Uncategorized > HB 2949 Passes* Committee 9-8

HB 2949 Passes* Committee 9-8

February 15, 2016

This afternoon, Representative Jason Nelson’s voucher bill passed the House Education Committee with a vote of 9-8. If you just count the 15 committee members, it lost by a vote of 8-7, but House Speaker Jeff Hickman and Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney came in to tip the scales. This is all fair within the rules of the House.

voucher committee vote.jpg

When I posted last night that we need to call and email and visit and tweet to the committee members, thousands made the effort. It wasn’t in vain. I’m glad it took the leadership sweeping in to make the final vote. That puts more people on record.

Before I get much farther, I want us to remember to reach out to the eight committee members who voted to support public schools:

Representative Phone Email Address
Cannaday, Ed 405.557.7375 ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov
Condit, Donnie 405.557.7376 donnie.condit@okhouse.gov
Thomsen, Todd 405.557.7336 todd.thomsen@okhouse.gov
Coody, Ann 405.557.7398 anncoody@okhouse.gov
Nollan, Jadine 405.557.7390 jadine.nollan@okhouse.gov
Henke, Katie 405.557.7361 katie.henke@okhouse.gov
McDaniel, Jeannie 405.557.7334 jeanniemcdaniel@okhouse.gov
Stone, Shane 405.557.7397 shane.stone@okhouse.gov

Prior to the vote, Nelson faced the usual questions and had the usual responses. Two things in particular fascinated me, though.

First, he said that parents receiving vouchers would actually have more fiscal accountability because they’ll be making their purchases in real time and that someone would be monitoring those – someone at the SDE, he said. I’m sorry, but that’s nowhere close to the fiscal accountability public schools face. Saying otherwise shows just how little he knows.

Second, he said that private schools taking voucher students wouldn’t be required to face the same academic accountability measures because they go through a rigorous private school accreditation process. Besides, he said, the state will have an agreement with the parents, not the schools. It’s a convenient side-step of accountability, and a slap in the face of the public school educators he wants to micromanage.

The best part of the meeting, to me, was when Dan Vincent spoke. Dan, you’ll remember, is a UCO professor and the parent who authored my most popular blog post of all time. Dan was kind enough to share his prepared remarks with me.

Good afternoon, and thank you for allowing me speak to you as a parent with 2 kids in public schools; one in 5th grade and one in 3rd. I value the work you do and hope this session will be productive in supporting the myriad of issues facing our public schools and teachers.

Over the past several years, I feel I have had a good pulse on schools in our state; I keep up with legislation and volunteer regularly in schools around the metro. For the life of me, I cannot figure out WHY this bill and WHY NOW. About 2 weeks ago, I emailed most of you about my opposition to ESAs, or Vouchers. From my view, most parents and citizens OPPOSE this.

Since that email, I have read over this bill again and have become even more convinced that this might be the most harmful bill to impact education this year. To be clear, I am not opposed to home school or to private schools. Two of my best friends have chosen those options. What I am opposed to, however, is using taxpayer money…my money…to support those who make that choice.

I have many reasons, but for time sake, let me explain the 5 biggest reasons. And for the record, I am not using the talking points from the OSSBA or the CCOSA; these are my own thoughts:

  1. Over the past several years our state has been feverishly mandating more accountability on public schools. Yet ESAs or Vouchers, as this bill currently outlines, contains little to no accountability for HOW our tax dollars are used. The RSA, ACE, A-F and others have hit schools hard and have hit kids hard but will not apply to ESA schools. If these are vital for schools receiving tax-payer money, how can we not mandate these on private schools? If you say they are not important for private schools, then the same should be said for my kids in public schools.
  2. We have passed then repealed Common Core; we are currently awaiting your vote on the new standards for Math and Language Arts. You are the gatekeeper for the content we teach kids in publicly funded schools; with ESAs, there is NO public oversight on WHAT is taught to kids. As a taxpayer, I cannot imagine WHY we would not want oversight and input into what kids are learning in schools at taxpayer expense. Again, I am not opposed to religious education or home schooling. I am, however, greatly opposed to using tax money to fund it. There is a reason you vote on standards for schools; what we teach matters to society. ESAs would completely neglect this responsibility.
  3. Although it is not a blank check to private schools or parents, when compared to the transparency and oversight required of public schools, it might as well be a blank check. The bill includes ‘audits’ but the amount of reporting, disaggregating and categorizing of funds is non-existent. This is not how I want my tax dollars used, and I think most of you can see these reasons.
  4. The details in this bill describing the responsibilities of those accepting ESA money is highly suspect. Private schools can accept, reject or kick-out kids seemingly at will. Public schools cannot. One can see the type of system this potentially creates. Let’s not kid ourselves; it is not the families who have the choice; it is the ESA school.
  5. Currently, there is legislation, actually several bills, that would consolidate smaller districts into larger ones, to supposedly save on administrative overhead; with ESAs you are de facto creating MORE small schools…again without public oversight and transparency. In addition, the bill actually mandates the creation of two NEW “Administrative Funds.” If you feel administrative costs are the problem, ESAs are not a solution.

At a time when our state is carefully scrutinizing the subsidies and tax breaks we give, I would suggest that we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT create Private School Tuition Subsidies…what this bill calls Educational Savings Accounts. At a time when we are placing more and more mandates on public schools, I would suggest we think rationally about how ESAs are set up to include virtually NO mandates and NO public accountability. Our tax money should support PUBLIC education, and as a parent I am 100% opposed to my tax dollars being used as ESAs.

Again, thank you for your service, and I hope your committee will do good for ALL kids.

Dan was cut off before the last point, which I think is the most critical. Our legislators keep targeting public schools. With the state continuing to face huge budget problems, pulling more and more money away from us with precious little accountability is irresponsible. There’s nothing conservative about this.

The committee had quite an audience too. There were two packed overflow rooms. There were supporters of vouchers and public school supporters as well. And yes, at this point, I’m drawing that line.

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Of the seven committee members who voted for HB 2949, four are in their first terms. Only Sally Kern is in her last term. Hickman and Denney are in their last terms too.

Representative District Term Limited
Caldwell, Chad 40 2026
Jordan, John Paul 43 2026
Fisher, Dan 60 2024
Strohm, Chuck 69 2026
Kern, Sally 84 2016
Nelson, Jason 87 2020
Rogers, Michael 98 2026

These are districts in which the incumbents desperately need challengers. Put another way, voters need options. Choice matters, after all.

This is why we can’t wait until the end of the session to figure out who is trying to help public schools. We already know, and what we know now is enough. When HB 2949 goes to the floor, we’ll know even more. And then there’s the Senate, which is a whole different mess.

The legislative candidate filing period is April 13-15 this year. The filing packet is online. If you’d like to run for any of these seats – or any other seat – by all means, you should. If you have friends you’d like to encourage to run, pass the information on to them.We need people who support public education, not just people who say they do.

And keep calling. We won’t win all the battles. But we won’t lose them all either.

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  1. claudiaswisher
    February 15, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I thought it was very telling that Nelson kept describing students as ‘generating revenue.’ Which is how he sidesteps the idea of per-pupil expenditures NOT being the investment of their familes. Words matter.

    I thanked many of those ‘no’ voters…Missed a couple. Will email my thanks now. The only committee votes the bill got were the six ‘authors’.

    Like

  2. February 15, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    I know of at least one teacher running for a term limited seat. These are important seats as well. And you are right, it is good to have people on record early.

    Like

    • Jamie Billings
      February 15, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      Who is the teacher if you don’t mind me asking?

      Like

  3. Kathy Carter
    February 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Does anyone have any polling data on ESA’s? It is disturbing that they keep quoting 70% of Oklahomans support them. This is not in line with the surrounding states. Anyone involved in politics knows that pollsters can and do word polls to received the result they desire. Just wondering if there is an opposition poll.

    Like

    • February 16, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      When the poll the public, they use words like Education Savings Account and parental choice. If they have 70% support, it is because 70% of those polled probably didn’t understand what they were asking about.

      Like

      • February 16, 2016 at 4:32 pm

        They give numbers like 60% of Democrats, 80% of Republicans, and 70% overall. It’s convenient how round all those numbers are.

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  4. February 15, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    I’m running for district 69 and I am against Vouchers/ ESA’s or whatever name they would like to call them.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. February 15, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Well I happen to be a candidate for House District 69 and I oppose these vouchers/ESA’s or any other name they want to give them. http://www.paulsullivanforok69.com

    Like

  6. Reta Lane
    February 16, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Our public schools are already suffering and money is already being taken away for the Charter and Cyber schools but that isn’t enough, now the despicable republicans want to take more away to give to a select group of kids for they can go to private schools. My daughter is a teacher and has 30 kids in her class and many of them aren’t fluent in English so it is hard enough to try to teach that many kids. We should be taking all the money they are using on other forms of schools and put it toward the public school system. Maybe they could hire the 1000 teachers they are short and add a bigger variety of classes. Maybe a teacher here wouldn’t have to work 22 years to hit 45,000. Republicans will do anything to privatize the public school system. There is big money in charter and private schools.

    Like

  7. Sarah Lawrence
    February 16, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Shame on you! Another dark day for education in the state of Oklahoma. This May be the last straw for this National Board Certified Teacher. How can you possibly vote for this and not feel guilty for those that have no choice? Despicable

    Like

  8. February 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I’m running for the District 42 House seat but I need a lot of help!

    Like

  9. Judy Dill
    February 24, 2016 at 9:52 am

    tax money should only be used to support public schools if they want their kids in private school pay for it themselves home schoolers can do the same

    Like

  1. February 21, 2016 at 9:03 pm
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