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Why did education panel restrict public comments?

About a dozen people were told they could not speak during the state Board of Education meeting because their comments were not relevant
Modified: June 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm •  Published: June 28, 2013

About a dozen people were told they could not speak during the state Board of Education meeting Thursday because their comments were not relevant.

Some of the comments were related to Common Core and 2013 state test scores.

They were turned away because of the board policy that governs public commenting during meetings, said Sherry Fair, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department.

“The policy is that public comment is for agenda items,” Fair said. “The first public comment period is for actionable items. The second public comment period is for nonactionable items.”

Limiting comments to agenda items is legal, according to the state attorney general.

The goal is to run an “orderly, productive meeting,” an agency spokeswoman said.

However, the board has heard from off-topic speakers in the past. For example, Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, addressed the board last summer about school district funding. He did not stay for the entire July meeting and was allowed to come back in August. Fair said those were “extenuating circumstances.”

Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said getting skipped over was frustrating. She said her topic — state test scores — was related to two agenda items, though state staffers told her she will have to wait.

“They told us we can speak next month, but we have some matters that — if they had listened to us — have some more urgency,” Hampton said. “It kind of felt like we were denied based on the issue, and they didn't know what our comments were.”



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