Claremore Daily Progress

March 20, 2013

Thomsen calls for unfunded mandate bill

Staff Reports
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — State Rep. Todd Thomsen today stressed the need for House Bill 1711 to be signed into law.

“Those arguing against House Bill 1711 say that legislators seeking to provide ‘local control’ to schools ‘could rob students’ of some unknown benefit,” said Thomsen, R-Ada. “What seems lost on those opposing this legislation is that our school districts have endured multiple years of reduced state and federal funding while at the same time being buried under a mountain of unfunded and underfunded mandates. There is no money left for innovation at the local level.”
Thomsen listed some of the more recently enacted unfunded and underfunded mandates: 
• New Teacher / Leader Evaluation System
• Mandatory Remediation for Elementary Students Struggling to Read at Grade Level
• Mandatory Remediation for High School Students Failing Graduation Exams
• Implementation of the National Common Core State Standards
• Grading Schools on an A-F Scale
“Each of the mandates listed above have a significant cost that the state has pushed onto school districts,” Thomsen said. “House Bill 1711 has turned the attention of the Legislature toward providing sufficient resources to ensure proper implementation of the important education reforms that have been enacted.”
Thomsen noted that in February, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was in Washington, D.C., as part of her duties as vice chair of the National Governors Association. 
The governor asked that President Obama and the Congress “relax those [federal] mandates [and] give us some leeway.” While in Washington, Fallin was quoted as saying, “Don’t balance the federal budget on the backs of state governments.”  
 “Organizations representing school boards, school administrators and teachers have come together to support House Bill 1711 using the same message that Governor Fallin used in Washington, D.C.,” Thomsen said. “The plea of these groups is that the time has come for our state to recognize that we cannot continue to push unfunded mandates on schools while at the same time balancing our state’s budget on the backs of school districts.
“I support Governor Fallin’s belief that our state should neither be used to balance the federal budget nor bear the price of unfunded federal mandates.  When it comes to our school districts here in Oklahoma, the State Legislature should provide that same leeway to locally elected school boards.
“Those closest to our children understand what is needed and what can be afforded at the local school district level. House Bill 1711 provides parents, elected school boards and locally employed educators the flexibility to free up funds and use them in a more meaningful way that ultimately leads to better education outcomes for the students of Oklahoma.”