Spring 2017

Statement regarding the state board of education’s approval of a Norman charter school

Statement from Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, regarding the state board of education’s approval of a Norman charter school:

“I am extremely disappointed that the state Board of Education blatantly ignored state law and the valid concerns of state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister in approving the LeMonde International Charter School application.

Norman Public Schools had identified 12 areas where the application fell short of charter school legal requirements. Furthermore, the state board unilaterally changed the opening date for the school, which the law doesn’t allow.

In voting to deny the charter school’s appeal, Hofmeister voiced strong concerns about the school’s ability to be successful and particularly to hire well-prepared teachers for a specialized program during a historic teacher shortage. She also questioned the state Education Department’s ability to oversee and support the charter amid continuing budget cuts.

This marks the second time the state Board of Education has approved a charter school appeal without close attention to whether the application complied with state law. In a letter to state board members earlier this month, OSSBA outlined its concerns with the board’s recent approval of a Seminole charter school. In both cases, the board did not dutifully address the reasons for denial or whether the application met the charter school law requirements.

The board needs to stop overturning valid decisions of local school boards and stop approving charter schools based on personal preferences while ignoring state law. The law is designed to ensure proposed charter schools are capable of providing a high-quality education for students. Failing to follow the law puts students and their education at risk.”

Oklahoma Library of Digital Resources Expands

The state’s only online library of digital content teaching resources aligned to Oklahoma academic standards has expanded to include new resources and tools for elementary and middle school teachers.

The Oklahoma Library of Digital Resources, which first launched in August with resources for 10 high school courses, is an innovative, collaborative and cost-saving effort to help schools leverage technology to improve student achievement. It contains free and low-cost, high-quality content digital resources and tools for teachers and families to meet students’ individual academic needs at all grade levels in English language arts, math, science and social studies.

MathematicsThe resources include audio and video files, apps, digital textbooks and a variety of other online tools.

“Schools have left behind the one-size-fits-all approach to education,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, which created and maintains the library. “As schools leverage technology to create individualized academic experiences for students, teachers need easy access to high-quality digital resources that are aligned to our state’s academic standards. The Oklahoma Library of Digital Resources helps fill that gap.”

More than 100 Oklahoma school districts already have one-to-one technology initiatives to make sure every student has a device, according to a state Education Department survey conducted last year. That number is expected to double over the next two years.

OSSBA launched the Oklahoma Library of Digital Resources in collaboration with Apple and with the support of corporate partners Express Personnel Services, American Fidelity and the Oklahoma Publishing Company/Anschutz Foundation. The library is housed in iTunes U and can also be accessed at www.okdigitalresources.com. All of the resources are accessible on any internet-connected device, including non-Apple devices.

More than 100 Oklahoma teachers have worked with OSSBA over the last year to collect the resources and match them with Oklahoma’s academic standards. The high school courses include algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry, English 1, English 2, biology, chemistry, personal finance, Oklahoma history and United States history.   Digital content resources are now available for grades prek-8 in math, English/Language Arts, science, and social studies.

OSSBA plans to expand the library again in August with resources for additional high school courses.

OSSBA Executive Director Reacts to Voucher Bill Decision

Statement from Shawn Hime, OSSBA executive director:

“I appreciate the Senate for not moving forward with a divisive bill that distracts from the most important issues facing Oklahoma’s nearly 700,000 public school students: a historic teacher shortage and severe budget cuts. I’m confident that a collective focus among legislative, business and education leaders and parents will help bring us closer to ensuring every child has a high-quality teacher in a classroom with the resources necessary to ensure a rich, full educational experience.”

Analysis: Voucher Proposal Could Divert Millions from Public Schools

Voucher projection

*Estimate based on $4,419 voucher for 6,900 new students each year.

A proposed law to establish a voucher program in Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties could divert available funding for Oklahoma public schools by as much as $30 million next year and $1.6 billion over the next decade, according a projected financial analysis from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.


Vouchers Annual Projection

District-Level Voucher Projection Breakdown

This week, the Senate Education Committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 560 by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman. The bill calls for vouchers to be made available to as many as 6,900 new students each year for the next decade, at which time the cap on the number of participating students would be eliminated.

SB 560 would establish a sliding scale for the value of the voucher dependent on the family income of the voucher recipient. The average annual amount of the voucher would range from $1,473 to $4,419 per recipient, according to the analysis. The analysis, which also includes a district-level breakdown of the potential cost, assumes state aid appropriations to schools and enrollment remain at 2016-2017 levels.

Standridge told committee members his intent was to protect rural schools from funding loss. However, because the bill funds voucher students before state aid is distributed to public schools, it would reduce available funding for all Oklahoma school districts.

“The bottom line is that vouchers are a funding cut for public schools and will result in fewer resources with which to serve the nearly 700,000 children in public schools,” OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime said. “It’s unbelievable that in a time of severe budget cuts for public schools that legislators would seriously consider diverting money from public schools to private schools with virtually no accountability for taxpayer dollars.”

Schools have sustained millions of dollars in budget cuts the last few years. This week, the state’s declaration of a revenue failure and a shortfall in the House Bill 1017 fund has resulted in $50.2 million in budget cuts.

To cope with cuts, a historic teacher shortage and growing enrollment, districts have hired a record number of emergency certified teachers, eliminated administrative positions, increased class sizes, reduced course offerings and extracurricular activities and resorted to four-day school weeks. Oklahoma has nearly 1,500 fewer teachers compared to 2010 despite having 39,000 more students, according to preliminary data from the state Education Department presented to legislators last month.

The bill contains no limits on how the voucher money could be spent. Instead, it would leave the decision on what qualifies as an eligible voucher expense to the state Board of Education. Public schools must code and track every penny received and must comply with myriad mandates on how money must be spent, including a cap on administrative costs.

Also of concern, Hime said, is that the bill requires no reporting on the academic achievement on students who receive vouchers.

“Oklahoma’s children need lawmakers to focus on a long-term funding plan for education so every student is taught by a highly qualified teacher who has the resources available to provide the best possible education for every child,” Hime said. “It’s time to stop creating unnecessary and harmful distractions and work together to quit shortchanging our children.”

Vouchers Annual Projection

District-Level Voucher Projection Breakdown

OSSBA Statement on Revenue Certification

Statement from OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime regarding the revenue certification at today’s Board of Equalization meeting:

“Today’s budget news caps what has been an extraordinarily difficult budget year for schools. The need for a long-term funding plan for public education isn’t just a wish-list item — it’s an absolute necessity that should be a top priority item when the legislature reconvenes in February.

“Just last week, Oklahoma surpassed last year’s record for emergency teacher certifications. Class sizes are growing, and educational opportunities for children are shrinking. A teacher pay raise is badly needed to keep our great teachers in the state and in the profession and to attract new teachers to the profession.

“State leaders have a tough session ahead of them, and I look forward to working with them to develop a long-term education funding plan to ensure schools have the resources needed to provide all students the high-quality education they deserve.”

Winter 2016

SQ 779 Statement


Christy Watson
Communications Director
405.821.3209 (cell)


Statement from Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, on SQ 779:

“The common message of those who opposed SQ 779 was that public education needs a long-term funding plan and resources to offer competitive teacher pay. While I’m disappointed in tonight’s election outcome, the results clearly show Oklahomans are concerned about the teacher shortage and the underinvestment in our children’s education.

A collaborative effort between legislative, education, business and community leaders needs to begin now so a bipartisan education funding and teacher pay raise plan can be the first order of business when the legislature reconvenes in February. We have no time to lose. We can’t continue putting underqualified, underprepared teachers in our classrooms and burdening our veteran teachers with exploding class sizes and fewer resources. Our teachers and children deserve better.”

SQ 779: What Our Children Need

img_8630By Christy Watson

My 9-year-old son spent the first day of his fall break getting braces. My husband and I considered whether we should wait until he’s a bit older but opted for what we agreed offers the best long-term outcome. Hopefully, this dental intervention will prevent some future issues that might be more painful – both to him and our family budget.

Our thought process was a pretty standard approach to decision-making: what must we do today to achieve a long-term goal while minimizing pain along the way. A delay was likely to cause more pain – physical and financial – in the long run.

I feel the same way about the current debate over Oklahoma’s education funding and State Question 779. Every choice involves some level of pain. But only one choice – improving education funding through the passage of SQ 779 — is guaranteed to move Oklahoma closer to its long-term goal of a better educated citizenry.

I’ve seen and heard it argued that SQ 779 is bad public policy. But I wonder, what’s so good about the alternative? Is it good public policy to:

Braces hurt no matter when they’re put on. But the pain of the teacher shortage, growing class sizes, fewer educational opportunities and four-day school weeks isn’t temporary for the children in today’s classrooms. Opportunity lost can’t be restored.

I don’t want my son or his big sister to wait for a “solution” or a “better way” that may never come. My vote isn’t a political message to state lawmakers about accountability, either. Our schools don’t have what’s necessary to provide the education we want for our children. My vote is me deciding my children and 700,000 other Oklahoma children in public schools deserve better.

Our state demands teachers do more with less. It insists our children meet higher academic standards despite the growing number of underprepared and underqualified teachers, classrooms with fewer resources and the underfunding of mandates and reforms.

The kindergarten teacher who helped my daughter and her classmates learn to read survived a cancer battle that year. A few years later while I was away from home for an extended time while my sister fought cancer, she was my son’s teacher and offered to take him to a mother-son game night at school. She’s priceless — and representative of the most important investment we make in the education of our children.

Research tells us an investment in teacher salaries, recruitment and retention is wise. The classroom teacher is the most important in-school factor when it comes to student achievement. If we don’t launch a bold battle to keep our teachers in Oklahoma and in the profession, we are setting up our children and our state for some serious if not irrevocable long-term pain.

Some problems – like dental issues – don’t get easier with time. They just grow more complicated and expensive. There’s no time to waste.

Christy Watson is OSSBA’s Communications Director and the mom of two children in public schools.

Emergency Teaching Certificate Numbers Continue Growth

On Thursday, the state Board of Education will consider approving 107 emergency teaching certificates. If approved, Oklahoma will have more than 1,000 people teaching with emergency certificates for the second straight year.

A few things to consider:

      • Nearly half of the 926 emergency certificates approved to date are for early childhood and elementary education. The same was true last year.
      • The shortage persists despite districts reporting that they have cut more than 2,000 teaching positions in the last two years and are offering fewer courses, particularly at the high school level. (Read more results from our August survey of school districts).
      • The need for emergency certificates is widespread – urban, suburban and rural districts have asked for and received emergency certificates. (See the map below.)

Emergency Teaching Certificates *Pending board approval

Here are a few other teacher shortage facts culled from a study OSSBA helped commission last year and the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education.

      • 11 out of every 100 Oklahoma teachers leave the state or the profession every year.
      • 17% of new teachers in Oklahoma leave the state or the profession after their first year.
      • 10% of Oklahoma teachers with a decade of experience leave the state or profession every year.
      • Oklahoma is replacing experienced teachers who leave with teachers who are far less experienced.
      • Between 2005-2006 and 2013-2014, Oklahoma had a 24 percent decline in the number of students completing teacher preparation programs. Research has projected that it will further decline 22 percent between 2013-14 and 2018-19. (Student enrollment is projected to continue increasing).
      • Oklahoma is not producing enough foreign language, math or science teachers to replace those who are leaving.
      • The projected demand for teachers in Oklahoma will continue to outpace the supply.
      • Oklahoma has significant competition from the private sector and from surrounding states.
      • A high percentage of out-of-state students (76%) who completed teacher preparation programs in Oklahoma in recent years never worked in Oklahoma’s public schools.

Each pinmark on the interactive map below represents an emergency certificate granted either for last school year (green) or this school year to date (blue).

–Christy Watson