(Rep. Ed Cannady is the state representative for District 15)
Well, that was an overly ambitious point of view. The fact is that we did nothing of substance during the week of March 19 through 22. In fact we closed down on the 22nd or Thursday. We should have closed down all week long and saved the state an estimated $90,000 in legislative per diem costs plus travel.
Wow! That could have been used as a talking point for the Republican leadership as their effort in “shrinking government.” On the other hand they would not have received their per diem dollars and that is not how they want to shrink government.
In summary we started the year with 962 bills and 26 joint resolutions filed in the Oklahoma House of Representative. At this time just 321 House Bills and Joint Resolutions remain active. We now start the cycle of review of Senate bills which total just 317 bills and joint resolutions.
Right now there are only 10 weeks of session remaining. It is my prediction that the most controversial issue during this time will involve the reduction and/or elimination of the state income tax while doing away with the tax exemptions for those over 65 receiving Social Security, Teacher Retirement and numerous other middle to lower income tax exemption credits.
In addition we will see the replacing of state income tax revenue with an increase in state sales taxes or depending on more diverse use of property taxes and increase in both. We will either implement these forms of increased revenue or reduce state services and infrastructure maintenance.
The next 10 months will be critical and will require your vigilance and involvement through communication with your state government.
On another topic that will require our continued focus is the changes in our state education policies. This is currently in the form of the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE) and State Superintendent’s rule making procedure.
We find that they have taken legislation that has been passed for a specific purpose of providing school district patrons an A to F letter grade for each of its district’s sites. This was done for the purpose of simplification from the 1500 potential score on the Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress.
Instead the rule making procedures appear to be attempting to manipulate it into a form that allows the OSBE and its Superintendent to remove local control from our local boards and administrators by using it to give a school site a classification that allows state oversight involvement in schools that become classified as “Targeted Intervention” or “Focus” school sites.
A recent e-mail from the Oklahoma School Board Association which has traditionally been “in synch” with the OSBE and Superintendent is cautioning its members that “the complexity of the formula to earn the grade does not provide any parent with an understanding of what services are being provided to their child by the public school system.” In other words, we again find that the OSBE and its Superintendent refuse to follow the intent of legislative statutes.
There is another irony that we have experienced in the area of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This is the recent investigation by State Auditor and Inspector, Gary Jones, of the financial activities of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sandy Garrett.
He described her activities as having “expended funds from an unofficial and unauthorized bank account for questionable items and purchases related to an OSDE sponsored Conference with no official oversight while also avoiding public scrutiny.”
This came to be referred to as a “secret slush fund.” The irony comes to play when this same State Auditor is made aware of a comparable financial procedure by the current Superintendent, Janet Barresi. There has been a request for him to take action on the current “secret slush fund” but to this point the Auditor’s Party loyalty seems to take precedence over a focus on investigatory equity.
Several of us in the legislature have been working to address the negative impact of the State Department of Education’s graduation requirements that could have more than 1,000 of current high school seniors not being allowed to graduate based on mandated testing.
There is an effort to require the OSBE to formulate an appeal procedure to address this. I mention this again due to the fact that for several years we have been told that we should follow Florida’s educational programs and their former Gov. Jeb Bush has been here frequently to lecture us on their great successes.
Well, here is the breaking news from our role model, Florida! It is estimated that at this time over 6,000 of their seniors will not be qualified to graduate. Maybe it is time for Oklahoma to look for another educational role model.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at [email protected] , home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7685 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday