Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage said the State School Board failed to get any input from local school board members, educators or school administrators before adopting emergency rules last month on supplemental online courses. Burrage, D-Claremore, said Gov. Mary Fallin should reject the rules.
“There are several reasons the governor should put a stop to this. This represents an unfunded mandate,” Burrage said. “In addition, the rules would be retroactive to the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. School districts had already planned their budgets and allocated their appropriations. They weren’t given information about this in time to plan for it, and they weren’t even given the opportunity to voice their concerns.”
Burrage said there are other issues local school districts find troubling. The original authorizing legislation, SB 280 required local school boards to adopt policies and procedures for online instruction, and many districts have already moved forward with some developing cooperatives among districts to save money on virtual education offerings. However the emergency rules would strip local school boards of this authority.
“I believe the majority of people in this state want local control for public schools, and certainly that’s what the legislature intended, but these rules represent a huge power grab by the State School Board,” Burrage said. “Either Superintendent Janet Barresi doesn’t understand that or she doesn’t support local control.”
Furthermore, while the rules pertain to online offerings for primary and secondary students, they would also apply to those who are pre-kindergarten age.
“People with expertise in this area will tell you that social interaction in early childhood education is critical to ensuring a child is ready for school when they start kindergarten. Computers can’t do that,” Burrage said.
“It is important for schools to take advantage of the enhanced educational experience available through online courses, but this is not the way to make that happen. I strongly urge Governor Fallin to reject these rules and make a stand for local control,” Burrage said.