Goodwin requests interim studies

Special to the Press-Leader

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) has requested an interim legislative study to examine the value of teacher certification and its effect on student academic performance.

“I want to know what kind of impact certified teachers have on student performance,” she said. “I think certified teachers are better equipped to teach Oklahoma’s children than non-certified teachers are. But I don’t know whether the state Department of Education has collected any research data on that subject, one way or the other.”

The issue of teacher qualifications has grown in importance over the past couple of years, because of emergency teacher certifications issued to fill hundreds of vacancies in teaching ranks across the state.

The state Board of Education approved 304 emergency teacher certifications, a one-month record, on July 28. In comparison, 30 emergency teaching certificates were issued during the entire 2011-12 school year.

Oklahoma City had the most certification requests last month, 64, followed by Putnam City, 30, and Tulsa, 28. However, the board approved certification applications from 91 school districts last month.

Emergency certifications allow school districts to hire applicants with a college degree, even if they have no background in education. These are one-year certificates, renewable for one additional year if requested by the district, and are awarded only after a district has searched for a qualified candidate and has been unsuccessful in finding one. An applicant for an emergency teaching certificate must pass a test in the requested subject area and must embark on an individual path to full certification in order to continue to teach.

“There is very little data available to measure the effect that emergency certifications are having on student performance,” Goodwin said. More than 1,050 such certificates were issued last school year, records indicate.

“It is vital that we examine this issue thoroughly,” Goodwin said, “because these students are at a formative stage, and we’re issuing teaching certificates to people who presumably are knowledgeable about their particular subject but have no experience as a classroom teacher.”

State House Speaker Jeff W. Hickman (R-Alfalfa) assigned the study, No. 16-065 to the House Committee on Common Education.

Goodwin also has three other interim studies pending.

• One will be an evaluation of the Family Caregivers Support Act.

“We need to broaden access to programs such as respite services and support groups that are available to caregivers who are taking care of older family members in their homes,” Goodwin said. “Many of my constituents also are concerned about proximity to a site where they can learn about education and counseling services that are provided to family caregivers.”

That study, No. 16-068, was assigned to the House Committee on Long-Term Care and Senior Services.

• Study No. 16-067 will revisit the issue of a sheriff’s appointments to the property appraisal process, particularly on home foreclosures.

Goodwin was the principal author of House Bill 2380, which proposed to amend state law governing appraisals of property targeted for foreclosure.

HB 2380 passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate on initial consideration, and cleared a committee in each chamber, but died on the next-to-last day of the 2016 legislative session when it fell four votes shy on final consideration in the House.

Appraisers are responsible for setting the value of foreclosed property to be sold at public auctions, commonly known as sheriff sales. Currently, appointees are only required to be disinterested persons living in the county where the property is located.

HB 2380 stipulated that a “disinterested person” could not be related “within the third degree,” by blood or marriage, to the sheriff, to any person “having an interest in the lands or tenement subject to levy or to another disinterested person valuing the same lands or tenements…”

The bill further mandated that in any county with a population of 65,000 or more, a “disinterested person” performing an appraisal on a foreclosed property would have to be a certified real estate appraiser licensed under the Oklahoma Certified Real Estate Appraisers Act, a real estate broker licensed under the state Real Estate License Code, or a real estate sales associate licensed under the real estate code for more than two years.

Study No. 16-067 has been assigned to the House Committee on County and Municipal Government, of which Goodwin is a member.

• Study No. 16-064 will examine the fines, fees and court costs that are assessed in criminal cases in Oklahoma.

Although debtors’ prisons were banned by federal law in 1833, and by U.S. Supreme Court decrees in 1970, 1971 and 1983, “Many Oklahomans are in jail today simply because they cannot afford to pay their fines or court fees,” Goodwin said.

Also, as the sentences of non-violent lawbreakers are reduced, this will have a corresponding effect on the fees that offenders are required to pay into the correctional and judicial systems, she noted.

That study was assigned to the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections.

Hickman has decreed that House interim studies must be undertaken by Nov. 9.

Special to the Press-Leader

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