Bill seeking to change State Dept. of Ed. board likely no longer a threat to status quo (Capitol Update)

It looked for a while as though the state school board and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction were going to get their wings clipped a bit. Last year, Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, Chair of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, Chair of the House Common Education Committee, introduced House Bill 2562 that would have changed the appointment authority and makeup of the State Board of Education. Under current law, the governor appoints all six members, and the State Superintendent chairs the board.

As introduced, HB 2562 would increase the number of board members from seven to 11, with the four new members being appointed by the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore. Two of the new members would be rural residents of the state. The other two would be former school superintendents, one from a district with an enrollment of less than 10,000 students and one from a district of more than 10,000 students. The governor would continue to appoint the six-member majority of the board, but there would be other voices at the table.

The bill passed out of the House Education Committee on Feb. 14, 2023, but failed to get a floor hearing last session. It carried over to this year and passed the House on Feb. 28, 2024, with a vote of 60 to 29 with 12 members not voting. Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, signed on as Senate author of the bill just prior to the House floor vote. 

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on April 9 this year with the title stricken. Interestingly, Sen. Murdock filed a Senate floor substitute restoring the title and removing the four appointees by the Speaker and President Pro Tempore. The bill passed the Senate floor last Thursday in that form. As written, the bill simply provides that two board members must be rural residents of the state. Rural resident is defined as being from a county of less than 40,000 population.

It appears that HB 2562 would now change nothing in the current State Board of Education makeup. There are two present board members living in counties with less than 40,000 population, Katie Quebedeaux of Guymon and Zachary Archer of Hammon. The Congressional District 5 seat is vacant. Gov. Stitt has appointed Alex Gray but Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, has declined to carry the nomination.

It is safe to say that HB 2562 in its current form is no longer a threat to the status quo at the State Department of Education. Moreover, Rep. McBride is term limited, and Rep. Baker chose not to run for re-election. With all the noise about what some view as shenanigans at the State Department of Education, it appears the board and department will stay on course for at least another year.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.