We often criticize our politicians, but when they get it right, we should shine the brightest light on them possible.
Rep. Bobby Cleveland has produced a bill that deserves a spotlight because of the sunshine it will provide Oklahomans through the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA).
HB 2730, the Oklahoma Extracurricular Accountability Act, follows up on an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling (Scott V. OSSAA) that said the OSSAA has governed school athletics with “near impunity.” And should do so “no more.”
In other words, it is time for the OSSAA to officially follow the Open Meetings Act, and Cleveland’s bill will make them do just that, among other things that provide transparency. It is a solid piece of legislation, and we should all support it.
The OSSAA has a profound impact on the lives of our state’s students and their extra curricular pursuits. It is a great organization, and nothing about that will change with Cleveland’s bill. But, because of its immense authority over our schools’ athletics and other activities, what the organization dictates has a monumental influence on Oklahoma youth and the communities they live in. But, it is not obligated to follow any open meeting laws. Those laws are designed for organizations that have as much power as the OSSAA.
We want to protect our children from any “arbitrary” or “capricious” acts. Whether we try to protect kids from themselves or others, Oklahomans must be able to trust the decisions by those in a position of authority. It is as obvious as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. That sun shines through our windows, and should also shine brightly through organizations that maintain power over our daily lives, like local government, our schools, and the organizations that maintain any measure of authority over those agencies, as the OSSAA does in school athletics.
Though, it is not technically a state agency, the OSSAA still gets a portion of its funding from our tax dollars. It is funded by ticket sales and dues from schools. In 2012, during the Oklahoma Supreme court case Brooks V. OSSAA, it was revealed that roughly 70 percent of the OSSAA’s budget comes from schools. That means 70 percent of their budget is derived from our ad valorem dollars. When we pay for things, we should be able to see what, why and how it pays because transparency is the currency of democracy.
Some argue that the OSSAA is like any vendor the school does business with, and those vendors – like the ones that supply school cafeterias with food – do not follow open meetings acts or provide the legislature with their rules or business plans. This is not the same thing. Those vendors do not determine the trajectory of our youth, but the OSSAA does. Especially in a state like ours that values sportsmanship and athleticism. What the OSSAA decides not only directly impacts students’ lives, but also entire communities all across Oklahoma. Because athletics are the “glue” that binds communities in the state, as the state Supreme Court stated in the Scott case.
With 2730, the OSSAA will have to comply with open meetings acts, supply the legislator with the process they use to make rules, and follow ATA standards. It is a bill that will make the organization more transparent. Our children deserve it.
Critics of the bill maintain that the OSSAA already follows the open meetings act, if this is the case, then there is no reason to not support 2730 when it just makes that process official.
With this bill, Cleveland is providing our state with the type of guidance and laws that help our state run more efficiently and securely. Oklahomans deserve it.
Everyone deserves it.