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Oklahoma Senate approves bill to shake up Board of Education

Senate Bill 435, which would replace the Oklahoma Board of Education's six appointed members with the governor, attorney general and secretary of state, passed on a party-line vote Monday. It now goes to the Oklahoma House.
BY JOHN ESTUS Published: February 22, 2011

The Republican effort to strip power from the current state Board of Education continued Monday with Senate approval of a bill to replace the board's members with statewide officials.

Senate Bill 435 passed on a party-line vote, 32-15, in the full Senate's first substantive action of the legislative session.

The bill would replace the board's six appointed members with the governor, attorney general and secretary of state. The state schools superintendent would remain the chairman of the board.

Currently, those positions are all held by Republicans.

The six members now serving on the board of education all were appointed by former Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

“We need to make sure that whoever is in charge is one who is accountable to the citizens of Oklahoma,” said Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, who co-authored the bill with Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner.

Since 1971, the board has been made up of the governor's appointees. Before that, it was made up as proposed in SB 435.

The bill now goes to the House, which also is heavily Republican.

Democrats have dubbed the bill an overreaction that punishes the board for lashing out against new Superintendent Janet Barresi, a Republican.

During their first meeting with Barresi last month, board members refused to hire employees Barresi had selected, made an employee cry by commenting on her pregnancy and warned Barresi she had not been elected “dictator.”

Democrats on Monday questioned why Republicans did not unveil plans to shake up the board until after last month's board meeting, which occurred after most bills had been made public.

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