4th Journal Entry of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

February 26th, 2015

The third week of session was dominated by work on Education issues in both the Common education Committee and the House itself. There were three pieces of legislation that resulted in considerable controversy. HB 2003, by Rep. Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, referred to as the “Educational Savings Account.” was a very dangerous bill which would allow a parent to receive up to 90% of their child’s State Department of Education “Weighted Average Daily Membership” funds to be used in private, charter, or home school education. This money could even be accumulated by the parents to eventually be used for college expenses. This would have constituted a direct attack on the funding of all of our public schools without any evidence of accountability. This bill was defeated by a tied vote but the word is that it will be brought up in another form probably coming from the Senate. A Committee bill, HB 1380 by Rep. Fisher, R-Yukon, became known as “an attack on local control of education.” Specifically, this bill calls for the State Dept. of Education to prevent any local board of education to offer Advanced Placement in U.S. History. As a former teacher of this subject at Stigler High School, I was shocked that the author who had never taught this course filed a bill that was designed to destroy the opportunity of Oklahoma students to experience a course in which they can receive 3 hours of college credit from a college or university in the U.S. upon scoring adequately on a nationally normed exam. In fact, last year 1,170 Oklahoma students qualified for this credit. The argument used by the author and those voting for this was that it may allow some students to express negative thoughts about this nation’s history. Several former students that had taken this class from me texted me wanting to know “what those voting for this bill were either smoking or drinking.” This was such an embarrassment to this state that it went viral and was on several national news reports. Another scary bill, HB 1749 by Rep. Newell R-Seminole, was passed by the full House and will go to the Senate and again was voted along party lines, and would prevent the State Department of Education from allowing teachers to have their membership dues for Oklahoma Education Association taken out of their monthly checks. Those voting for this claimed the teachers should not be allowed to authorize this since the OEA negotiates “against” the state. That is not true. If there are any negotiations, it is between their local organization and the district in which they teach. It is also against state law for them to go on strike. Maybe this bill was motivated by those who mistakenly believe that most teachers are registered Democrats. Whatever their ideas were, it is not true to say that OEA negotiates “against” the state. If you want to get rid of this organization build your arguments on the truth-not lies.
Let’s move on to something positive in education for a change. In the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission meeting we had the responsibility to resolve the issue of how teachers are to be evaluated based on Student Academic Performance which constitutes 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. We had to remove some of the former Board’s language that was not legislated or approved by the Commission. Next we voted to remove the 15% portion which was Other Academic Measures that was made up of a laundry list of items such as attendance and graduation rates. These were considered not “high stakes” assessment. We also voted to place the implementation of this area on hold for two years and then fully implement it in 2017/18. These were recommendations to the State Board, not to the legislature.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

3rd Journal Entry of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

February 19th, 2015

A special event this week was having Shelly Boren, her son Robert and mother, Annette, from Stigler, join us in the House gallery to witness the passage of a bill that would allow her to have access to a new drug application for her child in the treatment of a severe form of epilepsy. HB 2154 passed unanimously by the House and is now headed to the Senate. As Co-author of this bill, I have appreciated Shelly and Robert being willing to come to testify at an Interim Study this summer. They have had a significant impact on the passage of this legislation that is truly needed for youth who suffer from various forms of physical illness that can now be treated by this newly approved medication.
This second week of session was very intense in the two education committees on which I serve. First we had the Education Appropriation and Budget where we were presented with eight bills ranging from Safe School Act (HB 1051) to HB 1290 authored by Rep. Casey, R-Morrison that would enable local school districts to avoid unfunded and underfunded state imposed mandates. This has become a crisis for our school districts as the state continues to stack more and more requirements but fails to provide funding. This bill would require the State Dept. of Education to publish a list of these mandates and the amount of funding needed to implement each mandate or rule. A concern that I had with this bill was that a local school board could take action that would be harmful to their teaching staff. As a result, I amended this legislation to exclude from de-regulation by a board the areas of state minimum salary schedule, the responsibility of providing flex benefits or health insurance, and state mandated retirement funding. These amendments were accepted by Rep. Casey as friendly amendments and became part of the proposed legislation. I co-authored the bill and it passed out of this Committee to go to the House Common Education Committee. If this becomes law, our schools will either have greater autonomy or the state will begin funding those mandates that they so easily mandate.
The Common Education Committee was somewhat of a marathon lasting close to four hours with our hearing eight pieces of legislation. One of these that I co-authored was Rep. Nollan’s (R-Sand Springs) HB 1321 which would add alternative methods for students to demonstrate mastery of state academic content standards. Some of these methods include the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, Armed Forces Qualification Test, business and industry-recognized assessment by the Dept. of Career Tech, and concurrent enrollment. It is my hope that this will make it through the full House and Senate so that our students completing high school will have options to qualify for graduation and post-secondary training or college in addition to the traditional exit exams. The one bill that we heard which was defeated was HB 1513 by Rep. Kern, R- Oklahoma City. It would have required that every teacher candidate have college training to teach “English Language Learners.” That would presume that at some point all teachers in Oklahoma will have students who were not raised in an English speaking family or institution. I am not ready to accept this as the picture of Oklahoma now or in years to come. The battle against legislation like this forces us to remain vigilant if our state education system is to survive these ill-advised attempts to pass legislation that will insure that we will always have a shortage of teachers for our schools.
As I have discussed in previous Journals our state budget will be the main problem for this legislative session. While our economy has been expanding our revenue for state allocation is reducing. Compared to last year’s revenue which was $7.2 billion the legislature will merely have $6.6 billion to allocate to agency funding for the Fiscal Year 2015-16. This is especially problematic when agencies like the State Dept. of Education is operating at a 2008-9 level of funding and according to our Governor’s proposed budget, the Dept. of Corrections is also extremely underfunded and is staffed at 67% of actual need. At some point we need to stop playing political games with our citizen’s state taxes and commit them in a responsible manner so as to properly fund the state’s basic core services.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com
Ed Cannaday

2nd Journal Entry of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

February 12th, 2015

As this new legislative session began with the Governor’s State of the State Speech, many legislators were pleased that we were being challenged to address major issues of education, public safety, public health, and the state budget rather than political sound-bites or fluff social issues. On the budget we are $300 million short compared to last year’s revenue. Part of this deficit is that the legislature has a smaller percentage of the state’s tax receipts to appropriate than in the past. This has declined from 55 to 47% giving us less revenue to allocate to fund agencies at a time when our state is collecting more dollars. Speaking of collecting more dollars, let us review the State Treasurer, Ken Miller’s analysis and statistics from last month’s Treasurer’s Report. “Total receipts last month brought in more than in any other January.” He does document that there are three areas of decline: gross production taxes on oil and natural gas; personal income tax; and motor vehicle collections. However, the state’s total gross collections for this January were $1.13 billion which exceeded last year’s by 6.1%. Gross income tax collections showed an 8.4% increase which combined with the 7.3% increase in sales tax collections makes me wonder where the Governor is finding our total amount of revenue to be appropriated by the legislature which is $300 million less than last year. The numbers just don’t add up!!
In the Governor’s speech concerning public education, she proposed a $25 million increase in light of the fact that education has never recovered from the $200 million lost during the recession in 2008; and in this speech we were told that the solution to the state’s dire rating in health care can be solved by better dietary practices and less harmful habits like tobacco use. We agree that these are factors, but better health practices will not keep our rural hospitals from losses due to uncollectable fees resulting from a high percentage (1 out of 5) citizens without any health care coverage. Lastly, the issue of public safety has already been the subject of a major study under the Justice Reinvestment Initiative that received subsequent funding. Why then are we told that we need to study the problem some more rather than increase funding and possibly utilize local county jails to house the over-crowded state facilities?
As a member of the House Education—Appropriation and Budget Sub-committee, my focus this first week of session was dominated by having each of the 11 education agencies report their budget requests. Several were asked how they would address the proposed 6.25% budget cuts, or flat budget. Chancellor Johnson in addressing Higher Ed’s budget woes reminded us that in 1988 75% of their budget was from state appropriations while this year that amount is dwindled down to 30%. Oklahoma Educational Television Authority documented that they were the lowest funded network of this type in the nation. Our Career Tech agency demonstrated that they had a $3.5 billion impact on the state’s economy and yet they were being asked to consider reduced funding. It was shocking to see how our nationally recognized School of Science and Math is being underfunded to the point that it has to cut staff each year and turn the best and brightest students of our state away from its school. I have already addressed our state’s cuts in funding public education at the same time the state government has not been bashful in assigning new and growing burdensome mandates on this agency. We did hear State Superintendent Hofmeister make the case for a five year plan of teacher pay increases to start with $2,000 the first year. It will be an interesting legislative session to see if education in our state will be approached by the state’s governing leaders as the proverbial “red-headed step child” of our state.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

1st Journal Entry of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

February 5th, 2015

One of the last non-Session events in which I had the pleasure of participating was the OSU Extension’s presentation, Welcome to the Real World, at our Kiamichi Technology Center at Stigler for Stigler, Keota, Kinta, and McCurtain 10th grade high school students. This began with the students receiving a reception and orientation where they received data concerning their employment, salary, and bank accounts and savings. They would meet with adults at tables with information that they would need to complete their assignments concerning a scenario of young adulthood responsibilities. These included areas such as student loan obligations, transportation needs, housing, groceries, clothing, utilities, insurance, and entertainment. At the end of their rounds they would have to make sure their monthly income covered all expenses. Many saw that some careers with greater training demands provided greater salaries that gave them greater flexibility in managing a “Real World” life. It was also interesting to see that many of them had to modify areas such as entertainment or type of transportation to make ends meet.
As we prepare for the next Legislative Session I was somewhat anxious to discover what form of working relationship we will have with our new State Superintendent of Education. As a legislative member of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission I was relatively relieved that our Special Meeting held on January 29th and Chaired by Supt. Hofmeister was productive. By this I mean that the Commission’s views were sought and responded to in a manner that indicates a desire to work together to advise the State Board of Education on issues concerning ways of identifying an effective format of quantifying the state’s public school teachers’ impact on their students’ academic performance. After receiving a report from a representative of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) on their study that was done in Focus Groups in November involving 131 educators, including 71 administrators and 60 teachers representing 58 school districts the members quickly saw that we must re-assess the 50 percent of teacher evaluations known as “quantifiable.” This “high stakes” student academic performance assessment must be corrected to reflect a level of accuracy and equity in evaluating our teachers. The Commission asked that Supt. Hofmeister prepare wording of these concerns for our approval in the next Commission meeting scheduled February 19th so that this will be presented at the next State Board meeting. It is my hope that this working relationship will continue and progress.
Governor Fallin presented her State of the State Address to a Joint Legislative Session on the first working day of this Session. This brought our focus to three main issues that we will be asked to address: (1) Educational Funding; (2) Reducing Incarceration Rates; and (3) Improving the Health of our citizens. I will address these as we progress through them in their applicable committees. The funding plan for these include proposed cutting of tax incentives based on an analysis of how productive the tax breaks have been for the given recipient groups. Another source that will be targeted for general revenue expenditures will be various state agencies that have revolving funds that have been set aside for future use. The source of this revenue is in the form of fees collected by these agencies. Our Governor claims to have found close to $900 million in these two areas. It was specified that revenue would not be taken from the Rainy Day Fund Account.
In addition to the Governor’s speech, the House spent two hours discussing and debating its annual consideration of House Rules which govern how we do the peoples’ business during this Session. One rule that I joined others in attempting to amend was that of disallowing any language from a bill that was defeated or not heard in a committee to be placed as an amendment to a bill with a similar subject material. My point was that committees are sometimes run in a relatively undemocratic manner, depending on the wishes of the Chairperson of this committee resulting in the matter not being given a reasonable hearing. The amendment would have allowed a Representative to have his idea heard by the full House where the system is considerably more evident and transparent. Well, this amendment was defeated down party lines with Democrats for and Republicans against it.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624

53th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

January 30th, 2015

This will be the last Journal published for the 54th Legislature. I am looking forward to keeping you informed by weekly Journals for the 55th Legislature. As I prepare for the start of my ninth year in the State House of Representatives, it is my hope that I will have the opportunity to share with you each week’s Capitol activities. We began on February 2nd with Governor Fallin’s State of the State Address. Beginning at this time most of our work will be done in committees in both the House and Senate. Prior to these activities, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to attend several meetings in District 15 which helped prepare my focus when the legislature begins.
One such meeting was with the Chancellor of Higher Education, Glenn Johnson and his staff. I had the opportunity to visit with the Presidents and staffs of three community colleges that many of my constituents attend. These include Connors State College, Carl Albert State College, and Eastern Oklahoma State College with Presidents respectively, Dr. Tim Faltyn, Mr. Gary Ivey, and Dr. Steve Smith. As a product of a two-year community college, I have an enormous passion for the role community colleges play in providing our high-school graduates an opportunity to begin their pathway to acquiring a very important post-secondary education. I often find that at the state level our government’s focus can often be directed away from the important function of community colleges when the focus becomes singularly on the Division One Universities in the state and their particular needs.
Chancellor Johnson set the stage for this meeting by referring to the rather startling statistics that “over the last two decades, the United States has declined in degree of completion from 1st to 16th in the world. He suggested that the strategy to address this can be found in the “Complete College America: the Oklahoma Plan.” This has five aspects which include 1. Focus on college readiness; 2. Transform Remediation; 3. Strengthen pathways to college degrees and certificates; 4. Increase adult degree completion; and 5. Reward performance. Each legislator had the opportunity to make a statement of their particular focus on this presentation. I spoke on item 1 that is directly related to item 2 since if we do not prepare our elementary, middle and secondary students for the standards used for entering higher education, remediation will be required and individuals and families often cannot afford to spend time and money on “0” level classes in college. My emphasis was on the state government’s responsibility to change the nature of our mandating exit exams or assessments that have a very low correlation to what is expected of students as they leave the secondary level to enter higher education. Specifically, we have a series of “End of Instruction” exams at the secondary level and it is a documented fact that these fail to connect to the entry level assessments for higher education in our state colleges and universities. In this next legislative session we must change this misguided approach and change our exit level assessment to include all aspects of the ACT Aspire.
As I listened to Governor Fallin’s second inaugural address, I was encouraged by her focus on boosting Oklahoma’s educational goals. Part of this was setting higher expectations for college entrance by our students graduating from high school. I find it ironic that she and our President seem to have arrived at compatible goals as seen in his State of the Nation Speech that included providing tuition free opportunities for those students enrolled in Community Colleges. We know that the Tulsa Community College offers a county based program, Tulsa Achieves, which is similar to the proposal by President Obama. With an average yearly tuition cost of $3,493 at our community colleges, it is not too radical to see that a plan like Tulsa Achieves or the President’s plan could help accomplish a significant portion of Governor Fallin’s stated educational goals.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday