Bartlesville’s own state senator, John Ford, has authored a bill to deregulate Oklahoma schools. He promises more local control and removing some unfunded mandates. Teachers like me, who realize how much is at stake, are outraged at its consequences:
The “School District Empowerment Program,” SB834, if passed and signed by the governor, would mandate that a school district which has a school identified for improvement by the State Board of Education would become a charter school district in the 2009-2010 school year. And in 2010, the State Board will randomly select twenty percent of other districts to participate, and for the next four years continue to randomly select, making every Oklahoma school district a charter school district.
Supporters of SB 834 claim that turning current school districts into charter school districts will result in savings for the district and those savings will be passed on to school employees. What else could teachers expect to be passed on?
These are common Charter School practices that would be enabled if this bill becomes law:
- No Teacher Due Process Act protection. In essence, teachers are at-will employees.
- No Collective Bargaining.
- Salaries could be reduced to the state minimum salary schedule.
- No class size requirements.
- No planning periods.
- Teacher certification not required.
- No Library or Counseling requirements.
- Evaluation procedures determined by administration, not through collective bargaining.
- Work days extended without a commensurate increase in pay.
- No seniority.
- No negotiated transfer policies.
- No grievance procedure.
- No negotiated provisions, such as a 30-minute duty-free lunch.
The bill is now in the House of Representatives and you can contact your representative in the House at 405-521-2711 or online at http://www.okhouse.gov/FindRep.aspx. You can also call Governor Brad Henry’s office at 405-521-2342.
It is already spectacularly unattractive to become a teacher in Oklahoma. This bill will drive even more teachers to neighboring states where they will be better paid and treated more like valued professionals. Put yourself in my place: earn a bachelor’s degree, earn a master’s degree, do work for twenty years that earns you multiple local and statewide awards, and then consider that if you had a wife and two kids your salary is so low they would get the free-or-reduced lunches provided by the government for the working poor. Now top that off with this bill, which strips you of tenure and any bargaining rights. Would you stay in teaching?