Parents seek ousters of school boards who opposed HB 3393
BY ANDREA EGER & KIM ARCHER World Staff Writers
Thursday, January 27, 2011
1/27/11 at 10:34 AM
View each of the documents here:
State Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced on Wednesday that he is launching an investigation based on complaints by parents who are seeking the ouster of Tulsa, Union, Jenks and Broken Arrow school board members.
The complaints are related to the school boards' opposition to private school scholarships for special education students.
"These districts haven't been held accountable for breaking the law," said Gerald Buckley, one of the Tulsa-area parents behind the ouster attempt.
In a short e-mailed statement, Pruitt's office announced that it was required by statute to investigate the parents' complaints. Pruitt's spokeswoman said he had no further comment.
The "writ of ouster" notices obtained by the Tulsa World under the Oklahoma Open Records Act named every board member who voted in the fall not to comply with the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, or House Bill 3393.
Votes were unanimous not to process any scholarship applications in Union, Jenks and Broken Arrow. The Tulsa school board voted unanimously to process the six applications it had received and then split 4-3 in a vote not to process any future applications. The four members who cast the affirmative votes in that case - Gary Percefull, Lana Turner-Addison, Brian Hunt and Ruth Ann Fate - were the only Tulsa board members named in the ouster documents.
In recent days and weeks, all four boards named in the ouster documents decided to go ahead and process scholarship applications.
But Buckley, who said his child's scholarship application was one of the initial six processed by Tulsa Public Schools, said his goal is to see every area school board member involved removed from office.
When asked whether ouster attempts would be made on other Tulsa-area school boards who initially voted not to process scholarship applications, Buckley declined to comment, saying he didn't want to "give the other districts any kind of unfair notice."
He said his understanding of the ouster process is that Pruitt could decide to seat a grand jury to seek guidance or to make a decision.
"This is a pretty binary decision. They either did break the law or they didn't," Buckley said. "If it goes the full distance we are seeking and ousters are accomplished across the board, in that case the governor would appoint replacements for those board members."
School district and board leaders in each of the four affected districts were asked to comment on the ouster attempt Wednesday.
Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said simply, "TPS processed every application we had."
Tulsa School Board President Lana Turner-Addison said: "The action taken by board members has not and does not demonstrate that there has been any willful wrongdoing in taking action in this matter. ... I am confident that no wrongdoing will be found in this matter."
Sharon Whelpley, president of the Broken Arrow school board, said parents have a right to complain, but she noted that her board had since voted to process applications.
"I'm a longtime board member, and I've never seen anything like this," she said.
Union Board President Ed Payton, Jenks Board President Anne McCoy and Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman declined to comment until they had an opportunity to review the ouster documents.
Earlier this week, the Broken Arrow, Jenks, Liberty and Union school boards voted unanimously to sue Pruitt in an effort to get HB 3393 declared unconstitutional.
State Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, said he supports the legal action against the attorney general.
"I have grave concerns as to this new law and ongoing efforts of educational inequality in the form of these private school vouchers," he said. "Publicly financed school vouchers will provide educational opportunities to a handful but deprive public schools of desperately needed resources."
Original Print Headline: Parents fight for ousters
Andrea Eger 581-8470 Kim Archer 581-8315
Plans to investigate
Scott Pruitt: The state Attorney General's Office said it was required to look into the parents' complaints about opposition to private school scholarships for students with special needs.