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Rep. Danny Williams: House passes education reform

By State Rep. Danny Williams

It’s been a busy first month at the Oklahoma House, and this week was no exception. Thursday, Feb. 25 was the deadline to pass bills out of their committee. This is an essential first step to having a bill heard on the House floor.

Multiple bills heard in committee this week were related to rural broadband, which is an issue I know many of my constituents in House District 28 are concerned about.

The first bill, House Bill 1123, allows a rural electric cooperative to use an easement it holds for electric services to also use it to supply high-speed internet service. The bill allows a broadband provider with a current pole attachment agreement with the electric cooperative to also use the cooperative’s above ground easement to provide high speed internet service.

A second bill, House Bill 1124, creates the State Broadband Deployment Grant Program. The program would include a competitive grant program to award funding to applicants seeking to expand access to broadband internet service and also creates a revolving fund for the grant program.

On the House floor, we voted on and ultimately approved two major bills related to education reform.

House Bill 2074 would allow Oklahoma students to transfer from one public school district to another at any time during the year. It would also allow receiving districts to determine capacity limits for each grade level at the schools in their district. However, a district could deny a transfer if a student has 10 or more unexcused absences in one semester, or if the student has violated discipline rules existing in state statute.

The second education bill passed this week was House Bill 2078, which would change the school funding formula to make money follow the student and curb the number of “ghost” students currently allowed in the system. The current problem with the funding formula is that students are counted twice if they start the year in one school and transfer to another.

Under HB 2078, school districts would use student counts from the immediate preceding year. It also would give districts greater flexibility in the amount of money they are allowed to carry forward from one fiscal year to the next. This allows districts to continue hiring teachers and staff to meet student needs, but cuts down on paying for students no longer on the rolls.

With our committee deadline behind us, we’ll spend the majority of our days during the next two weeks voting on dozens of bills on the House floor. To view bills that may soon be heard on the floor, visit www.okhouse.gov and click on “Floor Agenda” on the right side of the screen.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about legislation with me at (405) 557-7372 or danny.williams@okhouse.gov. Thank you for allowing me to represent you at the State Capitol!

Rep. Danny Williams, a Republican, represents House District 28 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Seminole County and northern Pottawatomie County.