By Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett believes members of four public school boards are “in violation of their oaths of office” since moving to oppose implementation of the new Henry Scholarships designed to benefit special-needs students.
Boards of education in Bixby, Broken Arrow, Jenks and (Tulsa) Union school districts have voted in recent weeks not to comply with House Bill 3393, which Gov. Brad Henry signed into law this year.
Passed in the 2010 legislative session, House Bill 3393, by state Rep. Jason Nelson, created the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act. The law was named to honor the memory of the Gov. and Mrs. Kim Henry’s infant daughter, who died of a rare neuromuscular disease as an infant. It is also known as “Lindsey’s Law.”
In an interview today (Friday, October 15) with CapitolBeatOK, Schools Superintendent Garrett said:
“When I took office as Superintendent of Public Instruction, I swore an oath to obey federal and state laws. I have sought every day to uphold that promise. Whether or not I like a particular law is not material. It is my job to obey the law and to implement it.
“The way I look at it, the local officials on these boards of education who have acted not to comply, or to prevent implementation of this program in their districts, are not fulfilling their duties.
“I believe they are in violation of their oaths of office. This law was passed, and implemented in a timely manner by the state.
“To be clear, in my work every day there are laws I don’t necessarily agree with but which I am required to carry out.”
Garrett concluded, “I think these school board members have been ill-advised.”
Garrett’s comments echo recent reflections from a bipartisan group of legislators, including incoming House Speaker Kris Steele, a Shawnee Republican, state Rep. Jabar Shumate, a Tulsa Democrat, and Rep. Nelson.