Last Night I attended my very first TPS School Board meeting. I decided to go for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the four-year-old will go to school next year. I feel like I need to be involved in her education and that includes knowing what is going on at TPS. Secondly, I learned, through Tulsa Chiggers, that the board was planning to vote on a resolution that would limit charter schools in Tulsa.
Since following TPS is relatively new to me, I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum and just blog on what I saw. (Our Tulsa World has video)
Mr. Livingood (District 7) gave his reasoning for writing the resolution. Essentially, he felt that because the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits the legislature from enacting local or special laws, the Okalahoma Charter School Act is therefore unconstitutional because it only pertains to certain school districts. He suggested that because he took an oath to uphold the State Constitution, every time the school board approved or renewed a charter school he was breaking his oath, despite the fact that no court has found this law unconstitutional
I took note of two speakers the first was Barbara Gamble, the Dean of Students at Dove Science Academy.
...We are grateful for the opportunity to work within your district of choice…We urge the board of education and TPS administration to take further serious action to finalize the dispute over the charter school act. It will be nice for all parties concerned in this matter to put this behind them and to continue with their business of education. We feel this matter has been sufficiently discussed in the venue and should be sent to the Oklahoma Legislature and perhaps to the Supreme Court.Second was Harold Roberts, development director for Deborah Brown Community School.
Delivering a negative message the public on a yearly basis before New Year enrollment confuses parents’ decision making which affects our business. This approach demoralizes the faculty and parents of our students.
We are still a proud part of the charter school movement in Oklahoma and are committed to bring innovative tools to education.
...This resolution is no more that a ploy to deter new charter school applicants and force a court showdown on state charter school law.Oma Jean Copeland (District 2) pointed out that the law is constitutional until proven otherwise. “How can we in good conscience preempt the Supreme Court and the legislature?” She called for the board to vote against the resolution.
The normal course of action by most public bodies who find themselves unclear of public law, is ask for a legal opinion from the state attorney general. If he finds a defect in the law, he notifies the legislature and they usually cure the problem
For this board to impose these restrictions on charter schools creates a climate for confrontation and to be disruptive to the education of hundreds of children.
Lana Turner-Addison (District 3) voiced her concerns about the charter act but suggested that until the legislature or the courts act, their hands are tied. She called the resolution a renegade approach calling on the board to operate with in the current law.
Bobbie Gray (District 4) pointed out that the board has begged the legislature to act, and that passing the resolution would force the issue. She wanted to make it clear that the board supported the charter schools that we have and were proud of their progress. Her stance was that for the benefit of the entire state, the law needed to be changed; and that this would help make it happen.
Ruth Ann Fate (District 6), suggested that voting yes on the resolution gave TPS time to have the law fixed with out closing down any of the current schools.
Cathy Newsome (District 5) echoed some of Livingood’s comments about the law being unconstitutional and supported the resolution.
After all the discussion the resolution passed 4 to 3, Gary Percefull (District 1), Copeland, and Turner-Addison voted no.
I tend to disagree with the board’s decision last night. I think Oma Jean Copeland and Lana Turner-Addison were spot on. Perhaps the law is flawed but it is not for the TPS board to act outside of the Oklahoma Courts and Legislature.
I supposed I should have always been interested in what happens at TPS, but now that I have school age children it seems to hit home a lot more. I’ll continue to keep my eye on the goings on down there and share with you anytime I find out something interesting.
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