Filed bills focus on education

by Jessica Garvin

Congratulations to the Marlow Outlaws and Washington Warriors who will go head-to-head this weekend for the 2A football state championship. The Garvin family will be there Saturday cheering on these outstanding players. These are such talented young men, who have made their families, schools, and communities so proud.

As for legislative matters, I’ve filed three bills so far with several more in the works. These first few focus on education issues. Senate Bill 1115 would allow more local control over school internship or mentorship programs. This past session, we expanded the Apprenticeships, Internships and Mentorships Act of 2016 to allow sophomores, age 16 and older, to participate in the program as well as allow the governing bodies of participating schools to obtain liability insurance coverage to protect their students. My bill would allow governing bodies of public, private, magnet, charter, and virtual charter schools, rather than the State Board of Education, to determine if academic credit to meet graduation requirements should be granted for apprenticeships, internships, and mentorships. This is a commonsense change in that these types of decisions should be made locally, just like the curriculum for these programs. Running such decisions through the State Board of Education is inefficient and an unnecessary undertaking for local districts that are already stretched thin for time and staff.

The next bill is an effort to help schools address the ongoing shortage of classroom teachers. SB 1119 would remove the 270-clock-hour limitation on the amount of time adjunct teachers may teach per semester in a classroom. These are educators who have distinguished qualifications in their field, such as accountants or journalists. They don’t have to meet the standard certification requirements given their professional background but can be authorized by the local school board to teach a subject related to their field of expertise. Given that many districts are still struggling to fill essential teaching positions, being able to rely on professionals from their community to share their expertise in the classroom is a lifesaver. My bill will ensure they can work as many hours as they’re needed and willing to. 

Finally, the other education bill I’ve filed addresses the school funding formula and the strict requirements for carryover funds. It makes no sense that we’re for local control of schools until it comes to their state funding. All school districts have different financial needs, and those needs arrive at different times, so to tell them that that they’ll lose their carryover funds if they don’t use them by a certain time each year is just ludicrous. It forces districts to oftentimes waste money on things that they don’t necessarily need just to protect future funding. It would be more responsible to allow districts to save their funding until they have an actual need. Schools, like businesses, should be able to make long-term plans and goals and be able to save to accomplish those.

SB 1126 would remove the carryover caps for school district general funds and require those carryover amounts be reported to the State Department of Education (SDE). It would also add carryover funds to the list of school district and school site expenditures of local, state, and federal funds that the State Department of Education is required to publish online annually. This measure would untie the hands of districts when it comes to how they utilize these funds from year to year but would also improve transparency and accountability to parents and taxpayers as to the amount of the carryover funds and how they are used.

If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, you can reach me by writing to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, emailing Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or calling (405) 521-5522.



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