House sends back to Senate measure to transform state Board of Education

The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday, April 6 approved an amended version of Senate Bill 435, sending the measure back to the Senate, where it is expected to pass and then move on to Governor Mary Fallin for her likely signature. 

The new law reconstitutes membership on the state Board of Education, allowing the governor to name appointees to the board from each congressional district. The board will also have one at-large member and the Superintendent. Appointees will be subject to Senate confirmation. 

House Speaker Kris Steele, a Shawnee Republican, celebrated the bill’s passage, saying, “Reforming our education system is one of our top priorities. Senate Bill 435 will provide accountability and the best structure for educating children in Oklahoma.  Advancing these necessary reforms establishes checks and balances in the system and will benefit all children and districts in the state.”
  The bill originated in the Senate, where Education Committee Chairman John Ford of Bartlesville shepherded it to passage. Ford and other Republican legislators were outraged at the treatment the current Board of Education afforded to new Superintendent Janet Barresi at her first meeting with the Board. 

  After some tweaking of provisions, the measure cleared the Senate 32-15 on February 21. 

  Passage of S.B. 435 sustains momentum for a wave of substantive Republican proposals intended, advocates say, to increase accountability and responsiveness to demands for reform. 

  S.B. 435 passed the House, 63-35. 

  State Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, a Democrat, pressed an amendment to allow voters directly to elect members of the statewide Board. Dorman expressed disappointment in his amendment’s due to a successful motion to table it, on a 55-29 vote.

Note: In the original post of this story, we reported the bill was headed to Governor Mary Fallin for her signature. In fact, it must go through one more examination in the state Senate before it heads to the chief executive.