Senate committee endorses open transfer

Members of the Senate have joined House lawmakers in advancing legislation that could potentially increase open transfer of students among Oklahoma public schools.

Senate Bill 783, by Sen. Adam Pugh, would allow for open transfer of students between public school districts throughout the year. Such transfers are currently limited to a short period, other than “emergency” transfers that are subject to greater restrictions.

Under current law, Pugh noted both the “sending” and “receiving” school can prevent a transfer in certain situations, “but if you notice in there, nowhere does the parent or the kid have the authority, and that’s really what this bill tries to solve.”

SB 783 allows local districts to set their capacity limits, and students can be denied a transfer for several reasons including absenteeism and discipline issues. School districts would have to publicly post capacity numbers on a quarterly basis, and districts would be required to report on the number of transfer requests received and the reason for any denial.

The legislation would allow parents to appeal any denial of a transfer to the local school board and, if denied again, to appeal that decision to the State Board of Education. The time frame for that process could extend over roughly two months.

One opponent objected to the appeal process.

“The state school board, I would rather them not overrule local school-board decisions in general,” said Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso.

But supporters said local boards’ focus may not align with what is best for a child.

Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, noted a local school board “is going to be protective of that school” and, since funding is ultimately tied to enrollment, “the tendency, I believe, is for them to try to limit these people being able to leave, as much as possible.”

“There are a lot of frustrated folks in our communities right now that don’t feel like their voices are being heard by local school boards, just to be blunt,” Pugh said. “And so we’re giving local school boards the ability to let parents have their voices heard, but if they feel they are not getting a fair hearing, then I think one appeal to the state board is appropriate.”

Continue Reading…