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Challenge heard to Oklahoma virtual charter school law

State Supreme Court referee hears arguments that the measure should be struck down because it violates a constitutional prohibition on placing multiple subjects into a single bill. An attorney for the state says the measure is legal because both fall under the same subject of education.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: December 5, 2012

“That borders upon some kind of a fraud or misrepresentation of what the law is,” Fent said. “When they flagrantly omit a part of the constitution in order to win their case is what I'm concerned with.”

The Supreme Court in recent years has struck down several laws because they contained multiple subjects, a practice known as “logrolling.”

Fent said it is not too late to stop the measure because the state constitution requires money be allocated to state departments on a monthly basis. The measure, which took effect July 1, remains active through June 30, the end of this fiscal year.

During this year's session, an amendment was added to SB 1816 in the final hours of the session. The amendment requires the Education Department to spend $30 million on textbooks for public school districts.

Lawmakers had to scramble find a way to appropriate money to pay for textbooks for public schools.

The $6.8 billion state budget that legislators approved the final week of the session was said to contain $33 million for textbooks for public schools, but several legislators were disappointed to hear that state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi told Board of Education members on the second-to-last day of the session that she planned to use $11.5 million of the $33 million allocated for textbooks for other purposes.

The state House on the last day of the session passed SB 1816, which included language requiring the Education Department, which received a $2.3 billion allocation from legislators, to spend $30 million on textbooks for public school districts. Some members were uneasy voting for the measure because the bill also authorized a statewide virtual charter school, a measure that barely passed earlier when it received the minimum 51 votes needed for passage. With the textbook funding amendment, the bill passed 84-10.


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