The full Senate has given its approval to the “Parent Empowerment Act.” Senate Bill 1001, authored by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, would enable parents to petition to make dramatic changes in their child’s underperforming school.
The bill was approved 30 to 12 on Wednesday. Holt said the bill was based on a “parent trigger” concept that has been enacted in at least seven other states.
Under the provisions of the bill, if a majority of parents in an underperforming school sign a petition, they may transition the school to a charter school or terminate the administrators.
The option to terminate administrators is only available in Oklahoma or Tulsa counties. An underperforming school is defined as a school that has received a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ for at least the last two years under Oklahoma’s new grading system, or a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ for two of the last three years, as long as the most recent grade was a ‘D’ or an ‘F’.
If the parents choose the charter school option, the charter school will first serve all students in the existing attendance boundaries of the school.
“If there is an underperforming school where the parents want to organize and affect positive change, I want us to empower that,” Holt said.
“I don’t want to make them wait another year to have that opportunity. Our children can’t wait. The Parent Empowerment Act is an important new tool for parents and students, and I commend the Senate for taking this important step forward in its passage.”
Holt said the goal of chartering an underperforming school under the Parent Empowerment Act would be to provide the flexibility needed to improve student performance at the school in a manner led jointly by motivated parents and school district leaders.
The process of creating a charter school outlined in the Parent Empowerment Act is designed to create a collaborative relationship between the parents and the school district, rather than an adversarial one.
“I have consistently been inspired by the parents in my district who have fought for a better education for their kids,” said Shumate. “Oftentimes, this has led them to stand up for more choices and more tools, and I have stood with them. The Parent Empowerment Act gives the parents in my district a new tool, and that’s a good thing for our kids.”
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SB 1001 now moves to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Jason Nelson is the primary House author.