Three factions battling over Oklahoma education policy (Capitol Updates)

educationSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign upĀ on his website to receive theĀ Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

It’s no secret there’s struggle in the legislature with regard to Oklahoma’s public schools. Legislators try to reflect the citizens they represent, and there seem to be at least three groups with conflicting points of view. The first group consists of those who believe strongly in public schools, warts and all. They know there are problems. But they feel the biggest problem is inadequate funding, and they see no way to make much improvement until there is better funding. For these people ideas like charter schools, vouchers for private schools, high stakes testing, A-F grading systems for schools, and school consolidation, while they may have limited value, are mainly excuses to avoid providing adequate funding for schools.

The second group consists of people who feel the schools need to be held more accountable to spend available money properly. They feel the primary reason for inadequate schools is poor management, not inadequate funding. They feel there is too much waste with money going to the wrong things and not enough to the classrooms. They also feel that poor discipline and too many bad teachers are the problem. They suspect there may be a need for more money, but they are unwilling to “throw more money at the problem” until the schools do a better job with what they have.

A third group consists of those whose primary concern is local control of the schools. They part company with the accountability folks when it comes to measures like Common Core, high stakes testing, and A-F grading of the schools because they fear these measures interfere with local control. But their biggest fear is school consolidation. They fear losing control of their local school and being thrown in with a district that may have different priorities. There is a strong element of community with these folks who feel losing their school will harm the community. They part with the folks who feel additional funding is necessary when the trade-offs are accountability measures like consolidation.

Sen. Ford, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, announced this week his committee will not hear any consolidation measures this year. So far as more funding is concerned, the prospects are bleak with a $1.3 billion budget hole. Even a modest general tax increase seems out of the question. Several of the accountability measures passed in recent years have fallen into disrepute, and the primary battle left on the table seems to be a school voucher bill. Everyone has the votes to kill the other guy’s bad idea but not enough to pass their own good idea. There may be a consensus to be found, but someone will have to step up and put it together.

Learn More // Do More


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.

One thought on “Three factions battling over Oklahoma education policy (Capitol Updates)

  1. Mr Lewis I think your comments as to who has a dog in the fight is well done– IMHO the real issue is still a concept G Norquist made– in this case it is a public education “shrink it down to the size that I can drown it in the bathtub”— look at who voted to assist those voucher bills out of committee Our government is helping to privatize education –it starts with vouchers, monies from taxpayers to the wealthy and to religious schools –the trickle down is charter for profit schools– read the state constitution—the standards of public ed are so low as to compared to other states—although stating high standard doesn’t mean those states are achieving them…..nevertheless we sir are setting the bar so low…….how can we start a public ed “revolt”?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.