Questions For OSDE Remain After Committee Meets To Discuss Rule Changes

Questions For OSDE Remain After Committee Meets To Discuss Rule Changes

The state Senate Administrative Rules Committee met Monday morning to discuss more than a dozen administrative rule changes that have been requested by state agencies. Most of the rules being questioned were coming from the State Department of Education. 

Senators didn’t take any action on the rules today, they just had discussions and the chance to ask questions to representatives with the state agencies. But many lawmakers say they left this meeting with the same questions they had going in. 

“Obviously this has been the State Department of Education show,” said Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R-Adair).

Democratic lawmakers had a handful of questions ready for the representative from OSDE, saying they were upset with how unprepared she was.

For a majority of the questions asked, Lindsey McSparrin with OSDE answered, “I would be happy to look into that and get back with you on further clarification.”

“I feel bad for the person that they sent that had to run this gauntlet of questions,” said Sen. Michael Brooks (D-Oklahoma City).

Lawmakers discussed more than a dozen rule changes that have been proposed by the State Board of Education, including accreditation changes, gender marker changes, and allowing prayer in school. 

“At this point the board of education does not have carte blanche to be able to make law that's the responsibility and the constitutional responsibility of the legislature,” said Sen. Brooks.

Democratic senators Michael Brooks and Mary Boren pointed to an opinion from Attorney General Gentner Drummond, which was released last April, arguing the state board can’t enforce these rules. 

“My point is when we pass rules without legislative authority, it throws us into chaos,” said Sen. Boren (D-Norman).

“I will look into that and get back with you,” said McSparrin.

After that answer from McSparrin numerous times, we asked the OSDE spokesperson for clarity, and were given a statement that from State Superintendent Ryan Walters said in part: “There could not be a more clear discussion right now regarding the future of our state.”

When we asked additional specific questions regarding the AG opinion, we were told Walter's statement is “pretty clear.”

After fielding dozens of lawmaker questions, lawmakers ended the meeting with the understanding that OSDE will follow up with more answers.

“You have agreed that you are going to give us a lot of follow up information and that your department will be preparing that for us,” said Sen. Bergstrom.

Any state agency proposed rule change has to be approved by the Senate Administrative Rules Committee, along with the full Senate, then signed by the governor.