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Oklahoma Senate Passes Its School Open Transfer Bill

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The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed its version of school open transfer legislation, identical to what the House passed last week.

Senate Bill 783 allows students up to two transfers per year outside of the district they live in, though district boards of education can deny their application for disciplinary problems or attendance issues. The legislation requires regular reports on denied transfers.

Sen. Mary Boren (D-Norman) said the transparency provisions are good, but the bill overpromises on its potential for improving the transfer process.

"For all intents and purposes, Oklahoma — except for the transparency part, which we needed to correct — is substantially open transfer. … it’s a range from about 20,000 to 30,000 transfers are granted, open and emergency. And the denials are about 3,000 a year," Boren said.

Supporters of the policy say kids shouldn’t be stuck in a school because of where they live. Some opponents of the bill have said the state just needs to do a better job funding schools overall. That didn’t sit well with the bill’s author, Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond).

"I’m the chair of education, and no one’s given me a dollar amount. How much money does it take, then? No one will answer that question," Pugh said.

Like in the House, all Senate Democrats voted against the bill. Also like in the House, several Republicans joined them. Six Republican senators voted against SB783.

"This will cause administrative costs to go up, and superintendents and schools are all the more happy to add to those administrative costs and keep stacking them on," said Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant).

Most Republicans voting against the open transfer bills represent rural areas.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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