Effort to ease public-school transfers advances

Legislation to ease the state’s open-transfer process for students wanting to attend another public-school district has gained committee approval.

The legislation was prompted, in part, by the refusal of several major school districts to provide parents with the option of full-time, in-person instruction.

“I would support this policy no matter what year, but I think we have seen with the pandemic that there’s some parents that are stuck,” said Rep. Brad Boles, a Marlow Republican who presented the bill in committee. “They are stuck in schools that don’t have in-person options. If you have a family that both parents work and they have nowhere to take their kid, but their school is not offering an in-person option, then that’s a very difficult, challenging situation. Do they quit their job? Do they have to find a daycare for their kids? That costs money. Do their kids stay at home by themselves—which I think, as a parent of an eight- and 10-year old, I would not feel comfortable with that. And so I think, at the end of the day, if schools are not going to offer in-person options, they should at least afford the ability for parents to transfer to a school that does.”

House Bill 2074, by House Speaker Charles McCall, provides for open transfer between public school districts year-round and removes some existing restrictions on those transfers.

Under the bill, a receiving district would be allowed to limit transfers based on a capacity number developed by the district and schools could also deny transfers if a student has been a discipline problem or chronically absent from his or her current school.

Each month, all public-school districts would be required to publicly post the number of transfers they can accept and report that information to the state.

If the number of transfer requests exceeds the number of spaces available, districts would be required to approve transfers through a public lottery process.

Under current law, both the sending and receiving school district must agree to a transfer request for it to be approved. Under HB 2074, the student’s current school district will no longer hold veto power. Supporters said that is an important reform.

“A child may want to leave a school district, and the receiving school district may even be willing to receive them, but the sending school can deny that transfer and literally hold a kid hostage just because of their zip code, and that’s a problem,” said Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow.

Although receiving school districts would still be allowed to reject transfer requests, parents could then appeal that decision to the State Board of Education.

In addition, under HB 2074, the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability will be required to randomly audit approved-and-denied transfers in 10 percent of school districts each year. If that audit demonstrates a district has inaccurately reported its capacity levels to rig the transfer process, then the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability would be in charge of setting capacity for the offending school district in future years.

Boles said HB 2074 will provide parents with more transparency.

“Basically, receiving schools currently have the ability to deny transfer, really, without cause,” Boles said. “They can just say they don’t have capacity. They can say whatever they want.”

Continue Reading…