OKLAHOMA CITY – In a continuing effort to provide more transparency and accountability of the attendance, enrollment, transfer and instruction practices of Oklahoma’s virtual charter schools State Rep. Sheila Dills (R-Tulsa) has filed House Bill 2905, which is scheduled to be heard next week in the House Common Education Committee.
HB 2905, the Virtual Charter School Transparency and Reform Act of 2020, addresses and unifies transfer, attendance, student engagement and truancy policies. It also directs the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to promulgate rules for orientation information to be provided to students and parents.
The language of the bill is being finalized but should be fully available online before the committee meeting at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25.
“This measure makes sure all of our public virtual schools are serving students in a way that protects them, ensures parental flexibility and assists with better outcomes,” Dills said. “We realize there’s a place for virtual charter schools in our society, and they serve a need for students and their families. We do, however, want to make sure that their policies are transparent to the public, particularly in how they receive and spend taxpayer dollars for the students they serve.”
Dills said she and many education stakeholders have been through a lengthy and deliberative process, including the two largest virtual charter schools in Oklahoma, the state superintendent of public instruction, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. She said all are supportive of the legislation.
“This has been a beautiful, collaborative process that started last summer and in my opinion is an example of the way government should work,” Dills said. “Everyone came to the table with ideas to improve the virtual charter school law and have been very cooperative. And, I believe this will be better policy for our traditional brick-and-mortar schools as well.”
Dills said the bill addresses attendance and student engagement policies for the virtual charter schools by defining the first date of attendance and membership and defining and changing the number of instructional activities required for each student.
The measure also adds an orientation piece that will be provided to each family before a student begins instruction. This orientation information will help a student and their parent or guardian understand the type of education in which they are enrolling. The bill also addresses student transfer policies. Dills said if this bill passes, the State Department of Education will implement new technology to accommodate the transfer language in the bill. While this will take some time to implement, it lays the foundation for more uniform reporting of student mobility, ensuring school districts know where students are receiving educational instruction.
Dills said HB 2905 is an extension of House Bill 1395, which was signed into law by the governor last May. That bill subjects Oklahoma’s public virtual charter schools to the same financial reporting requirements, financial audits, audit procedures and audit requirements as traditional public school districts. The bill also put virtual charters and brick and mortar charters under the same statutory teacher contract requirements as traditional public schools.