OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – A historic reform package that will invest $625 million in Oklahoma’s educational system is on its way to becoming law.
The Oklahoma State Senate and House of Representatives enthusiastically passed several bills Friday that comprise the education reform package.
“Many of these reforms came from hours of discussions with hundreds of teachers, administrators, parents and education advocacy groups,” said Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond. “My colleagues and I worked tirelessly on these measures and the end result will be improvements to our public education system and historic pay raises for teachers. These measures will keep us competitive with other states, while improving our ability to recruit and retain teachers. I appreciate everyone’s hard work on these valuable pieces of legislation.”
The following education reform bills were passed on Friday:
- Senate Bill 1119 provides longevity-based pay raises for all certified staff, ranging from a $3,000 increase for teachers with zero to four years’ experience; $4,000 for five to nine years; $5,000 for 10-14 years; and $6,000 for teachers with 15 years or more on the job.
- Senate Bill 1121 provides six weeks’ paid maternity leave for teachers employed for at least a year.
- House Bill 2901 appropriates a recurring $500 million to the school funding formula to cover costs associated with SB1119 and SB1121.
- Senate Bill 1120 devotes $125 million to the Redbud Fund to address property tax revenue disparities in districts with lower ad valorem bases to help schools afford basic infrastructure and maintenance needs.
- Senate Bill 1118 creates a three-year literacy teaching team within the State Department of Education to assist school districts. The team will have five regional locations across Oklahoma and will help teachers recognize students’ educational needs, with an emphasis on students who have dyslexia. A one-time appropriation of $10 million funds the program.
- House Bill 2903 creates a three-year school safety pilot program to provide every district with a school resource officer or security upgrades.
- House Bill 2904 provides a one-time appropriation of $150 million toward HB2903. Each school district will receive approximately $96,000 annually throughout the three-year program.
House Bill 1934, titled the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, is also part of the education package. It cleared its final legislative hurdle earlier this month. It provides the following amounts each year to parents who send their child to a private or charter school outside of their zip code-assigned public school:
- $7,500 per student in households earning under $75,000 annually;
- $7,000 per student in households earning between $75,000 – $100,000 annually;
- $6,500 per student in households earning between $150,000 – $225,000 annually;
- $6,000 per student in households earning between $225,000 – $250,000 annually; and,
- $5,000 per student in households earning over $250,000 annually.
It also provides $1,000 per child to parents who homeschool their children.
Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislators involved in the education reform effort were jubilant during a news conference on Monday, announcing that the House and Senate were in united support of the education package.
“Every year, our constituents tell us they want to see additional investments into public education, and thanks to thoughtful budgeting, we have been able to direct historic levels of new money into our public schools this year,” House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said on Friday. “With the implementation of this year’s education plan, the Legislature will have invested more funding into public education in the past five years than in the previous 27 years combined. I’m proud of the work we have done to provide more resources and flexibility to every student, every parent, every teacher and every school district in the state.”
McCall and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, were previously at odds in the education reform effort, as both the House and the Senate each presented a comprehensive education plan.
“Negotiations were tough and combative at times but I value the transformative product that came out of the process. We are making historic investments in public education, giving meaningful teacher pay raises, delivering maternity leave, making critical investments for school safety, and delivering choice for kids and parents in Oklahoma,” Treat said Friday. “I want to sincerely thank Senators Pugh, Pemberton, and McCortney for the months of work that went into this. Also, I want to thank Justice Steven Taylor for directing the negotiations in a productive fashion. Finally, I want to thank all 40 members of my caucus who gave incredibly meaningful input to improve the legislation.”
The package presented on Monday is the ultimate cohesion of the two competing packages, unveiled three weeks after Stitt announced an education reform compromise plan that melded elements from each package.
Stitt spoke during Monday’s news conference, describing the final package as historic.
“The good, the big picture here is, the legislature behind me, the House and Senate, we all want to have the best top 10 education system in the entire country, and that’s what you’re seeing today, you’re seeing historic investments in education, over $600 million in additional funding into education, which is just amazing,” Stitt said.