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2015 Legislative Recap

Stand for Children prepared for the 2015 Legislative Session committed to taking courageous stands for Oklahoma’s children through targeted policies aimed at increasing student outcomes with a bold legislative agenda. And while we know there is still much left on the table to move the needle on student achievement in Oklahoma, we’re pleased that, together with our amazing parent members and online advocates, we were able to achieve some great wins for kids this year.

We sought to:

  • Support legislation aimed at improving grade-level reading by the 4th grade by maintaining the individualized reading teams for each struggling reader that were created in law last year. These teams, consisting of a parent, teacher, and reading specialist were required to come to a unanimous decision on the final determination for retention of 3rd graders not reading on grade level and to create a comprehensive remediation plan for each struggling reader. 
  • Adopt a law to ensure a strong and high-quality charter movement continues in Oklahoma by: holding charter schools to the strongest standards possible, stopping charter “authorizer shopping,” and implementing a process to close the poorest performing charter schools while paving the way for smart and strategic growth of charter schools outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma City with the input of the local community.
  • Increase teacher pay, strengthen professional development opportunities, and work to guarantee we have effective teachers in every classroom.

Our team’s tireless efforts up to the final minutes in this hard-fought session – and our members’ prompt and reliable actions to engage with members of the legislature through in-person meetings, emails, and phone calls – resulted in the passage of two critical laws tied directly to our legislative agenda. Additionally, actions taken by our members and online advocates ensured that legislation harmful to Oklahoma children and our education system, such as an initiative to abolish Advanced Placement courses in Oklahoma, was killed.

We are pleased by the passage of House Bill 782, which will provide every community the opportunity to create high-quality, accountability-driven charters through local school board approval and allow school districts themselves to utilize the flexibility and innovation that charter organizations can foster by allowing them to convert their own schools to charter schools. Working through a coalition of determined and passionate partner organizations like the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, state and local chambers, and other education reform organizations, this bill – which Stand has fought for during the past three legislative sessions – was signed into law, proving that advocacy work takes persistence and perseverance.

And, we also are confident Senate Bill 630 – signed by Governor Fallin – not only moves us forward by maintaining the reading teams established last year for three more years, but also strengthens the existing law even further by requiring school districts to identify struggling readers before they ever reach 3rd grade. Now students who are struggling to read in grades 1-3 will have a comprehensive remediation plan to ensure they are on track for grade-level reading by 4th grade.

We knew going into session facing a $611 million budget deficit it would be an uphill battle to secure a teacher pay increase – something that’s desperately needed to stem the tide of a teacher shortage across the state that has risen to crisis level. Knowing this, we continued to warn lawmakers that budget cuts have consequences in an effort to at least try to hold education to a flat budget. And that’s exactly what happened. While we’re grateful in a year that tough decisions had to be made on which critical state services were to be cut to balance the budget that education was held harmless, we know this still means less dollars going to schools to address low teacher pay and fewer resources to implement many of the education reforms on the books.

We know our effort to increase awareness around the consequences of budget cuts also expanded public awareness of the need for an actionable roadmap for long-term school funding solutions to improve student achievement with a focus on accountability.

Our comprehensive Teachers Matter report released in May began an important conversation about the importance of bringing teachers to the table to address the long-term funding and policy needs of Oklahoma’s public education system. It’s only when we have a high-quality teacher in every classroom and a high-quality instructional leader at the helm of every school that truly significant progress will be made in improving student outcomes in this state and closing the achievement gap in education. It is beyond tragic that it has been a quarter of a century since Oklahoma committed to a coordinated, strategic, long-term vision and plan for school improvement and funding.

The 2015 session may be over, but there is much groundwork to be laid before the next session. Our team already is at work crafting successful impact agendas for 2016. Thank you for your support of our legislative goals and the impactful outcomes that were achieved. As always, it is an honor to Stand Strong and work with and for you to transform the lives and futures of this state’s children!


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