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Oklahoma plan would make it easier to fire teachers

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla (Reuters) - An education reform bill that makes it easier for school boards to fire poor performing teachers was approved on Thursday by the Oklahoma state Senate.

The bill, approved by a 30-16 vote, now goes to the state's new Republican Governor Mary Fallin, who supports changes to Oklahoma's education system.

The measure removes the right of teachers to appeal their terminations to a state district court. It is one of several education reforms sought by Republicans, who this year have majorities in both chambers of the legislature for the first time in Oklahoma's 103-year history.

State Senator John Ford, a sponsor of the bill, said school districts are forced to spend thousands in legal fees to remove poor teachers and sometimes opted to save money by simply transferring bad teachers to low-performing schools where there is little parental involvement.

"Those are the students that need the best teachers," Ford said.

Teachers unions complain they were shut out of the legislative process.

"It's troubling. We're the first blamed and the last asked," said Clifton Ogle, president of the state's American Federation of Teachers, the state's second largest teachers union with 10,000 members. "We're for reform but we need to be in the conversation."

Oklahoma is the latest state to enact reforms that would curb the power of teachers unions. Some states, such as Wisconsin and Ohio, have reduced the collective bargaining powers of teachers unions through broader legislation applying to public sector unions. Others including Idaho and Florida, have enacted or are considering specific education reforms that have affected teachers.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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