House panel supports easing of some school mandates
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
2/27/13 at 6:08 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A sheaf of legislation that would loosen school mandates and regulations on local districts won the approval of the Oklahoma House Common Education Committee on Tuesday.
The stack of bills included two reincarnations of "school deregulation," which would allow all public schools the same exemptions now granted to charter schools, and two others that would modify testing requirements.
Another would provide relief for schools with unusually large numbers of special needs students from some provisions of the controversial A-F school grading system.
House Bill 1035 by Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, would recognize certain common standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT or PSAT as equivalent to end of instruction tests.
"There is a lot of frustration with the amount of money and time spent on tests," said Casey, a former school administrator. "We take these tests already."
Casey said his bill is mainly is intended to end testing duplication. The committee approved the measure 17-0.
HB 1502 by Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville, picks up a controversy carried over from last year. It would allow some school districts to set their own appeal processes for students denied a high school diploma for failing to pass the required number of end of instruction tests.
The matter became an issue last year when a substantial number of high school seniors did not meet the EOI requirement. Lawmakers were unhappy with the state Department of Education's appeal process and tried to wire around it legislatively.
HB 2087 by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and HB 2131 by Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, would let districts opt out of some mandates, but not those involving teacher certification, pay and benefits, or student and teacher assessment.
HB 1072 by Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, would allow districts to exclude from school performance assessments the test scores of special needs students in excess of the current 2 percent allowance.
Nelson opposed the measure but said a legitimate problem exists because the current system penalizes schools with good special education programs and rewards schools with poor programs.
"This is the first pro-abortion bill I've seen," said Cox, an emergency room doctor, during a meeting of the House Public Health Committee. "It's the first pro-abortion bill I've seen by a Republican and not only that, a Republican speaker."
- "Pro-abortion" is how Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, referred to Speaker T.W. Shannon's bill to bar the Oklahoma Health Care Authority from paying for so-called "morning-after" contraceptives.
Cox said in his experience almost all "Plan B" and similar contraceptives are prescribed as the result of rape, incest or some other form of unwanted intercourse. He said prescriptions for 1,195 doses of the contraceptives were provided through the Oklahoma Health Care Authority last year, which represented "1,195 potential unwanted pregnancies avoided and 1,195 potential abortions avoided."
Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, who presented the bill in Shannon's absence, said it was inappropriate for the state to pay for such contraceptives for "people who are playing at a game they can't afford."
A pharmacist, Derby said he thought most women using morning-after contraceptives simply don't regularly use birth control.
The bill passed 7-2, with Cox and Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, in opposition.
The same committee rejected an attempt to repeal state recognition of common-law marriages.
- A bill allowing guns in "any meeting of any city, town, county, state or federal officials, school board members, legislative members, or any other elected or appointed officials" advanced from the House Judiciary Committee without opposition.
Free beer tastings
The House voted 62-30 on Tuesday to allow state brewers to provide free samples on-site. Samples would be limited to 12 ounces per customer.
Proponents said the bill would only put breweries on equal footing with wineries, which already are allowed to provide free samples. Opponents said it would promote alcoholism.
This led to a brief discussion of the alcohol content of the wine Jesus produced from water in John 2:1-11.
The measure now goes to the Senate.
Original Print Headline: Easing of school mandates passed
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison