Legislative leaders approve important interim studies, including education policy questions
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Published: 13-Jul-2011

Legislative have leaders approved a diverse list of Interim Studies recently and a significant number of those are focused on education.
 
Many approved by Speaker Kris Steele for the House of Representatives are tilted heavily in the direction of K-12 schooling; the two in the Senate, approved by President Pro Temp Brian Bingman, will touch on Higher Education themes.
 
In this story, the numeric designation of the approved study is listed in parentheses.
 
State Rep. Harold Wright of Weatherford will examine the issues of "ad valorem tax reimbursement and manufacturers tax credit" (11-039). The study will advance under House Appropriations & Budget, Education Subcommittee.
 
A possibly important study, under the same subcommittee, is the look, led by Rep. David Brumbaugh of Broken Arrow, at "dollars to classroom" (11-059).
 
State Rep. Gus Blackwell of Lavern, is leading a study of “home school students involvement in public school activities" (11-073), assigned to the Common Education Committee.
 
All of the following studies in the House of Representatives are also assigned to the Common Education Committee.
 
State Rep. Dennis Johnson of Duncan will lead a study of the "age of children entering kindergarten. This (11-058) echoes the passionate advocacy Johnson devoted to the issue in advancing House Bill 1465, a measure that died in the last hours of the 2011 legislative session. Johnson’s proposal would have moved back the cut-off date for children entering kindergarten from September 1 to July 1.
 
A leading education reformer, state Rep. Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City, will guide the study "deregulation of local school districts" (11-078).
 
Leading a look at "education reform best practices" (11-097) is state Rep. Ann Coody of Lawton, chairman of the Common Education panel.
 
State Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City will be in charge of two studies. One (11-048) will focus on “common core standards.” A second Kern-led study (11-068) will examine “low performing school districts as well as the role of the superintendent as it relates to budget and student performance.”
 
Each of the legislators leading the foregoing interim studies is a Republican and a member of the majority caucus.
 
State Rep. Will Fourkiller, a Democrat from Stilwell, will guide the study (11-121) to  "review status of health and fitness initiatives in OK schools as well as efforts in other states to promote K-12 student wellness.”
 
In the realm of Higher Education policy, Rep. Todd Thomsen of Ada will lead a study (11-093) on "teaching requirements for Higher Education faculty." Rep. Pat Ownbey of Ardmore will guide the study (11-072) on the future of the Higher Ed Center in his hometown.
 
Interim Study 11-019 is characterized as a "review of statutory exemptions granted to Oklahoma Higher Education entities." The two members who requested the study are Reps. Jason Murphey of Guthrie and Corey Holland of Marlow. It is assigned to the Higher Education Committee.
 
On the Senate side, 11-02 was granted to Senators Brian Crain, a Republican, and Judy Eason McIntyre, a Democrat. Both are from Tulsa.
 
Their study subject is "Future of OSU-Tulsa and Langston-Tulsa. Gain understanding of how each intends to meet its goals, possibility of how litigation impacts their goals, and how the legislature can be involved to improve upon their success. It is assigned to Senate Education Committee.
 
Also in the Senate, a study (11-23) was approved for Senators John Ford of Bartlesville and Jim Halligan of Stillwater. Their object is to look at the "efficiency and effectiveness of higher education in Oklahoma. Specifically review all sources of funding (including appropriated dollars), graduation rates, economic impact and overall goals of higher education." It is assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
 
A total of 80 studies will be conducted for the House this year. Speaker Steele, a Shawnee Republican, unveiled new recordkeeping procedures for “interims,” as the projects are sometimes deemed.
 
Steele did not say yes to all requests, having received 126 in all. This year’s study reports will be publicly posted.
 
Steele said, “The interim study process afford legislators time for in-depth exploration needed to develop positive public policies. I fully expect some of the best work the Legislature does next year to be born out of the interim study process we are beginning this year.”
 
According to House staff, “once an interim study is complete, a summary report of its work and recommendations will be posted on the House website and archived for future reference. All documents and presentations used during interim study committee hearings will also be posted on the House website and archived. In addition, audio of interim study committee hearings will be streamed live on the House website and remain posted to the House website for future review.”
 
In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Steele said, “These changes are part of the House’s ongoing commitment to transparency and increasing the public’s access to the work done by their government. This small change should produce big results in disseminating useful research, fostering fact-based decisions and retaining institutional knowledge.”
 
For the House, interim study hearings will begin August 2 and be held at the call of the committee chairman where studies are assigned. Notices will be posted under existing House guidelines.  A comprehensive list of approved House interim studies is available here.
 
In unveiling his list of 29 approved studies, President Pro Tem Bingman complimented colleagues for their willingness to look at “some of Oklahoma’s most critical issues.”
 
For the Senate, all study requests were granted, Bingman said, although one focused on water policy was consolidated into a joint effort between the two chambers of the Legislature.
 
The full list of Senate studies is here

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