New Education Bills: Superintendent Pay, Virtual Charters, U.S. Citizenship Test

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Update, January 13, 2017: Additional bills have been added below, including a third teacher salary plan and a proposal to cap superintendent salaries.

Lawmakers will take another stab at increasing teacher salaries, will attempt to stymie four-day school weeks and try to eliminate the end-of-year exam in U.S. history.

With the filing deadline on Jan. 19, bills have been streaming in, including many related to common education. Additional bills could surface later because of exceptions to the deadline and shell bills whose language is often replaced mid-session.

Last session, major updates for schools were passed: new standards in English and math, eliminating many end-of-year tests and changes to the state’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system.

This year, legislators will grapple with another budget hole while considering state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister’s request for $2.6 billion to fund the Department of Education, a $221 million increase from the current fiscal year. Also on the table is a new report card rating system for schools, which the legislature must approve if it’s to be implemented in the 2017-18 school year.

A looming criminal case could impact how willing legislators are to work with Hofmeister. Several lawmakers have called for Hofmeister’s resignation because of the criminal charges brought against her, accusing her of conspiracy and campaign violations in her 2014 bid for office. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Education-related bills filed for the 2017 session include:

>Senate Bill 8, which would increase the minimum salary of all teachers by $5,000. The state salary schedule has been unchanged since 2008. The bill, filed by Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, doesn’t include a mechanism to fund the raises.

>Senate Bill 2, which would eliminate the end-of-year exam in U.S. history. U.S. history is the only remaining standardized test that is not required by the U.S. Department of Education. It is given to students at least once in high school. Filed by J.J. Dossett, D-Sperry.

>Senate Bill 12, which would allow private schools to create their own armed campus police force. Public schools are already allowed to do so. Filed by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate.

>Senate Bill 37, which would require schools to be in session five days a week with the exception of holidays and inclement weather. More than 100 school districts have moved toward a four-day week by extending the school day; school leaders argue it saves money and helps them compete for teachers. Gov. Mary Fallin recently criticized the four-day week, saying it makes the state unappealing to out-of-state companies. Filed by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City.

>Senate bills 70, 71 and 72 would require the state auditor to conduct an independent, comprehensive performance audit on the state Education Department, Regents for Higher Education and Career and Technology Education Department. Filed by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville.

>Senate Bill 81, which would allow schools to suspend students as young as third grade for assault or attempted assault. Current statute allows out-of-school suspension for sixth through 12th graders.

>Senate Bill 83 is a renewed attempt by Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, to remove the religious and personal exemptions for childhood vaccinations. Yen, a cardiac anesthesiologist, filed a similar bill in 2016, leading some parents to protest.

>Senate Bill 97 proposes increasing minimum teacher salaries by $5,000 over three years, beginning with a $1,000 boost in 2017-18. Filed by Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair.

>Senate Bill 123, which would eliminate the requirement that third grade students be retained under the Reading Sufficiency Act but maintains supports for struggling readers. Filed by Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Sperry.

>Senate Bill 133, which would set maximum superintendent salaries of between $100,000 and $150,000, depending on district enrollment. Filed by Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud.

>Senate Bill 162 proposes requiring every public school student as well as those completing GED programs to pass the U.S. Citizenship Test beginning in 2018-19. Authored by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City.

>House Bill 1114 would increase minimum teacher salaries by $6,000 phased in over three years. The bill, filed by Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, was endorsed by House Speaker Charles McCall.

Other bills include:

>Senate Joint Resolution 1: Increases to 12 percent the amount of school district debt.

>Senate JR 2: Raises the maximum property tax for school district building funds.

>SB 15: Develop and implement teacher recruitment programs.

>SB 16: Modifying school funding to use the average daily membership of preceding school year.

>SB 19: Requiring schools to create a “fiscal report card” containing the cost of staff salaries and benefits, utilities, classroom supplies, transportation and child nutrition.

>SB 20: Requiring teacher training on appropriate behavior with students.

>SB 29: Eliminating a required background check for teacher applicants if one has been completed within 12 months.

>SB 43: Removing a requirement that colleges notify the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation of handgun license violations.

>SB 45: Allowing the Department of Education to contract with current or retired educators for certain services.

>SB 78: Expands concurrent enrollment tuition waivers to high school juniors and increases maximum to 9 credit hours.

>SB 84: Extends the exemption for probationary promotion to fourth grade under the Reading Sufficiency Act to the 2022-23 school year.

>SB92: Establishes a fund to be used to reimburse school districts the salary and benefits of teachers serving in the Legislature.

>SB101: Reduces state aid funding to virtual charter schools.

>SB124: Prohibits the use of state-appropriated funds to support private schools serving pre-K through 12th grade, with the exception of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program.

>SB163: Allows public school districts to enter into a mutual contract to share financial services.

>SB164: Requires charter schools, virtual charter schools and private schools that participate in the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program to make public on their website the services they provide to students with disabilities.

>HB1107: Allows high school students who transfer from public to private school or private to public school to participate in Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association competitions.

  • Donny Tiemann

    So when we were in 3rd grade and got into a ” fight ” on the playground and had to move our desk into the hall for an hour to think about what we had done, is now being considered assault or attempted assault and could be punishable by suspension. How very far we continue down the wrong path.

  • Rob Reck

    You should ask an elementary teacher what this is about. They can explain it the best. This is not about a “fight.” This is about students that are violent and capable of causing serious injury to adults and students alike. Right now some classrooms have to be evacuated to get them out of danger of such a student. But you should ask how that could be.

  • CLZR

    What is the Bill that plans on lowering the standards for students based on race? I heard that today, on the radio, and I think it’s about the most foolish thing and educator can do. Why dumb kids down when you can elevate them?