Ray Carter | February 15, 2022

Lawmakers approve student rescue from ‘F’ schools

Ray Carter

A Senate committee has voted to provide an escape hatch for students currently trapped in public schools that receive F grades on state report cards.

Senate Bill 1583, by Sen. Greg Treat, allows parents to receive a “transfer allowance” for their children when a student’s school receives an F grade the preceding year on the state’s school A-F report card system.

The money for the allowance will come from the state share of the per-pupil funding already allocated for that child’s education and may be used for private school tuition. A fiscal analysis showed the amount awarded to families could range from $4,924 to $14,068 per student, based on a range of factors already used when determining per-pupil allocations through the state’s education funding formula.

The bill will not take effect until the next round of state school report cards is issued.

Opponents argued that allowing families to leave failing schools will harm those schools.

“I foresee a disaster if a school gets labeled an F, and every parent wants out of that school, for any kid that’s remaining,” said Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso. “Because there will be kids remaining.”

“I think there’s already a disaster if the kid’s in that F school,” replied Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “So, I think the disaster predates the ability to transfer out.”

Dossett, who said he is not a fan of school grades, also asked if the legislation was “an attempt to try to kill those F schools, to get the kids out of them.” He predicted the bill could result in the closure of F schools in rural areas.

“If this goes into place, then we start yanking kids out of schools that are ‘failing’—air quotes for those listening in—and therefore slowly killing a school,” Dossett said.

He said lawmakers should work to improve F schools rather than allow students to leave.

Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, said public schools are over-regulated and questioned whether parents should be trusted to choose a good alternative school for their children.

“The money goes into a vacuum, goes into a silo,” Hicks said. “And somehow we’re to trust that parents are the deciding factor of that investment?”

Treat called SB 1583 a “safety valve” for families.

“I ask that you vote for these kids and these families that may be trapped in an F school,” Treat said.

SB 1583 passed the Senate Education Committee on a 9-6 vote.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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