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School board voices opposition to charter school bill

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Calling it a “Trojan Horse” bill, the Oklahoma City Public Schools board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution rebuking legislation that would give city hall the power to sponsor its own charter school.

Senate Bill 68, authored by Sen. David Holt, R-Okla. City, sought to add Oklahoma City and Tulsa to the list of organizations that could sponsor a charter school. Holt requested that the bill be held back after not enough votes were confirmed in the House, but the language was later added as an amendment to HB 1696, another charter school bill.

Members of the school board have lobbied against the bill over the past few months and Phil Horning asked that a resolution be passed during Monday’s meeting offering a unified sign of opposition.

“It just seems to me that it might be a good tactic,” Horning said. “We can be sure all of the House members understand where we stand on it.”

Board member Bob Hammack accused Holt of trying to give city hall more power in preparation for a future mayoral run. Holt, who is a former chief of staff for Mayor Mick Cornett, said he was disappointed by Hammack’s comments.

“That comment is beneath the dignity of his office and is certainly beneath him,” Holt told Oklahoma Gazette following Tuesday’s meeting.

On the board’s resolution against his bill, Holt said he was not surprised.

“That’s not surprising but it is disappointing,” Holt said. “The young families of Oklahoma City want more than is currently being offered and I hope in the long run they get that message and understand that the status quo is not defensible.”

Holt has said his bill is not a request from city leaders, but an attempt to give the city more control in improving education, especially in urban communities going through revitalization. City councilman John Pettis has spoken in favor of the bill, while other council members have said they do not see the need.

The school board said the bill, if passed, would put city hall and the school district at odds with each other.

Holt’s language was offered as a Senate amendment to HB 1696, which is a common legislative practice. The bill is not currently scheduled for a floor vote, but could be heard at any point during the remainder of the legislative session.

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