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Senator Ties Education Savings Accounts To AP History Ban

State Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman)
Oklahoma Senate

A Democratic state senator who opposes a bill creating education savings accounts is proposing three amendments that appear to take a shot at other recent Republican legislation.

The amendments involve drug testing parents and bans on Advanced Placement U.S. history courses and Common Core standards materials.

Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, proposed the amendments on the Senate floor on Tuesday and Wednesday. The first would prevent funding from going to any school teaching AP U.S. history; the second would require all parents to take and pass a drug test, and the third would prohibit parents from using the money to buy curriculum materials tied to Common Core standards.

The ESA bill would allow parents of kindergartners to withdraw their child from a traditional public school and instead spend the amount the state provides for their child on other options, including paying for private school, hiring a tutor or buying their own curriculum.

The bill passed the Senate education committee, and Sparks voted against it. A similar bill died in a House committee earlier this year.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org.
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Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org

Sparks said he proposed the amendments because all three issues have already been supported by Republicans in the past, and he wants to keep private and public schools on even footing.

"I think it's a terrible idea to steal scarce resources from our public schools to subsidize private schools," Sparks said. "If we are going to do it, the same rules should apply for what the public money is used for."

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, who wrote the Senate bill, said Sparks is wasting time with the three amendments.

“The reason for this is politics,” Jolley said. “He is trying to get Republicans on record with a Senate vote on AP history after what happened over in the House.”

A GOP House member introduced a bill to prohibit use of state funding for AP U.S. history classes, and it garnered state and national outrage after passing the House education committee. The bill's author, Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, has said he will re-write it.

AP history began drawing criticism last year after the course was revised last year in a way that critics say focuses on negative aspects of U.S. history.

Republicans also pushed a bill in 2012 that created a drug screening program for Oklahomans receiving welfare.

Sparks' common core amendment is in response to the Legislature repealing the state's common core standards last year.

Nate Robson can be reached at nrobson@oklahomawatch.org.

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Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.
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