Public school districts should use public education funds for classrooms, not million-dollar marketing campaigns.
State Sen. Ron Sharp has proposed Senate Bill 1153. It would ban public schools — traditional, charter and virtual — from using state aid for student recruitment. It would not apply to advertising for jobs, school bond informational material, enrollment brochures or website maintenance.
It’s pretty clearly aimed at Epic Charter School’s marketing efforts targeted at public school students.
Sharp has led the inquiries into the business practices of Epic, which remains under investigation by state and federal authorities. Epic has filed a libel and slander lawsuit against the lawmaker.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see several bills regarding the operation and funding of virtual charter schools in the upcoming session, and the purpose behind SB 1153 has merit.
A Tulsa World investigation in August found Epic used public funds and a third-party “media buyer” to spend $2.4 million in just 12 weeks as part of a back-to-school recruiting blitz. That included $1.58 million for television advertising and a social media football ticket promotion with the University of Oklahoma.
Taxpayers want their education dollars spent in the classroom, not on recruiting, and, for the most part, Oklahoma school leaders understand that.
Traditional schools face a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, crowded classrooms and a growing student body population with a high number of students experiencing trauma and learning disabilities.
Taxpayer money should be used to address those problems, not recruiting students from other schools.
Input from public school officials on SB 1153 is still needed to determine any unintended consequences. But, as it stands, it’s a law worthy of consideration.