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‘Local control’ in education



The same could be said about use of the term “local control” in relation to education policy. An appeal to “local control” is thrown around at the state Capitol nearly every time education legislation is proposed.

Over the last few years, I have worked with other legislators to improve our state’s anti-bullying statute. But efforts to establish stronger statewide standards for addressing bullying in schools have met stiff resistance in the name of “local control.”

During the last Legislature, a bill passed that eliminated the right to a second brand-new trial for teachers terminated by a local
school district. Ironically, many of the same people who vigorously
opposed this initiative also preach “local control.” If local school
leaders are competent to hire a teacher and put him or her in the
classroom with hundreds of students, then why are they considered too
incompetent to fire the same teacher?

If some are worried about the negative effects of “local control” on highly trained and qualified educators, should we be more concerned about children in the same environment? If a good teacher who belongs to a union or professional association should be worried about the capricious whims of “local control,” how much more should parents be concerned about their child falling through the cracks?

The state has certainly crossed into micromanagement of local school districts at times. For three years, I have worked to promote commonsense legislation to allow more discretion at the local school level.

It is reasonable that local school districts should have the discretion necessary to deal with circumstances unique to their students and location. When taxpayers each year spend more than $5 billion on public schools in Oklahoma, it is also expected that the results of that investment be regularly and thoroughly measured.

Just like state building and construction regulations don’t dictate the architectural style of every building erected, state rules and regulations on our public education system should leave room for local control within those guidelines.

I support giving more local control over classrooms to school boards and administrators while the state measures the results of the taxpayers’ investment.

But local control of students should rest with parents, not with schools. That is why I support empowering parents through laws such as the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act and proposals like the Parent Empowerment Act.

Some keep using the term “local control.” My response: I do not think it means what they think it means.

Nelson, an Oklahoma City Republican, represents District 87 in the state House of Representatives.

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