A controversial charter school bill will get its first vote Monday morning at the state Capitol.
Senate Bill 611 would allow charter school students to participate in extracurricular activities at their local district school.
SB 611 is just one of the bills addressing charter school policies this year, but this idea is dividing the top members of the Senate education committee.
As charter schools grow in popularity, both in-person and online, more and more children are giving up competitive sports, band and agriculture programs. Bill author Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, is the Senate education committee chair who hopes to allow those kids a chance to join their local district teams.
“Those students are located throughout the state, and so to really develop a team in a central location is challenging,” said Stanislawski.
He admitted the initial bill language is a work in progress.
“There’s more politics in a school than what there is at the state Capitol,” said bill opponent Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee.
Sharp is the Senate education committee vice chair who is also a former teacher and state championship tennis coach.
Sharp said he cannot support the bill for many reasons, including concerns about who would pay for it.
“You would have to provide coaches for those kids. You would have to provide uniforms,” he said.
“The parents that have that child in that charter school are paying property tax, not to the charter school. They’re paying property tax to the traditional school district, even though the student doesn’t attend there,” Stanislawski said.
Sharp is also concerned because online students do not spend the same amount of time in class as their local district counterparts, which he said is not fair.
“That’s what many of the rodeo kids do,” he said. “That’s what great tennis kids do. They can practice all day long, and then of course, do what homework and work they’re going to do in the evenings.”
Dale Public Schools superintendent Charles Dickinson agrees with Sharp, and adds that the culture of competition within traditional schools would likely reject outsiders.
“If you have sat down, reasoned this thing through and decided I don’t want to go to the brick and mortar school where I live,” he said. “I have no problem with that. That’s your choice as a parent and as a parent of a child. Then live with your choice.”
Stanislawski is still working with the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association to perfect the proposal in the coming months.
“I’m hopeful that before the session is over, we’ll have good language, it is accommodative to all parties and it’ll really meet the needs of the kids, because it’s really about the kids,” he said.
Seeworth Academy superintendent Janet Grigg said, "I believe it is the best for each young person to participate in extracurricular activities. For many of our students, their passion is playing sports. To deny them the opportunity to actively pursue that passion is not in their best interest. We are all about the students. Making sports and all extracurricular activities available to every student is the right thing to do.”
This bill does have emergency status, which would allow it to take effect in July if passed, allowing current juniors to participate in these activities during their senior year.