Senate Committee Advances Bill To Limit Governor's Ability To Oust Education Board Members

Feb 2, 2021

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

One of the first bills passed out of a state legislative committee this session seeks to limit the governor’s power to remove members they appointed to the State Board of Education.

Senate Bill 157 by Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) would make it so education board members can be removed only for cause, including a felony conviction and malfeasance in relation to their duties.

"When there’s an appointment made, I’ve personally — and I know this whole body’s — invested heavily in vetting these appointments, and I think that when someone gets appointed by the governor and approved by this body, I think there needs to be cause for them to be removed before their term’s up," Dossett said.

Reasons for an education board member's removal also include being found mentally incompetent by a court or missing too many meetings without just cause. Dossett said his bill's reasons for removal match requirements for removal for the Statewide Virtual Charter School, where the governor gets one appointee.

"This is just specific to the school board. Two different types of school board, I’m getting parity between the way we do things with the appointed bodies for just the education realm. I’m not trying to argue one way or another for different, other agencies and the executive branch," Dossett said.

The bill advanced with the title off, indicating changes will be made.

Under current state law, education board members serve at the pleasure of the governor and are appointed for four-year terms when a new governor takes office. Board members at other agencies serve at-will, but the governor does not appoint all of them. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt removed one of his education board appointees, Kurt Bollenbach, in December without giving a specific reason. 

Bollenbach supported a statewide school mask requirement, voted to claw back $11 million from Epic Charter Schools, and voiced concerns the state offering scholarships for students with special needs or foster children to attend private Christian schools ran afoul of federal law because the schools didn’t meet nondiscrimination standards.