Oklahoma state Rep. Ann Coody explains her opposition to school choice

OKLAHOMA CITY — On Monday, February 16, state Rep. Ann Coody, R-Edmond, opposed House Bill 2003. The measure sponsored by state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, would create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) modeled on those in Arizona and elsewhere.

Despite the support of Speaker of the House Jeffrey Hickman
and Speaker Pro Temp Lee Denney, the measure failed to clear the House Common Education Committee due to a 9-9 vote. Coody is chair of the panel.

The outcome is a direct blow to Republican Party campaign promises to advance school choice options  
Via email, CapitolBeatOK submitted questions to Coody and other Republicans who opposed Nelson’s proposals. Rep. Coody said, “Thank you for this opportunity,” and replied within a few hours on a busy legislative day.

The questions and her responses are as follows.
Question: Why did you oppose this bill? Please summarize views you have no doubt expressed, but of which I was unaware. (I was teaching yesterday and unable to attend the hearing.)

Rep. Coody: I believe that tax dollars should fund public schools.  Tax dollars do not belong to legislators but to the citizens of Oklahoma.  We are charged with representing our constituents to the best of our ability and according to the principles in which we believe.

Question: In light of your opposition, why did you not vote to advance the bill, to allow your colleague Rep. Nelson an opportunity to argue for the measure?

Rep. Coody: I have the same responsibility in committee as any other member, to vote my convictions.  This was not a procedural vote.

Question: Did you advise Speaker Hickman and Speaker Pro Temp Denney you would oppose a bill they supported, one important to the Republican coalition?

Rep. Coody: Speaker Hickman and Speaker Pro Temp Denney and I did not discuss this bill and my vote on the bill.

Question: Would you agree that is customary for a committee chairman to work cooperatively with other members of her or his caucus?

Rep. Coody: As committee chairman, I certainly do work cooperatively with other members of our caucus, but our caucus leadership expects our committee chairmen and all of our members to vote their convictions and to represent our constituents in the way that we believe is best.

I have the highest respect, admiration and support for Speaker Hickman and Speaker Pro Temp Denney.  

Their outstanding conservative Republican leadership respects the individual responsibility of each member to vote according to our convictions and representation.