The Duncan Banner

March 28, 2014

Legislative goals crucial to priorities in education

Sherry Labyer
Duncan Schools Superintendent

DUNCAN — I am a member of several professional organizations where I attend regular meetings, network with colleagues, and stay abreast and informed on education best practices.  The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, better known as CCOSA, is a nonprofit organization that establishes close and continuous communication and cooperation between educators, taxpayers, and legislators to improve the effectiveness of professional school administrators and to communicate the needs of schools. Attendance this time of year is especially critical because legislators are in session.

CCOSA works cooperatively to set legislative goals that help us stay focused and engaged in the legislative process. Here are our  legislative goals:

* Restore per pupil funding to pre-recession levels, putting an end to the moratorium on accreditation standards and allowing for successful implementation of other state mandated initiatives.  

* Recruit and retain high quality teachers by ensuring educators have a defined benefit at retirement and increasing teacher pay to outpace states in our region.

* Support efforts that result in pension debt remaining an obligation of the State of Oklahoma.

* Support efforts to stop the Legislature’s continual erosion of local tax revenues that support schools.  

* Seek an accountability system that is statistically sound; It must be relevant to students, parents, and educators and fully represent the complexity of educating all students.

* Support uniform application of accountability measures and standards to any Oklahoma school receiving financial support from state revenues.

* Endorse effective, efficient, and relevant student testing that aligns the exit standards of common education with the entrance standards of higher education and the work force.  Student assessments must provide modified opportunities for students on individualized education plans (IEP).

* Improve student achievement by making proper use of assessments designed to accurately measure student growth.  Educators seek to require the Oklahoma State Department of Education to return student assessment data to districts no later than Aug. 1 each school year.  

* Support efforts which allow local boards of education to issue the final decision in all matters of high stakes decisions, including but not limited to third grade retention, graduation requirements, and employment matters.

* Change to state certification requirements that will maintain high standards for teachers, while enabling additional qualified persons to fill vacancies in general and special education classes.  

* Amend the current A-F accountability system to provide an exception to the cohort four-year high school graduation penalty when a student’s IEP team determines it necessary to extend the student’s graduation date as well as to eliminate penalties anticipated as the result of the State Department of Education’s elimination of the Oklahoma Modified Assessment Program (OMAAP).  

* Seek legislation to establish a university-affiliated research and treatment facility with day school and residential options designed for students with autism spectrum disorders that, due to significant self-injurious and/or physically aggressive behaviors, need placement outside of the local school district, and including a training component for university students, school personnel and parents.  

* Support a requirement for four units of mathematics at the high school level with the fourth unit of math being designed locally to meet the needs of each student.  

My colleagues and I attend a monthly legislative briefing on the progress of our goals and  legislation.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call me.