Friday, February 18, 2022

Three Charter School reform bills pass State House committee

Dills' Charter School Bills Pass Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 15th) – Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, today won unanimous passage of a trio of bills in the  House Common Education Committee that focus on modifying various aspects of the Oklahoma charter school law.

House Bill 3643 would update requirements for virtual charter school governing boards that contract with educational management organizations (EMOs), creating greater transparency for state funds. In addition, the State Board of Education would be authorized to demand repayment of any monies illegally expended by an EMO and to withhold any unreturned amount from state funding allocations.

House Bill 3644 would update oversight requirements for charter school sponsors and governing boards.

House Bill 3645 would update virtual charter school attendance and truancy policies.

"Charter schools – both brick-and-mortar and virtual – have a role in our public school offerings to expand choice and to meet the individual needs of students and their parents," Dills said. "Unfortunately, however, we've had instances of outright fraud or abuse of taxpayer dollars when it comes to organizations that manage the administrative functions of these schools. These bills seek to tighten our laws, protecting public funds and increasing transparency over how they are expended. We also have a duty to ensure our students are receiving the public education promised them in our state Constitution."

Dills held several studies during the interim that helped guide the legislation. It's part of her ongoing effort to improve charter school law.

Public charter schools operate with greater flexibility than traditional schools under state law in exchange for greater accountability requirements. It's these requirements that Dills has been intent on clarifying since taking public office. She's been particularly focused on reform involving for-profit EMOS.

In 2019, she secured passage of House Bill 1395, which created greater oversight and increased transparency of the amount of taxpayer funding going to an EMO. The law change required the amounts being paid as well as a breakdown of all expenditures through the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System (OCAS). The owners of EMOs also now must make certain disclosures in public meetings.

The measures passed in committee today are now eligible to be considered by the full House.

Sheila Dills, a Republican, serves District 69 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Her district includes Jenks, South Tulsa and Bixby in Tulsa County.


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