By Conrad Dudderar
A state lawmaker from Yukon is backing legislation to give parents more power to choose the right schools for their kids.
District 60 State Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) chairs the House Education Committee that approved the “Open Transfer Bill.” Rep. Baker is a former schoolteacher.
The Education Committee recently voted 11-3 to pass House Bill 2074, which would provide more options for parents to select the public school that best meets their children’s needs.
Rep. Baker was among the 11 state legislators who voted yes to empower parents – the ultimate form of local control.
“We are fortunate in Yukon to have a terrific school system that has grown steadily over the years,” she said. “However, there are some students in other areas whose needs are not being met or who would like the opportunity to go to another public school with better student outcomes or different programs or coursework.”
H.B. 2074 modifies the Education Open Transfer Act by allowing a student to transfer from one school district to another at any time during the school year.
Baker, who taught 19 years before joining the Oklahoma Legislature, said the bill will give students the choice to attend a public school that best fits his or her needs – while also protecting the school to which students are seeking to transfer.
“Local school boards will be able to set capacity limits and review a potential student’s discipline and attendance record before allowing a transfer,” she explained.
“Prioritizing a child’s educational needs while also providing support to our school districts is an important balance that this bill addresses.”
Due to capacity and class sizes, Yukon Public Schools for several years has not accepted open transfers except when required by law.
“Typically, these are employees’ children who do not reside within our district boundaries, and if requested before annual deadlines set by the state, we are required to accept those open transfer requests,” said Larrissa Lockwood, YPS communications specialist.
“However, we do not turn away applications if they are submitted to us and still evaluate all requests on an individual basis.”
As of Feb. 1, the Yukon school district’s enrollment is 8,309 students – compared to 8,750 in February 2020.
Rep. Baker joined the Oklahoma House of Representatives after being elected in 2016. She was re-elected in 2020, without opposition, to a third, two-year term serving House District 60.
Baker represents 10 municipalities in Canadian and Caddo counties, including parts of Yukon, El Reno, Union City, Oklahoma City, Hinton, and Carnegie.
Besides heading the House Common Education Committee, she serves on the Appropriations and Budget, Business and Commerce, and State and Federal Redistricting committees.
She also is a member of Yukon Sharing Ministries’ Board of Directors.
The State Chamber praised House Speaker Charles McCall for authoring and the House Education Committee for passing the Open Transfer Bill.
“Representatives from both sides of the aisle made it clear they understand parents should be empowered to choose the right public school for their children,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of the State Chamber. “This bill lowers barriers to transfers in a fair, transparent way, providing more information and more freedom to families.
“We hope the full Legislature will pass this measure and Gov. Kevin Stitt will sign it into law. Oklahoma’s children should no longer be held back by their zip codes, and parents will have more flexibility to choose the best school for their children.”
Other state House Education Committee members supporting HB 2074 were:
Rep. Brad Boles (R-Marlow), Rep. Chad Caldwell (R-Enid), Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow), Rep. Dick Lowe (R-Amber), Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa), Rep. Randy Randleman (R-Eufaula), Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), Rep. Tammy West (R-Oklahoma City), Rep. Todd Russ (R-Cordell), and Rep. Mark Vancuren (R-Owasso).
The State Chamber works on behalf of Oklahoma’s business community to affect change across all three branches of government to create a pro-growth climate statewide.