OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill to require the same level of transparency from virtual charter schools as other public schools passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives today.
House Bill 1395 amends language in the Oklahoma Charter Schools
Act of 2012 to hold virtual charter schools subject to the same financial
reporting requirements and audits as traditional school districts. The
legislation is authored by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa.
Dills said the legislation was brought about by the growing call to address the inconsistency in transparency between virtual charter schools and other public schools.
“This bill essentially holds virtual charter schools to the same reporting and accountability standards as public schools,” Dills said. “We need to have the same transparency requirements of all schools receiving taxpayer dollars, regardless of what type of school they are.”
HB1395 also outlines requirements for governing bodies of virtual charter schools by adding continuing education and a conflict of interest clause. These are the same conditions for traditional public school board members.
“All virtual charter schools in Oklahoma have for-profit management companies that handle the administration of their schools,” Dills said. “Right now we don’t have real clarity of the expenditures of that managing company, which is one of the areas of transparency this bill focuses on.”
Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, praised Dills’ efforts during questioning on the House floor, saying the Legislature has been trying to address this issue for several years.
“As a freshman member, you brought forth a significant piece of legislation, worked everything out, and would you believe that I am very, very, very impressed?” Echols said during discussion. “And I hope this body understands what a big deal this bill is that we’ve been able to do something we’ve been trying to get done for a long time.”
HB1395 passed Wednesday with a 95-0 vote and wide bipartisan support. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.