A legislative committee Tuesday passed two bills that are intended to give public school districts more flexibility by removing many unfunded state mandates.
The measures are similar to a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2009, but vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.
House Bill 2131 would eliminate many of the state mandates that are not required of charter schools, said Rep. Jeff Hickman, the measure's author.
It would take five years for the measure to take full effect; 20 percent of the state's 521 school districts would be switched over each year, said Hickman, R-Fairview. The state Board of Education would randomly select different-size school districts.
The House of Representatives Common Education Committee voted 17-0 to pass HB 2131.
Hickman said it's unclear how the bill would affect collective bargaining for teachers. It's not his intent to prohibit it, he said.
“Right now the way this is written it appears that if a charter school is exempted from collective bargaining, then public schools would be exempt from that,” Hickman said. “It doesn't mean that they have to. It means it would be up to the local districts to decide if they wanted to do that or not.”
Many standards are kept in the bill, including the minimum salary schedule; participation in the teacher retirement system; use of the state health insurance plan; background checks; teacher evaluations; teacher certifications; payroll deductions; administrator certification and school board training; and graduation requirements.
Mandates that school districts would be allowed to ignore include class size limits, alternative education options, hiring of guidance counselors and public input on changes to school board policies.
The committee also approved HB 2087, which is similar to HB 2131 except that school districts would voluntarily seek to be exempted from certain mandates. The Board of Education would grant final approval.
HB 2087, which passed 12-5, and HB 2131 now go to the House Calendar Committee, which will decide whether they will be given a hearing on the House floor.