Friday, February 24, 2012

Committee Votes to ‘Give Teeth’ to School District Transparency

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 22, 2012) – Legislation approved by the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education would “give teeth” to the School District Transparency Act, according to the bill’s author.

Under House Bill 2644, by state Rep. David Brumbaugh, school districts and the Oklahoma Board of Education would lose funding if they fail to comply with the School District Transparency Act.

The legislation authorizes the Office of State Finance to withhold administrative and support funds from the Oklahoma Board of Education if it does not include data on its website required by the School District Transparency Act. The withholding would be 1 percent of total appropriations for administrative and support functions and would increase by 1 percent for each subsequent month of noncompliance. If noncompliance continued after five months, 8 percent would be withheld.

“This legislation creates a penalty for failure to comply with state law,” said Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow). “The Oklahoma Board of Education has continually failed to put the required data on their website. My legislation gives teeth to the School District Transparency Act and would strongly press them to do so. Taxpayers have a right to know where their tax dollars are being spent and at the minimum, we in the Legislature need to have financial data to make decisions.”

The legislation also increases the penalty for school districts not adhering to the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System. After five months of failing to adhere, the school district would have its state aid payment decreased by 8 percent for each month of noncompliance.

“The legislation gives school districts a lot of leeway so they are not punished for missing a deadline, but instead penalizes those who continually fail to comply with state law,” Brumbaugh said. “We also set a fairly low percentage, to ensure that the penalty was not too severe. I think school districts will choose to comply.”

House Bill 2644 now proceeds to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee for consideration.

Meth Bill Clears a House Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 23, 2012) – Law enforcement officials and pharmacists will have an easier time identifying individuals trying to purchase pseudoephedrine illegally under legislation passed unanimously this week by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, according to the bill’s author.

House Bill 2547, by state Rep. Jadine Nollan, will restrict the issuance of multiple identification numbers on driver’s licenses and other state-issued idenfication cards.

“Currently, a person can have multiple driver’s licenses and state identification cards with different identification numbers, creating an additional cost to the state and making it more difficult for law enforcement, pharmacists and state agencies to validate proper identify of an individual,” said Nollan (R-Sand Springs). “The original idea for this legislation came from Mike Carter, the assistant chief of police in Sand Springs. He was concerned about tracking individuals purchasing pseudoephedrine and properly identifying individuals who tried to buy an illegal quantity of this meth ingredient.”

Nollan said she worked with a local pharmacist, the Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics to get the proper language in the bill.

“I’ve worked really hard to ensure this legislation will aid these agencies, pharmacies and law enforcement in properly identifying potential meth cooks and suppliers,” Nollan said. “I was proud to see it get unanimous support on the House floor.”

Nollan said the legislation will also help reduce identity theft.

House Bill 2547 was approved by a vote of 92-0 and now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

NOTE: For accompanying video, see

Agency Forced to Delay Vocational Rehabilitation Services to New Applicants

OKLAHOMA CITY – The state Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) reluctantly issued an order, effective Tues., Feb. 21, at 8 a.m., to temporarily delay vocational rehabilitation and employment services to all new applicants until funding becomes available to pay for their services.

Currently, 443 individuals are on waiting lists.

Staff will continue to serve more than 18,000 individuals currently in the system, which last year helped 2,812 Oklahomans with disabilities become successfully employed.

More than 22,300 Oklahomans have been served since Oct. 1, 2011.

DRS previously opened waiting lists for categories of clients with less significant barriers to employment on Feb. 3 and Aug. 15, 2011.

Before service delays began in August, DRS had experienced two years and three months with no waiting lists – the longest time in agency history.

“In three years, the number of customers served by our Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services divisions exploded by 38.6 percent,” DRS Director Michael O’Brien, Ed.D. “This means DRS has been incredibly successful in getting Oklahomans with disabilities on the road to employment, but this increased demand has stretched limited funding and staff capacity past the breaking point.”

On top of $7.04 million in escalating medical costs for clients, state tuition increased significantly for DRS clients enrolled in Oklahoma colleges and universities.

O’Brien explained that waiting lists are a cost control mechanism mandated under the federal Rehabilitation Act for vocational rehabilitation programs in all states at times when demand for services exceeds capacity.

“DRS must categorize clients in groups based on the impact of their disabilities on employment,” O’Brien said. “If we don’t have the capacity to serve everyone, applicants with less significant barriers to employment are the first to be placed on waiting lists.”


“In a sense, this is a cost control measure that right-sizes demand until funding and resources are available to serve more clients,” O’Brien said.

The Rehabilitation Act does not permit DRS to cap or limit services needed by current clients in order to go to work. Instead, the agency must control costs and absorb inflationary increases in client goods and services by delaying services to new applicants. Current clients will continue to be served at the same level.

Vocational rehabilitation and employment programs earn four federal dollars for every state dollar appropriated.

“We are doing everything we can to end service delays, which are a temporary budget control measure, so that applicants with disabilities can start getting the help they need to go to work,” O’Brien said.

DRS staff will continue to interview all applicants, gather diagnostic information and determine eligibility for the vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

When funds are available to pay for services, waiting lists will open first for applicants whose disabilities have the greatest impact on employment. Applicants will be served on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on their application dates.

Approximately 656,619 Oklahomans, or 15.8 percent, ages 5 and over, have disabilities according to 2009 U.S. Census data.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nelson Suggests Third Option in Looming Fight Over Failing Schools

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today’s statements by Oklahoma City school officials regarding the State Board of Education’s ability to take over troubled schools, and recent comments by other administrators, indicates districts may be leaning toward filing a wasteful lawsuit that provides no benefit to children in failing schools, state Rep. Jason Nelson said.
However, Nelson said there is another option.
“This is a very serious disagreement that appears to be headed to the legal equivalent of a school-yard fight that will do nothing to help the students stuck in failing schools,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “Senator Clark Jolley and I crafted a plan last year that represents the best path forward for the students in these schools.”
Senate Bill 264 contains the Allowing Local Administrators More Options Act, which sets up a partnership between local school districts and the State Board of Education.
“The purpose of the act is to empower school boards to partner with the State Board to find creative, out-of-the-box solutions that meet the unique challenges faced at each of these schools,” Nelson said. “Rather than a direct take-over, this bill encourages productive partnership.”
Under the plan a local school board may vote to submit a request to the State Board of Education for an exemption from nearly all statutory requirements and State Board of Education rules.
Requests for the exemption must include a plan that contains the educational benefits of deregulation and the anticipated impacts or outcomes deregulation will have in the requesting district.
The State Board must work with the requesting district to develop an acceptable plan.
“The fact that these state mandates are in place while students are still stuck in these failing schools tells me that we need to rethink how we educate children,” Nelson said. “Improving these schools will require more than tinkering around the edges or expensive lawsuits that seek to keep real reform at bay. Hopefully these kids’ futures are important enough to pass a program that will set the stage for collaboration and creativity.”
In the proposal, plans are approved for three years. The school district is required to submit annual reports to the State Board, which will assess the academic achievement and fiscal status of the school district.
“I hope everyone involved will support this common-sense plan that benefits the students in these failing schools,” Nelson said.
Senate Bill 264 is currently waiting on a vote by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. If passed the measure would go the governor.

Location:N Lincoln Blvd,Oklahoma City,United States

Nelson to issue proposal after morning press conference on failing schools

Oklahoma City schools Superintendent Carl Springer will hold a press conference at 8:45 this morning to discuss his opposition to a potential takeover of failing schools by the state Department of Education.

I will issue a statement shortly after the conclusion of the press conference to suggest a solution which represents the best path forward.

Location:N Lincoln Blvd,Oklahoma City,United States

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pruitt Joins Nine Attorneys General in Letter Defending Religious Liberty

AGs oppose insurance mandate; prepare to challenge in court 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined attorneys general from Nebraska, Texas, Maine and six other states in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, expressing “strong opposition” to an upcoming health insurance mandate that requires religious employers to provide coverage for services such as sterilization that contradict their religious beliefs.   

The letter, sent to Secretary Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, cites issues with the mandate’s policy implications, potential consequences for the religious employers and its constitutional conflict with freedoms of religion, speech and association as provided under the First Amendment. 

“Not only is the proposed contraceptive coverage mandate for religious employers bad policy, it is unconstitutional,” the AGs wrote. “We believe it represents an impermissible violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment virtually unparalleled in American history.” 

Attorney General Pruitt and the other AGs said they plan to “vigorously” challenge the unconstitutional mandate in court if not withdrawn by the federal government. 

“Any regulation that requires a religious group to violate their lawful beliefs and practices goes directly against the ideals that our Founding Fathers set in place to protect Americans from an overbearing and intrusive government,” Pruitt said. “It conflicts with the most basic elements of freedom provided to all Americans to practice their lawful religion wherever, whenever and however they choose. For that reason, we have asked Secretary Sebelius to not put this regulation into action.” 

For a copy of the attorneys general letter, go online to

Rep. Renegar Assumes New Duties in Democrat Caucus

OKLAHOMA CITY - Last week House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, announced his appointment of Representative Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, as the newest Assistant Floor Leader to the House Democratic Caucus.
Rep. Brian Renegar
Rep. Renegar will assume Rep. Al McAffrey’s floor leader position. Rep. McAffrey was elected to the state Senate last week in a special election. 
“Currently Rep. Renegar serves as the Senior Advisor on Agricultural issues for our caucus, as well as one of our Senior Water Policy Advisors. I am very pleased he is willing to step up and take on this additional leadership role,” said Leader Inman. “I know he cares deeply about the welfare of our state, and I have the utmost confidence that he will continue to work tirelessly in this position to serve the people of Oklahoma.”

Debate on Pseudoephedrine Renewed

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, and the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians all announced last Tuesday that they are taking a stance against proposals to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug.

Rep. Ben Sherrer has renewed his push to pass House Bill1235 which would make pseudoephedrine a Schedule III drug. The measure was introduced during the 2011 session at the request of law enforcement that was looking for a way to reduce the number of meth labs in the state of Oklahoma.
House Bill 1235 could receive a hearing during this legislative session. 

Similar efforts last week in the Senate failed to gain the votes needed for passage. Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, joined Rep. Sherrer’s effort to make the tablet form of pseudoephedrine only available by prescription by introducing similar legislation this year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

State of the State Address of Governor Mary Fallin

OKLAHOMA CITY - Last week Governor Mary Fallin outlined her 2012 legislative and policy agenda during a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature during her State of the State address.

Click here to read the entire speech.
The following are key excerpts from the 2012 State of the State address:

On Oklahoma’s economy (Click here for a one-page report):
“In 2011, the state of Oklahoma had a net increase of 41,600 jobs. 
“Our job growth rate ranks 3rd among all states. … 
“At 6.1 percent, our unemployment rate continues to be one of the lowest in the country.  … 
“All of these indicators demonstrate that Oklahoma’s economy continues to outperform the national economy. People all across the country are noticing:  Oklahoma stands as a testament to the fact that low taxes, limited government, and fiscal discipline are a recipe for job creation.”

Education and workforce development (Click here for a one-page report):
“We know that a majority of the jobs created in the next decade will require either a college education or a career certificate from one of our Career Technology centers and that college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetime than high school graduates. 
“That’s why we have set a goal to increase the number of college graduates from 30,500 degrees and certificates awarded annually to 50,900.”

Increasing government efficiency and “right-sizing” government (Click here for a one-page report):
“Under current law, state agencies are required to submit a strategic plan that includes goals and proposals for increased efficiency and improved services. Unfortunately, these plans have not, historically, been carefully scrutinized. 
“My office and the Office of State Finance will begin evaluating each and every one of these plans and will use new software and technologies that measure performance and efficiency and align expenditures with outcomes. That analysis will help us to right-size government and ensure that each agency is operating as effectively as possible.”

The “Oklahoma Tax Reduction and Simplification Act” (Click here for a one-page report):
“The Oklahoma Tax Reduction and Simplification Act will immediately cut income taxes for Oklahomans in all tax brackets, simplify the tax code, and chart a course towards the gradual elimination of the income tax. 
“Our plan is a game-changer for Oklahoma. It’s a job-creator. And it provides broad based tax relief to the middle class without starving government or hurting the working poor.”  

Energy Efficiency (Click here for a one-page report):
“Oklahoma can and should lead the way in implementing energy efficiency measures that will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. 
“I’m asking our lawmakers to send me a bill requiring every state agency and higher education institution to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020.”

Improving Oklahoma’s Transportation Infrastructure (click here for one page report):
“Unfortunately, [Oklahoma has] some of the worst bridges in the nation. 
“That’s why last year I proposed a plan that will fix all 706 of Oklahoma’s structurally deficient state highway bridges by 2019 … moving Oklahoma from the list of worst-bridges in the country to the best.  … 
“… To fund that plan, I have proposed in my budget an additional investment in the form of a $15 million increase to ODOT … paid for by using road money for roads, rather than diverting it to general revenue, as has been the practice in the past.”

Prohibiting Smoking on State Property (Click here for a one-page report on health initiatives):
“… every Oklahoma household pays $550 each year in state and federal taxes to cover smoking-related medical costs.“That’s why this morning I signed an Executive Order prohibiting tobacco use on all state government property.  … 
“Here in the state Capitol, we’ll take that one step further. Right now, this building has a smoking room. I’m going to close it and, in its place, create a fitness center where employees in this building can go to work out and get healthy.”

Click here to read the 2011 State of the State address by Governor Fallin.

Promise to National Board Certified Teachers Should Be Honored

Senate Education Chairman John Ford is working to restore a $5,000 stipend to Oklahoma teachers who’ve completed National Board Certification. Ford said ensuring those educators get what was promised is a top priority in the 2012 session.

Sen. John Ford
“I believe a promise made is a promise kept,” said Ford. “These are dedicated educators who have gone above and beyond what is required. In return, they were promised a $5,000 a year bonus for the duration of their National Board Certification. We need to honor that promise.”

Ford said National Board Certification is a rigorous program that takes teachers one to three years to complete. According to state statutes, those educators who have completed the process are to receive an annual $5,000 stipend for 10 years, if funding is available. Ford’s legislation would make it clear that eligible teachers would get their stipends, as promised.

“If we don’t have the funding to pay the stipend because of budget constraints in the current fiscal year, then those teachers will receive this year’s payment at the end of their certification period,” Ford said. “We have about 2, 275 teachers who are currently eligible for the bonus. They did the additional work and kept their end of the bargain. We need to keep our end of the bargain as well.”

Lawmakers Observe Importance of Marriage

OKLAHOMA CITY – With Valentine’s Day this Tuesday, state lawmakers declared the importance of marriage to a stable Oklahoma last week, issuing a formal citation observing “Marriage Week” in the state.
Rep. Mark McCullough
“There is simply no denying that stable marriages and intact families contribute greatly to our state, both culturally and financially,” said state Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “When families fragment, the repercussions are extensive and cost Oklahoma taxpayers more than $400 million annually. But the benefits of healthy marriages go far beyond fiscal impact; they improve quality of life and social cohesion in our state. That’s why it is so important to celebrate the institution of marriage and to hold up successful marriages as a model.”
In a citation, lawmakers declared the week of Feb. 6 to be “Marriage Week.” The citation declares that members of the Oklahoma Legislature “wish to express their support to the institution of marriage and to those married and soon to be married couples who have promised, before God, to dedicate themselves ... to a lifetime of love and commitment to one another.”
McCullough and state Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) authored the citation in conjunction with National Marriage Week.
One study, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing,” conservatively estimates the impact of divorce on state government (largely through public assistance programs) to be $430 million annually in Oklahoma.
Research shows children from broken homes are 12 times more likely to be incarcerated, seven times more likely to live in poverty and three times more likely to be expelled and receive lower grades. They also are more susceptible to substance abuse and mental health disorders, McCullough noted.
“Family disintegration is at the root of many challenges facing our state today, and healthy marriages are the foundation for preventing and resolving many of those problems,” McCullough said. “Our job as lawmakers is to foster a policy environment in Oklahoma that supports healthy families and helps those teetering on the brink from falling apart as much as possible.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weekly House Wrap

State of State Launches Session
The 2012 legislative session started this week with Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State address, where she unveiled an ambitious agenda. 
The headline proposal was her call for significant tax reform. The governor’s “Oklahoma Tax Reduction and Simplification Act” would immediately cut income taxes for all Oklahomans and simplify the tax code.
If approved, her plan would give Oklahoma the lowest income tax rate in the region aside from Texas.
In the short term, her plan would reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to three with lower rates for all. Our current tax structure technically taxes the first penny you earn at a 0.5 percent rate, and increases to 5.25 percent for families with taxable income of $15,900.
Under the governor’s plan, starting next January, families with incomes of $30,000 or less would pay no income tax at all. Families with joint income of $30,000 to $70,000 would pay a 2.25 percent rate, and everyone above that level would pay a 3.5 percent rate.
Under the proposed rates, a middle-class couple making $40,000 a year would pay 37 percent less in taxes next year.
In the future, tax rates would be lowered another quarter-point every year the state experiences revenue growth of 5 percent until the income tax is completely eliminated.
To pay for the plan, the governor called for eliminating tax loopholes, carve-outs and other exceptions, as well as achieving greater government efficiencies.
The other big item in the speech was a plan to address Oklahoma road and bridge funding.
For years, Oklahoma has topped the national “bad bridges” lists. However, only 413 of Oklahoma’s 706 structurally deficient bridges are currently scheduled for rehabilitation or replacement within eight years, leaving 293 bad bridges in place. 
Under Governor Fallin’s plan, Oklahoma will repair the remaining 293 structurally deficient bridges by 2019. 
To accomplish this goal, Governor Fallin’s budget restores an additional $15 million taken from roads and bridges in the past and raises the cap on the state ROADS fund from $435 million to $550 million. Bumping the incremental contribution will have a compounding effect that generates an estimated $479 million over eight years to fund our most pressing road and bridge needs. 
She also called for earmarking a larger share of motor vehicle collections to county roads.

Bill filings

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Day of Session Arrives, Governor to Give State of the State

Today marks the beginning of the 2nd Session of the 53rd Oklahoma Legislature and the governor’s annual State of the State Address. 

The House and Senate will convene at noon in their respective chambers briefly before senators move to the House Chamber for a joint session to hear from Governor Mary Fallin. 
The governor will deliver the State of the State Address at approximately 1 p.m., today (Monday, Feb. 6)
You can watch the Gov. Fallin’s speech by clicking the Watch or Listen Live icon on the right side of my blog page. 
I will do my best to tweet updates during the day including when the governor is about to speak. 
If you’re near a television set check your local TV listings for viewing times. You can also view the speech online at the following locations:
Oklahoma House Web site:
KOSU radio:
Additionally, some radio stations will carry the speech, including those on the Oklahoma News Network.

I will post the text of Gov. Fallin's speech as soon as it is made available. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Oklahoma Couple Starts Special Needs Ministry

A young Oklahoma couple has launched a new ministry inspired by their young son Kash who has special needs.
Eric and Mykel McFall’s mission is to make churches aware of the opportunities and need to minister to families like theirs. 
The Baptist Messenger highlights the McFall family in its February 2, edition. 
Eric and his wife Mykel started McFall Ministries after serving 10 years in youth ministry. Driven by their faith in God and their experience as the parents of a child with special needs the McFalls have a burden “to minister to families and churches … and to help others better understand how to minister to families who have children with special needs.” 
Training church and Sunday school leaders how to encourage and support parents of children with special needs is a particular focus of theirs according to their website.
In the story Eric mentions the high divorce rate among parents with children with special needs.

Friday, February 3, 2012

White named as OKDHS Interim Director

Oklahoma City -- The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services has announced that Terri White (link opens in new window) will serve as the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) interim director.  The action is set to take effect March 1, 2012, and comes as the agency prepares to initiate a national search to replace Howard Hendrick, who recently announced his retirement.  The Commission’s vote was unanimous.

White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), will remain in her current position and stressed that she will not accept the OKDHS director’s post permanently. She said she was happy, however, to help in any way possible to find the right person for the position.  She is slated to serve as interim director until the search is completed, a process expected to conclude no later than June 30, 2012.  OKDHS is Oklahoma’s largest state agency with more than 7,000 employees and a budget in excess of $2 billion.

“I am honored to have been asked to serve in this capacity,” said White.  “This is an important time for OKDHS as the agency moves forward, and I am committed to doing all that I can to advance the department and ensure that transition to new leadership is a success.

“OKDHS and its staff play an incredibly important role in shaping Oklahoma.  Our effort to take care of our most vulnerable citizens and afford them the opportunities for a better life is something that truly defines us as a state and as a people.  My role will be to continue good work that is already underway, to help grow success and prepare this agency to flourish during this time of change.” 

The Commission has moved swiftly to fill the interim role and is committed to finding an excellent candidate to fill the position permanently.  Chairman Brad Yarborough says he is pleased to have confirmed White as interim leader of the agency.  He is enthusiastic about the Commission’s decision and believes that her selection will be of tremendous benefit to the OKDHS during this time of change.

“Commissioner White is doing a remarkable job at ODMHSAS,” said Yarbrough.  “That agency works closely with OKDHS and she is familiar with our operations and services.  We join with other state leaders who feel that she is a perfect fit to move into this position during the short term and continue moving the agency forward in a positive direction.

“She provides the Commission with the confidence that operations will be well-managed so that we can aggressively focus on the search process.”

White said that the quality of services and the dedication of employees at ODMHSAS were instrumental to her appointment as interim director.

“We have experienced tremendous successes at ODMHSAS,” she said.  “This appointment reflects positively on the entire department and the work we have been able to accomplish over the past several years.”

White will split time between the two agencies and plans to work with key staff to ensure that operations run smoothly.

Terri White was named ODMHSAS commissioner in May 2007 and has established herself as a passionate advocate for individuals experiencing mental illness and addiction.  She has received national recognition for her role in advancing recovery and evidence based programs, technological innovations such as telepsychiatry and the integration of behavioral health care into primary healthcare settings. 

She was the first woman to serve as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Health, for former Governor Brad Henry, from 2009 to 2011; and, is a three-time honoree of The Journal Record's Fifty Women Making a Difference. 

As ODMHSAS commissioner, White oversees a statewide network of services dedicated to providing needed mental health and substance abuse services to all Oklahomans.  Her agency has an annual budget of approximately $300 million, 1,800 employees and holds contractual relationships with over 100 private providers.

Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement on the appointment of Terri White.

“Commissioner White has an outstanding record of service at the Department of Mental Health. Her experience, both in providing services to Oklahomans in need as well as in managing a large agency, will serve her well as the new interim director at DHS. I applaud the Commission for making a swift and bold decision to quickly find an interim director, as well as outgoing Commissioner Howard Hendrick for his support in the matter.

“I am confident that Terri will not only competently manage this period of transition at DHS, but will also pursue improvements in services during that process. No one cares more about Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens than Terri, and it is comforting to know that DHS has a dedicated public servant and steady hand at the helm while the agency searches for a permanent director.”

Terri White Bio

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nelson Urges Salary Freeze for All School Superintendents

Encourages End to Hypocrisy

OKLAHOMA CITY – Now that many lawmakers are calling for a freeze on judicial pay and the salaries of all statewide officeholders, state Rep. Jason Nelson said it’s time to also freeze school superintendent salaries.
“Last year we saw hundreds of instances of superintendents getting pay raises while furloughing teachers and increasing class sizes,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “If it doesn’t make sense to give statewide officeholders a pay raise while Oklahoma is climbing out of recession, the same thing holds true for school superintendents at a time when education budgets have been cut. They should not be getting pay raises when teachers are being asked to do more with less.”
In a recent report, Oklahoma Watchdog found that 356 Oklahoma district superintendents (more than two-thirds) received some form of compensation increase this year. The combined expense of those raises was an extra $1.4 million annually (
Oklahoma Watchdog found that 37 of the superintendents receiving raises oversaw districts placed on the State Department of Education’s “Needs Improvement” list and 16 of those individuals received raises of $5,000 or more (
The Board of Judicial Compensation recently recommended pay increases for judges. Since the compensation of judges and statewide officials is linked, both would get a raise under that proposal.
State Rep. Scott Inman, leader of the House Democratic caucus, has been one of the most vocal critics of potential pay increases for statewide officeholders even though none of those officials could receive a salary increase during their current term in office.
Nelson said the Del City lawmaker should now join him in opposing superintendent pay raises.
“To protect school funding, we have to do more than oppose phantom pay raises that no current statewide officeholder is eligible to receive,” Nelson said. “It is ridiculous to complain about phantom pay raises for current statewide elected officials while ignoring $1.4 million in real pay raises for superintendents across the state.”
Last year, Nelson filed House Bill 1746 to require schools to spend at least 65 percent of funds on direct instructional activities within three years.
That bill included a provision that would have prevented superintendents from furloughing teachers without first having their financial plan reviewed by the State Board of Education so that classroom teachers would be protected.
“My legislation would have protected teachers from layoffs and furloughs, yet it was opposed by superintendents and their allies, including Representative Inman,” Nelson said. “I hope he and other opponents will now join me in standing up for teachers.”
Nelson praised State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, who announced she would not accept a pay raise when the issue was first raised this month.
“Superintendent Barresi did the right thing for Oklahoma students,” Nelson said. “Given that many local school superintendents are paid more than the governor or state superintendent, there is clearly no reason for local administrators to get a pay raise at the expense of teachers and classroom funding. It’s time to freeze superintendent pay.”
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