'Public School Choice' Bill Wins State Senate Approval

Tuesday, March 2nd 2021, 6:18 pm
By: Storme Jones


A bill increasing parents' ability to transfer children to another public school outside their home district advanced out of the state Senate Tuesday.  

Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, calls his bill "public school choice." Unless a grade level is full, students would be able to transfer at any time of the year without permission from the school they're leaving. 

“This bill is about a policy that is outdated of arbitrary school district lines that determine a child's future,” he told his colleagues. 

Each district would set their own student cap and could be audited for under-admitting students. Kids could transfer up to two times a year. 

“You could literally live across the street and not get to go to a school that you know is better than the one that you’re trapped in because you live on the wrong side of the street,” Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, said. 

Democrats argue the bill doesn’t get to the root of underperforming schools. 

“If students are transferring out of their homeschool will that drain resources from those neighborhood schools to be able to provide adequate services to the students that still remain in that school?” Sen. Cari Hicks, D-OKC, asked. 

Pugh said it would not negatively affect funding, later adding, “If it’s about funding, how much money does it take? I am the chair of education (committee) and no one has given me a dollar amount. How much money does it take then?” 

If a receiving district denies the transfer request, parents could appeal to the State School Board. 

The state's largest teachers’ union took issue with that.

"Locally elected boards of education should determine these student-centered issues for their communities," Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said in a statement. 

“The results increase in both schools -the schools that are gaining transfers as well as those schools that are having kids transfer out, because it does identify maybe some things that need to change in the school districts and then it incentivizes them to work hard to keep those kids there,” Pugh said. 

“It does not increase competition at all,” Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, Said. “It does stigmatize those communities and it does deplete their property values.” 

The bill passed the Senate 32-15. A similar bill passed the House 77-22.