Monday, March 30, 2009

SB 834: State School Board Members Opposed

Not all school board members are in favor of deregulation.

"It's going to take us back 30 years," said member Gayle Miles-Scott during a long discussion of several bills that would remove State Department of Education regulations and control. "What are they drinking?"

Sue Arnn, another member, replied: "Republican whiskey, that's what they're drinking."

"These are people who never liked [former Gov.] Henry Bellmon and [House bill] 1017," said member Tim Gilpin. "We're going to do more with less by giving back to the local districts, who are the ones we're having to audit, you see."

"Every one of these kids is going to be taught differently, and that's absurd," Miles-Scott said. "What are they doing? They're totally destroying education."

SB 834 will come up for a vote on Wednesday. The following is a list of members of the House Common Education Committee. contact these legislators at 1-800-522-8502 and encourage them to vote NO on SB 834.

Ann Coody, Chair
Sally Kern, Vice Chair
Gus Blackwell
Samson Buck
Ed Cannaday
Doug Cox
David Dank
Joe Dorman
Tad Jones
Jeannie McDaniel
Earl Sears
Jabar Shumate
Daniel Sullivan

Thursday, March 26, 2009

OEA Lobby Day:SB 834

Over three hundred OEA members attended the OEA Lobby Day at the Capitol. Pictured with our members are Representative Mike Jackson, Senator Jim Wilson and Representative Mike Brown.

The focus of the day was SB 834, the deregulation bill that will turn all of our local school districts into charter districts over a six year period.

OEA/Teachers Lie

Some of the legislators had a new twist to tell our members. Besides the Republican party line of districts shouldn't have to follow "unfunded mandates" many of our members were told that "OEA lies" to them and in another instance, a legislator tried to recruit OEA members to a competing organization.

Our members did get angry, but not with me--the OEA--the 8th grade teacher from Stillwater--and all of our other teachers and support professionals who make up the OEA--they got angry with their legislators and they are going to take that anger back home with them and share it with their peers.

Unanswered Question

What would you be doing differently to impact student learning that you aren't able to do now???????????????????????????????????

There is nothing but silence from Republican Legislators, superintendents and school board members when they're asked that question.

For coverage of the event check out these sites: Oklahoman KSBI Joplin Globe.

Listed below are my remarks at the Lobby Day press conference

Good morning and welcome to the Capitol.

I’m Roy Bishop, President of the Oklahoma Education Association. Hundreds of school employees are here today to show their commitment to a great public school for every child and to let our elected leaders know that SB 834 is bad for schools.

I know how difficult it is for them to leave their students, especially at this time of year, so I want to thank them for being here and let them know I appreciate their commitment to Oklahoma education.

We are here today for the children of Oklahoma. The greatest impact on our students is to have a quality teacher and the tools and resources to help children learn. SB 834, the deregulation of our schools, will negatively impact our kids in a variety of ways including larger class size, diminishing teacher certification and quality, and it will also allow districts to ignore caps on administrative expenses with less money going to the classroom where our students need it the most.

If this bill passes, high standards for our students and a quality nationally known teacher preparation system are in jeopardy, and will be left to the political whim of local school boards and administrators.

An example of that political whim took place just a few months ago. A young teacher from a small western Oklahoma school came to the Capitol, at the request of a lawmaker, to tell about the number of days his students were out of the class for school activities.
His reward for honestly exposing the rampant abuse of the 10 day activity rule for students was to be called into the Superintendent’s office, have his job threatened, and then be placed on a disciplinary plan for improvement. How is it good for kids that a quality teacher is placed on a plan for improvement for speaking out about poor administrative practice?

Oklahomans can expect more of the same with the passage of SB834.

Oklahoma has a nationally known teacher preparation system. According to “Quality Counts”, we are ranked in the top 10 nationally in “Teacher Quality.”

For too long we have struggled to keep our good teachers in Oklahoma. SB 834 will allow for already low salaries to be reduced and will put a premium on hiring low cost non-certified teachers. This will be at the expense of our students because the number one determinant of student success is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.

The proponents of SB 834 state that these reforms are needed to allow local boards and administrators to put changes in place in their districts.

There is nothing today, or in the past, that would have stopped a school district from making changes it wanted to make. Our current deregulation law does just that. If they have a program to impact student learning, why haven’t they tried implementation?

SB 834 will also allow local school districts to do away with the collective bargaining process. This takes away the only opportunity for teachers and support professionals to be heard. Why would they want to do that? Our working conditions are a student’s learning conditions--they impact student learning conditions.

And in Oklahoma, the collective bargaining law is only advisory; it allows the local school district to impose whatever they wish at the end of the process.

You’re going to hear a lot about not being able to fire bad teachers—that’s just not right and it makes me angry.

Existing law allows all districts to hire teachers on temporary contracts for 3 semesters. These temporary contracts have an ending date and no action has to be taken to end employment – it is automatic.

In addition, the existing law includes a 3 year probationary period where the district is required to provide reason, and notice, of non-renewal or dismissal. For probationary teachers, the school board is the final authority.

We should probably be asking what is wrong with an administrator who can’t decide if a teacher is “bad” during this 4 ½ year period when they pretty much have no restraints. Think about the impact on kids when an administrator doesn't do his or her job.

And finally, mark my words, if this deregulation bill passes, it will be even easier for Superintendents and Boards of Education to mismanage school funds. One only has to look at the Marble City fiasco to see the impact of mismanagement and the impact that lost money had on kids.

For all of these reasons, and many more, SB 834 is bad for kids, bad for teachers and support professionals, bad for education and bad for Oklahoma.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2009 Outreach to Teach

On March 6th, SOEA members and OEA staff participated in the 2009 Outreach to Teach project. This years school was Pleasant Hill located in the Mid-Del School District. Students and staff spent a day cleaning up the grounds, painting the walls, fixing playground equipment to provide a better atmosphere for students.

Lauren Folks, SOEA President and her officers, did a great job of getting students involved from all over the state. The kids were so excited to have us there and the parents who saw what was going expressed their appreciation to many of us.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SB 834 Warning & OEA Lobby Day

STOP SB 834! Join Us for a Day at the Capitol - Lobby Day, March 25th

Let your voice be heard loud and clear at the OEA Lobby Day, March 25, at the State Capitol. No matter what size of a school district you work in, no matter what your job in the district, it is vital you let the legislature know how important education is. Come and be a part of this day for education at the State Capitol.

Registration for OEA Lobby Day will begin on the Second Floor Rotunda at 8 a.m. We'll start with a briefing at 9 a.m. on the Second Floor. Lunch will be provided and we want you to invite your legislators to join you for lunch at 11:30 a.m. Please register for Lobby Day on the OEA website so we know how many to plan for for lunch.

There is ample parking south and east of the Capitol. For a map of the Capitol grounds, visit and click on "Capitol Complex."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SB 834--A Bad Bill Moves Forward

Yesterday, on a straight party line vote (R-D), the Senate passed SB 834 26-21 with one Democrat, Senator Paddock, out of town. The bill now goes to the House Education Committee.

This bill has direct implications for kids in the issues of class size, teacher certification, teacher quality through professional development, and alternative education just to name a few. How can those who supported it justify their vote?

Contact those Senators, with an R after their name, at the Senate website.

Monday, March 09, 2009

SB 834:Senator Ford Responds to the OEA

From Senator Ford to his legislative colleagues: Attached is an “OEA Legislative Update” that was e-mailed to OEA members yesterday (Mar 4). This OEA update will generate many e-mails and phone calls from constituents. Following is a possible reply: Senate Bill 834 will eliminate many unfunded mandates that have hamstrung our local school districts. These mandates have negatively impacted their ability to develop innovative approaches and programs to ensure students will indeed master the skills and curriculum necessary to compete once they graduate—whether they go on to college, to a CareerTech, or straight into the workplace.

Again, I will ask, 1) Why don't you just fund the mandates you expect schools to follow or 2) Did you know Oklahoma already has a deregulation procedure in place?

OEA is working to defeat this measure, and has made erroneous claims that educators, who are among the 74 percent of teachers in Oklahoma that currently work for districts paying above the minimum salary schedule, may face thousands of dollars in pay cuts.

It is important to point out that these districts are paying above the minimum salary schedule because they have chosen to do so....

I wonder if Senator Ford knows that the percentage of total school spending going into teacher compensation has declined from 56.3% in 1995-96 to 43.5% in 2006-07.

Or, has the Senator sat at a meeting with a Superintendent who said, "I'll buy 5,000 rolls of toilet paper before I'll ever give you a dime of that money."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

SB 834: "What are they thinking?"

A few of the arguments OEA members are hearing from their legislators include some you just want to shake your head and wonder if they even realize what they've said. Let's take a look at the latest reasons for support:

1) By deregulating schools, districts can do away with unfunded mandates. Hmmm...think about this---the legislature passes mandates for schools and districts because they believe they're important, but won't fund them? Why don't our legislators just fund the mandates? Is this even worthy of debate?

2) Our teachers and support professionals have been told "locals like you" will get a say in how things are done. This bill removes the teacher and education employee voice from the process. Your district gets a say, but the teacher sure doesn't.

Keep checking back here for information or go to the Oklahomans Against SB 834 page for more dialogue.

RAA:John Glenn Elementary, Western Heights

This RAA stop found us at John Glenn Elementary School in Western Heights. The teachers and kids just moved into the building this year and it's an awesome facility. Everyone is so proud of their new school.

The Cat read to a number of different classes and no matter how young or old they were, they all loved it. The teachers are doing an awesome job and are an example of the quality found in our classroom all across our state.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Today is the 105th anniversary of Dr. Seuss' birthday and we celebrated this occasion at Will Rogers Elementary School in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Today's event was put together by Brian Atkins, SOEA/OSU President. The kids and teachers all got a great chuckle as the Cat tried to find someone who could wiggle their ears--without their hands. One one young man did, everyone cheered his efforts.

All of the kids will receive a book from "Feed the Children" and they were all pretty excited as Brian, SOEA/OSU advisor Suzi Parson, OEA Communications Specialist Doug Folks and I passed out books for all the kids. Not to be left out were the Will Rogers teachers who all received a classroom performance chart and the 2009 RAA poster with co-chairs OSU's Zac Robinson and OU's Sam Bradford.

While the kids were disappointed to learn the Zac and Sam weren't able to be at the program (they are in class) I did get to share with the kids how good of students the 2 young men are and how reading has helped get them all the way to college. They all pledged to read, "each day and each night, (because) they know it's the key to growing up right."

While we won't have a program at the other Stillwater schools, all of the kids will be getting books courtesy of "Feed the Children" and Brian who is delivering all of them.


During our RAA trips, we were fortunate to be invited to Lexington Public Schools where we put on two programs for the kids. All of the students were great and we had another tremendous day. A special thanks to President Marcie Cole for all the work she does for her local, and a shout out to Cindy Williamson who helped put the program together and to Principal Butler for allowing us to visit a great school like Lexington.