OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma state board on Thursday approved new standards for public school students that focus on skills such as phonics, cursive writing, basic grammar and writing research papers in English and counting money, patterns, ratios and proportions in math.
The standards approved by the Oklahoma State Board of Education replace Common Core standards that were repealed by a bill that passed the state House and Senate on the final day of the 2014 legislative session amid concerns by mostly grassroots conservatives that it was an attempt at a federal takeover of state education.
The new English and math standards were approved on a unanimous 7-0 vote by the board.
“These new standards are rigorous, user-friendly and most importantly created by Oklahomans to address the particular needs of our state,” state school Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement.
The proposed new standards, which are to go into effect for the start of the 2016-2017 school year, must first be approved the Legislature, which begins its annual session Monday.
Gov. Mary Fallin, who initially tried to placate concerns of conservatives opposed to Common Core by signing an executive order stating Oklahoma will be responsible for deciding how to implement the standards, issued a statement saying the new standards are written by Oklahoma residents for the state’s students.
“I look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the Oklahoma Academic Standards and working with the Legislature to approve high quality, college- and career-ready standards to use in our schools,” Fallin said.
The board also removed spending restrictions on nearly $30 million in state funding to school districts.
The funds were earmarked for reading, remediation, alternative education and staff professional development, but now districts may use the money elsewhere in their budget — if they fully meet the requirements of the four programs and have funding remaining.
“Once the districts have met the requirements in those areas, if there’s additional money available they are free to use it,” however district officials see fit, according to department spokeswoman Steffie Corcoran.
Hofmeister said the change gives local schools more flexibility in the midst of state budget cuts.
The state is facing about a $1 billion hole in next year’s budget. State agencies already have been ordered to cut their budgets by 3 percent, which is expected to cost education about $47 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends June 30.