OKLAHOMA CITY — A Republican state lawmaker wants to block State Superintendent Ryan Walters from creating new agency rules that would allow the State Board of Education to downgrade schools’ accreditation status.
Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, introduced legislation last week that would bar the State Board of Education from implementing new accreditation rules unless given explicit authority to do so from the Oklahoma Legislature.
McBride said his House Bill 2569 is a direct response to two new administrative rules Walters formally proposed last week.
A spokesman for Walters did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
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Walters wants to ban what might be deemed obscene materials from school libraries and require schools to submit annually lists of all materials in their library collections.
He also introduced a rule that would allow parents to review and object to sexual education materials.
That proposed rule also would forbid school employees from encouraging a child to withhold information from the child’s parents. Schools would be required to disclose to parents any information known about their child’s health, social or psychological development, including gender identity information such as the pronouns a child uses at school and any gender transition from the student’s sex assigned at birth.
If approved, the State Board of Education would be able to downgrade the accreditation status of schools that are found to have violated the rules.
McBride said he doesn’t want Walters making administrative rules for the State Department of Education as a “knee-jerk reaction.”
Walters announced his proposed rule that would ban “pornographic materials” and “sexualized content” from school libraries after criticizing Oklahoma City Public Schools for what he said was a “grossly inappropriate” graphic novel that was briefly available to students. The district said the book had been removed from library collections by the time it caught Walters’ attention after a conservative social media account flagged it in an online library catalog.
On the campaign trail, Walters vowed to ban certain school library books in an effort to rid districts of “liberal indoctrination.”
Noting that the Oklahoma Legislature decides funding for the Department of Education and public schools, McBride said lawmakers should have some oversight of districts’ accreditation status.
“I think the superintendent needs to realize that the Department of Education in Oklahoma is a system and that the Legislature funds students,” McBride said.
When touting school choice, Walters often says the state should fund students, not systems.
“The Legislature, and not just the state superintendent and a board that has no common education experience, should have input on schools’ accreditation status,” McBride said.
McBride, the chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education, also proposed legislation that would change the composition of the State Board of Education to eliminate the governor’s near-monopoly on board appointments.
The Legislature already has the ability to approve or deny administrative rules proposed by state agencies, but it’s mostly a formality.
McBride’s bill would take things a step further by imposing a moratorium on accreditation rules at the Department of Education and directing the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability to prepare a report on all state laws and rules the Board of Education uses to determine accreditation standards and deficiencies.
HB 2569 will be heard in the House Common Education Committee on Tuesday.