October 1, 2014

Study examines impact of high-stakes testing
Special education professionals are asking lawmakers to remove high-stakes testing for severely disabled students in Oklahoma public schools. Educators voiced their concern Wednesday during an interim study before the House Common Education Committee Interim study H14-070, requested by Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, looked to evaluate the impact of high-stakes testing for students with learning disabilities and the impact on Oklahoma public schools. Carrie Schlehuber, a special education teacher to severely and profoundly disabled students in the Sand Springs Public School district, told lawmakers the testing requirements for this student population is “ridiculous” and the focus should be on improving the quality of life of the student. bk

October 1, 2014

House committee hears about testing difficulties i
Lawmakers heard about Oklahoma’s struggles with testing vendors and the future of testing in Oklahoma during an interim study Wednesday. Interim study H14-049, requested by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, was combined with H14-064, requested by Rep. Ralph Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow. Both studies dealt with the implications of the state’s withdrawal from Common Core standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. “We have had huge testing problems in third to 12th grade mostly with online testing over the last few years,” Brumbaugh said. Oklahoma’s testing has been bogged down with capacity and bandwidth issues as well as numerous errors from testing vendors. bk

October 1, 2014

Lawmakers search for ‘optimal tax policy’
Reps. Mark McCullough and Earl Sears had one goal Wednesday during a hearing on their joint interim study: Begin the search for the optimal tax policy. McCullough, R-Sallisaw, said each year of his legislative proposals to reduce the individual income tax or create or extend new tax credits were introduced but there was no real talk of tax policy. “I want to know what it would look like to have an optimal tax policy that ensures the economy is running on all eight (cylinders) and still have sufficient revenue for essential state services,” McCullough said during the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Revenue, Taxation and Employee Compensation hearing of Interim Study 14H-042, requested by McCullough and Sears and 14H-066, requested by Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada. bk

October 1, 2014

Groups request additional training in reading
Groups request additional training in reading techniques for prospective teachers Representatives of a nonprofit organization asked legislators Wednesday to consider requiring higher education teacher preparation programs to train teachers in recognizing symptoms of dyslexia. Carrie Brown, executive director of the Payne Education Center, told members of the House Common Education committee during an interim study, that dyslexia affects nearly 20 percent of children and adults in society resulting in children struggling to read, write, and spell with fluency. Brown said nearly 80 percent of Oklahoma students on an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) have a reading learning disability like dyslexia. The Payne Education Center is an Oklahoma City based nonprofit resource center that trains teachers to prevent reading difficulties in children and to remediate dyslexia. bk

October 1, 2014

Subcommittee hears different views of wind industr
Proponents of the wind industry and the tax credits it utilizes squared off Wednesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Revenue, Taxation and Employee Compensation. On one side, proponents like Wind Coalition Executive Director Jeff Clark said the tax credits help bring the industry to parts of the state that had struggled with economic development. “Few programs have been as successful as the wind (tax credits) at attracting economic development to rural areas,” he said. But opponent Tammy Huffstutlar blamed nearby wind turbines for a decline in value of her home and the farmland on which it sits, as well as some of her husband’s health problems. Oklahoma Property Rights Association representative Rick Mosier also argued the state could not afford the tax credits it is giving the industry. The comments came during the subcommittee’s hearing on Interim Study 14H-057, regarding the wind industry in Oklahoma, including, but not limited to the zero emissions facilities tax credits. Reps. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore; David Dank, R-Oklahoma City; David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow; and Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, jointly requested the study. bk

October 1, 2014

Lawmakers hear presentations on state education
Members of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education heard from education experts on the conditions of state appropriations in common education and the impact teacher shortages and student growth have in education. Tuesday’s interim study was a daylong consolidation of two studies requested by Reps. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs; Donnie Condit, D-McAlester; Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville; Dustin Roberts, R-Durant; and Dan Fisher, R-El Reno. Lawmakers reached a budget agreement this year that added around $80 million dollars to the Oklahoma State Department of Education-a figure that fell short from the department’s ask of around $175 million from the previous fiscal year. bk