Legislation prompted by a controversial State Board of Education vote last week is expected to be introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives Common Education Committee on Tuesday morning.
Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, confirmed that he intends to file a committee substitute to Senate Bill 229 that would bar virtual charter schools from receiving local building fund revenue.
The move was prompted by last week’s 4-3 vote by the state school board to settle a 4-year-old lawsuit with Oklahoma Public Charter School Association. The lawsuit seeks direct apportionment of school taxes instead of receiving funds through local districts.
The settlement was opposed by state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the board’s attorney.
Hilbert said he’s been working with Hofmeister, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators, and he said the language submitted Tuesday is unlikely to be the final version.
SB 229 came over from the House as a bill concerning emergency and provisionally certified teachers.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the House Higher Education Committee stripped out provisions of SB 639, by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, that would have required students to pay back scholarships granted under the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program if they do not complete a degree or technical program within six years.
OHLAP, also known as Oklahoma’s Promise, provides tuition scholarships for low- and middle-income students who sign up for the program in middle school and meet certain academic and behavior standards.
According to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the number of scholarship recipients has declined in recent years, from nearly 19,000 in 2013-14 to 15,347 last year.
The six-year completion rate for Oklahoma’s Promise students is 49%, compared to 43% for other students.
Pugh has said he wants to “raise expectations,” but educators and others warn that the prospect of having to repay a scholarship is likely to deter students already unsure whether they can afford college.
Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City, said the college president and CareerTech superintendent in his district were “just ecstatic” at the elimination of the clawback provision.
House sponsor Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, said she told Pugh that “if he wanted to keep this (bill) alive and have any hope of moving this forward, (removing the clawback) would be the direction we would have to go.”
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