When it comes to public education, we believe the state should operate on a simple principle - education is about children, not systems, ZIP codes or political turf wars. Every parent in Oklahoma should be able to seek out the school that is best for their child, and our goal as legislators should be to enable as many kids as possible to receive the type of education we would want for our own children.
Unfortunately, too many kids in Oklahoma have exactly one viable option for school: the school they are zoned to based on where they live. For many families, this is just fine. They are happy with their zoned public school and do not want to leave. But kids whose needs aren't being met or who are in schools that are a poor fit generally have no choice but to struggle through.
We hope to change that during this year's legislative session by strengthening the open transfer system.
Each of us has filed bills that will open ladders of opportunity to kids who need it most. On the House side, Rep. Echols has filed House Bill 2673, which would allow any student enrolled in a school that has received an F grade from the State Department of Education for three consecutive years an emergency transfer to a public school. Often our most vulnerable students are made more vulnerable by attending some of our lowest-performing schools. House Bill 2673 is aimed at breaking that destructive cycle.
In the Senate, Sen. Pugh has proposed a measure that would open the transfer process to public view and make it easier for all Oklahoma families to choose the right public school for their students. Senate Bill 783 would require the maximum capacity for each school in the state be established and published. Students could then freely transfer to any school that has space for them. If transfer requests exceed capacity, the receiving school would award slots through a fair, public lottery. Under current law, students can request a transfer, but the process is cumbersome, not standardized, and families are routinely denied with little explanation.
Both of our proposals seek to free families to pursue the school that is best for their students while maintaining important guardrails to protect local control on discipline, legal and truancy issues. Oklahoma kids deserve the opportunity to unlock their potential through the highest quality education.
Note: This article was first published in the Journal Record on January 29, 2021.