House Bill 3393, which was signed into law this year, provides scholarships for special-needs students to attend private schools. During floor debate on May 21, state Rep. Fred Jordan (R-Jenks) argued against the bill, voicing concerns about constitutionality, legal liability for school districts, and the financial effects on public schools. You may view the entire debate here.
In the end, Rep. Jordan urged his colleagues to vote no on the measure, but "not because I don't believe in the idea and the program." Indeed, Rep. Jordan said, "I believe this is an idea we should pursue" because it's "probably a very good idea if it's done properly." To that end, Rep. Jordan recommended that his colleagues consider a similar scholarship program in Florida, which he said is "the model program." Rep. Jordan said Oklahoma needs to "do this thing right" -- specifically, we need to centralize scholarship-granting in the state Department of Education rather than requiring each of Oklahoma's 500-plus school districts to deal with it.
As it turns out, Rep. Jordan was prescient. Now that a handful of local school districts, including Jenks, are choosing not to comply with the law, I agree with Rep. Jordan that "we've got to look at centralizing this thing in one location." Here's hoping someone will introduce legislation to that effect in 2011.