OKLAHOMA CITY -- A House committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that changes the power structure and responsibilities of the State Department of Education.
House Bill 2139 allows the state superintendent to establish divisions and positions within the department, and removes the state board as the governing board of the department. It also clarifies the administrative duties and powers of the superintendent.
The State Board of Education would remain in charge of supervising public instruction, overseeing curriculum and implementing education policies.
House Speaker Kris Steele authored the legislation after a contentious meeting in January between new Republican state Superintendent Janet Barresi and the education board. Republicans are looking to strip power from the board, which was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.
"According to the constitution, the State Board of Education is given the authority to supervise public instruction," said House Speaker Steele. "We're making sure those responsibilities remain intact and feel it's appropriate that the state superintendent manage the department. We now have a checks and balances in the system in which the superintendent and board will share in responsibilities."
The Oklahoma Senate approved a similar bill Monday. Democrats have called the legislation a "knee-jerk" reaction to the January meeting.