Oklahoma Restructuring Schools
Oklahoma has among the highest number of school districts per capita in the country -- 15 districts for every 100,000 people. School leaders face a major question of saving money versus preserving community values: Is consolidating schools worth it?
Oklahoma legislators and rural school officials have different views on consolidating schools and the impending effects it would have on students and budgets.
Oklahoma School data by County
Holli Griggs-Harjo's son, Taylor, is set to be transferred to Bowlegs Middle School to receive his special education classes. Griggs-Harjo is fighting the decision, saying she wants her twins to stay in the same school.
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Most and fewest school districts per county
- Seminole County school leaders eye consolidation carefully
- Seminole woman has school spirit long after graduation
- Former Sasakwa superintendent took on variety of roles
- New Lima school board president is third-generation graduate
- Wewoka superintendent has experienced large, small schools
- Mother pleads for special education consolidation in Seminole Public Schools
Key events in Oklahoma education
1891: The Oklahoma Territorial Legislature passes law requiring four nine-square-mile school districts per township. The goal is that students be within walking distance of school.
1907: Oklahoma becomes the 46th state on Nov. 16, with 5,656 school districts.
1918: The Oklahoma Education Association is formed.
1955: The state legislature and Gov. Raymond Gary promote consolidation through the “Better Schools Amendment,” which is passed by voters. It effectively closes many of the state's segregated schools.
1955-56: Oklahoma integrates 273 schools, mostly in urban areas.
1961: Alphonso Dowell, a black man, sues the Oklahoma City school district so his son could attend an all-white high school. A 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires Oklahoma City to bus students around the district.
1990: House Bill 1017, the Educational Reform Act, is signed into law by Gov. Henry Bellmon, creating the state Office of Accountability and Educational Oversight Board.
2006: The School Consolidation Assistance Fund is created. It is amended in 2009 to specify the use for voluntary and mandatory annexations or consolidations. The fund has about $6 million in July 2012.
2009: In March, state senators pass Senate Bill 834, also known as the School District Empowerment Program. Part of the program would have given local school district officials authority in how state funds were spent with a few exceptions. In May, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed SB 834, saying the bill would “essentially turn back the clock on much of that important progress and weaken landmark reforms by allowing school administrators to create their own rules and ignore more rigorous state standards...”
2010: Oklahomans defeat State Question 744, also known as the Helping Oklahoma Public Education Act. SQ 744 would have mandated that Oklahoma spend at least the regional average per student on common education.
June 2012: Gov. Mary Fallin tells the Oklahoma Press Association convention she will encourage public school districts to consolidate or share administrative services.
Sources: Oklahoma Education Association, Schoolreportcard.org, Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma Historical Society, School Annexation and Consolidation in Oklahoma: 2009, Oklahoma State Legislature, Ballotpedia.org
Oklahoma Education Resources
Superintendents talk consolidation
Seminole County school superintendents talk about consolidation. There are 10 school districts in the county. Three superintendents could not be reached.
“If we have consolidation, a lot of small towns in Oklahoma disappear. That's kind of the background of our community. We have real strong turnout. If you have a Friday night basketball game, we fill the stands. I'm not a fan because of our geographical locations. We're fairly spread out. Sasakwa is in the corner of the county, 14 miles from any other district in Seminole.”
— Kyle Wilson, Sasakwa
“You've got to find somebody who enjoys doing [different jobs] because in a small school, you can't afford to hire out all of those different jobs. You can't afford to have a substitute bus driver on call. We meet our requirements to keep our finances OK by doing some things and I guess maybe fortunately for this school, but fortunately for every small school, you find somebody who's interested in doing that.”
— Gil Turpin, New Lima
“This is an amazing community. I think that being predominantly a farming community, it appears that the parents and therefore the children have a great work ethic. I think that we need to give them every opportunity that they deserve so they can be successful.”
— Bobbette Hamilton, Butner