Senate approves Board of Education reform

The Oklahoma Senate has given its approval to legislation that will restructure membership of the State Board of Education and enhance checks and balances between the board and the superintendent and return it to Constitutional structure.  Apparently, the power play by Democrat/teacher union operatives Herb Rozell and Tulsa Attorney Tim Gilpin, (former Tulsa County Democrat Party Chairman) will not work out as they planned.

Senate Bill 435, by President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Sen. John Ford, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, passed Monday with the emergency clause on a party-line vote of 32 to 15 (Republican to Democrat).

Bingman said that swift action was needed in the legislature to ensure the State Superintendent could do the job voters elected her to do.

“This is an important day for education in Oklahoma,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.  “The vote for a new Superintendent was a vote for education reform.  Now those reforms can move forward.”

During debate, Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, said that the current State Board of Education is not accountable to the will of the people.  Ford said that SB 435 will address that concern.

“Senate Bill 435 returns the board to the original constitutional structure and strengthens checks and balances by defining the proper role of the superintendent and the board,” Ford said.  “The bottom line is creating a structure that will ensure the best interest of Oklahoma’s children will be met.”

Under SB 435, the current board members would be replaced with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Senate Bill 435 will now head to the House for further consideration.

In a previous story by Tulsa Today, current Board Member Tim Gilpin asserted that the Board is the controlling authority over public education in Oklahoma and questioned the qualifications of Superintendent Barresi’s choices for staff positions while asserting more qualified people were already in place within the Education Department.

In an arrogant and condescending tone Gilpin declared, “The State Board of Education as it has since the beginning has control over the hiring, firing and control of the Department.”

Yes indeed, but the Board is not constitutionally directed to be filled by unelected party hacks appointed by any governor.

Now that the education establishment has so badly overplayed their hand, observers next expect a “Wisconsin Style” union tantrum Oklahoma has seen before.  Stay tuned for many such battles before Oklahoma recovers from a hundred years of one party rule.