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'We need some Jesus': Lawmaker sidelines school accreditation bill after Republican pushback


The Oklahoma Senate Education Committee was scheduled to hear a bill that would have removed authority over school district accreditation decisions from the State Board of Education. But at the end of the committee meeting Tuesday, the bill’s author and chair of the committee sidelined it.

Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) authored Senate Bill 520, which would have moved the authority to adopt accreditation standards for public schools, evaluate schools to determine if they meet the standards and promulgate rules for implementation of the standards to the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters has leveraged the threat of lowering district accreditation statuses to enforce certain standards at Tulsa Public Schools and is a proponent of tying accreditation to things like test scores and district compliance with other new initiatives.

Alluding to division in his party, Pugh addressed criticism about his conservative bona fides and admonished “nasty” comments from colleagues he’d received about the legislation.

“I just wanted to remind the committee that we’ve done a lot of good conservative things, but unfortunately, I’ve been called a lot of non-conservative things just because I have a piece of legislation that thinks there’s maybe a better way for us to govern,” Pugh said. “I’m very concerned with how we treat each other and the way we talk to each other and the rhetoric in this building.

“We’re broken. The state’s broken. We need some Jesus,” Pugh said. “I think if Jesus were here today, where would he go? I highly doubt he’d come to this building.”

Pugh reiterated the case for his bill, but before actually reading it, he said he would acknowledge the feedback he’s received.

“Ronald Reagan once said in his first debate, sir, when presented with the facts, I reserve the right to change my mind. So, committee members, I will stay over Senate Bill 520, and we’re adjourned,” Pugh said.

Unless lawmakers make extraordinary moves to resurrect it, the bill is most likely defunct for this session.

Beth Wallis holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from Tulsa, she also graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in conducting performance. She was a band director at a public school for five years.