Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Charter School Funding, Oversight Focus of House Interim Studies

Charter School Funding, Oversight Focus of House Interim Studies

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Zack Taylor, Lundy Kiger and Randy Randleman are hosting two interim studies this week to look at several aspects of charter school funding. A third study, hosted by Kiger and Randleman, will focus on charter school sponsor oversight responsibilities.

All studies will take place Wednesday, Sept. 11, in Room 432-A in the State Capitol before the House Common Education Committee.

A study to look at brick-and-mortar charter school funding is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. A study examining the real cost per student for virtual charter schools vs. brick-and-mortar schools will be held at 9:30 a.m. The final study on charter school sponsor oversight responsibilities is set for 10:30 a.m.

State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, will participate in the latter two studies.

“I feel strongly that charter schools – both brick-and-mortar and virtual – have a role in the learning process for some children in our state,” said Kiger, R-Poteau. “But we must have total transparency into how they receive funding per student and how that money is spent. I don’t believe they should be receiving the same amount of funding as traditional public school that have building and maintenance costs. We also must ensure the entities charged with oversight of these schools are performing due diligence and fulfilling all requirements both to the state and the students they serve.”

Kiger said he has long been concerned over issues brought forward about the operation of virtual charter schools, from unaccounted for equipment, to the high amounts received for midyear adjustments in enrollment, to the bonuses teachers and students receive for enrollment and recruitment efforts.

Taylor, R-Seminole, said he too is interested in looking at the funding formulas for both charters and traditional public schools.

“We need to closely examine how both traditional public schools and our charter schools receive funding for their pupils,” Taylor said. “There are some differences in how they count students. There also are costs that brick-and-mortar schools incur that virtual schools do not, but at the same time there are some revenues that charter schools do not receive that traditional schools do. We want to make sure at the end of the day, that the needs of all students are adequately met and that one school system is not receiving an unfair advantage over another.”

Randleman, R-Eufaula, is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist who serves on the House Common Education Committee. He said he signed on as a study author to ensure the public is better informed about how taxpayer money is spent on all public education options.

“The vast majority of Oklahoma parents choose to send their children to traditional public schools,” Randleman said. “I believe that all children and their parents deserve to have options that may serve the need of the child, such as online vs. brick-and-mortar charters. Still, we must ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in the most responsible way – to help all students.”

Sharp, a 39-year retired public school teacher and a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, was invited to participate in the latter two studies.

“Public education in Oklahoma and funding for our schools has been scrutinized over the years. While our schools have received historic funding the last two years, we’re now faced with new problems. There is an evident lack of transparency of state fund use, proper oversight and accountability within our virtual charter school system,” Sharp said. “As legislators, it’s our job to ensure that Oklahomans’ tax dollars are spent efficiently and not wasted. The rules for traditional brick-and-mortar public schools and virtual charters are different, and it’s causing confusion and problems. Given their astronomical growth and increasing state funding, it’s imperative that we improve oversight, accountability and fiscal transparency of our virtual charter schools. We need to hold all schools, regardless of what kind, to the same high standards.”


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