OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — Lawmakers may allow an Oklahoma State Education Department rule to stand made in response to an anti-critical race theory law. A number of Republicans were concerned its scope was not wide enough — but would prefer to have something rather than nothing.
The rule at the center of all this — Oklahoma Administrative Code 210:10-1-23 — prohibits race and sex discrimination taught in courses at schools. Republicans wanted a wider blanket ban that included extra-curriculars among other school activities as well. However, the law that passed focused on courses, so that is where the education department's emphasis lies.
According to Rep. Terry O'Donnell (R-Catoosa), "We shouldn't expect the rule to trump the statute."
House Joint Resolution 1066, a measure to send the education department back to the drawing board, was on the agenda for the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Wednesday. However, the senate and the house sides of the committee have to agree on any action for it to go forward, according to house Rep. O'Donnell.
He explained that, "The senate does not wish to disapprove the state department's rule on House Bill 1775, so it doesn't look like it going to get off the ground."
If lawmakers want a wider ban on CRT, they need to write that law, according to the Republican. Pending that, on the other hand, "I would hate to move forward without anything in place to protect the kids."
Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), who sits on the committee overseeing the discussion, is pushing back against Republicans' concerns. He asserted that, "CRT is not something taught in our K-12 schools."
He shared that, in his experience as a teacher and parents, CRT is not something he has ever seen in Oklahoma schools.
The Democrat argued that, "It literally was made up and when you have elected leaders doubling down saying this is happening in our schools... at the very least it should have you asking questions about it."
The representative from Norman expressed his contention over what he views as a discussion that should not be happening in the first place. According to Rep. Rosecrants, "My big concern is the fact that there are folks out there trying to say that this is a huge thing, and that we need to get rules and do all this, to make sure that it's all set in there, when it's not even something that's happening."
If lawmakers do end up leaving the rule as it stands, O'Donnell explained that CRT will be prohibited from being taught in Oklahoma public schools. Republicans will have to decide whether or not to expand the scope of HB 1775 in the next legislative session should they want the statue to cover all activities that happen on school grounds — including extra-curriculars.