Oklahoma school enrollment practices hot topic in gubernatorial race

(Jhe Center Square) – Oklahoma has some of the best open enrollment practices nationwide, according to a report released Thursday.

Reason Foundation, which conducts nonpartisan public policy research, found Oklahoma was one of five states to implement four of five best practices allowing students to transfer to public schools outside of the boundaries. of their school district or zone.

School choice has become a major issue in the race for state governor.

Republican incumbent Kevin Stitt faces challenges from Joy Hofmeister, who is running as a Democrat after previously being registered as a Republican candidate, and independent candidate Ervin Yen. Both are critical of Stitt’s approach to education. Libertarian candidate Natalie Bruno is also in the running.

Stitt put his weight behind Senate Bill 1647, which allegedly created the Oklahoma Empowerment Act. The law would have allowed eligible public school students to use state dollars for other educational opportunities like private school or homeschooling.

Stitt said the purpose of the bill was to fund students, not systems.

“It ensures that the money follows the student, and it would make us a national leader in school choice,” Stitt said during his State of the State Address earlier this year.

The bill failed in the state Senate in March. The governor has been open about his disappointment, saying every child deserves to go to the school that’s right for them, regardless of their zip code.

“It is deeply concerning that so many people voted to deny parents and students choice and keep them trapped in a system that has failed many Oklahoma children and left our state 49th in the nation in education. ‘education,” Stitt said at the time.

Hofmeister, who currently serves as Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, called the bill a “voucher system.”

“This measure would have effectively destroyed Oklahoma’s public schools and I’m grateful that parents and communities were heard loud and clear,” Hofmeister tweeted after the bill failed to pass the Senate. . “Oklahomians want strong neighborhood schools in urban areas and in small towns across the state. We need to focus on increasing support for all public school students and urgently resolve the shortage of teachers.

Hofmeister said she supports equitable access to public education, home broadband for all students, early engagement with parents from birth through preschool, and the creation of a parent advisory council. governor would help put parents in charge of their children’s education.

Yen said he supports big pay raises for teachers and a “fair distribution of education funding,” Yen wrote on his campaign website, saying the law would have killed public education in rural communities.

“I’m not opposed to alternative forms of education – I just believe we need to fix public education first (because it has failed our children for countless years),” Yen wrote on his website. the country. “Once this is complete, then we can discuss funding other forms of education.”

Meanwhile, Libertarian candidate Natalie Bruno wants to eliminate the state board of education, which she says would save more than $16 million and return control to school districts, teachers, and teachers. parents.

“Unfortunately, since the creation of the United States Department of Education in 1979, public spending on education has increased, while the quality of education has declined,” Bruno wrote on his campaign site. “For every eleven cents the federal government gives our schools in funding, it costs Oklahomans fifteen cents to comply with all the bureaucracy that comes with it. Our state is actually losing money by accepting funds from the federal government.

Jessica C. Bell