[This article was originally delivered to subscribers of our Education Watch newsletter. Sign up now to receive Education Watch directly in your inbox.]
Following Monday’s announcement that the House, Senate and governor have agreed on an education funding plan, legislation is moving swiftly to implement each component.
The package includes $785 million in new funding for teacher raises, schools and other programs. It’s tied to a refundable tax credit for parents who pay for private school or homeschool with questionable oversight. The tax credit bill has been approved by both chambers but has been held over as leverage in the negotiations. On Monday, House Speaker Charles McCall said he’d release it to the governor’s desk now that an agreement was reached.
Here’s a breakdown of each component:
• HB2901 appropriates $500 million to the state aid formula and $125 million to the Redbud Fund, which distributes funds for school buildings to low-property tax districts and charter schools. Included is a provision that if state funding falls below this level in future years, the tax credits in House Bill 1934 will be reduced proportionately.
• HB2902 modifies the school funding formula by increasing the weight for low income students from 0.25 to 0.3, increasing the transportation supplement and redefining which schools qualify for the small school by increasing to 750 students.
• HB2903 establishes of a three-year pilot program to add police officers and security upgrades to schools. Purchases can include school resource officers, cameras, gates, lighting, locks, doors, windows, security geofencing and ballistic storm shelters. Funds will be divided evenly among school districts, regardless of size, providing about $96,000 per district each year of the program.
• HB2904 appropriates $150 million for the school safety program in HB2903.
• SB1118 appropriates $10 million over three years for a new reading program beginning in the 2023-24 school year. It will fund literacy instructional teams placed regionally across the state to support school districts. The state’s assistance will include helping students with dyslexia.
• SB1119 raises salaries for all certified employees, including teachers, principals, supervisors, counselors, librarians and nurses (but excluding superintendents and retired teachers.) The raises are $3,000 for less than four years experience, $4,000 for five to nine years, $5,000 for 10-15 years and $6,000 for more than 15 years. Teachers earning a salary above the minimum this year will still receive the raise if they return to that district next year. Districts that don’t receive state aid will still receive funds to provide raises.
• SB1120 increases the number of school districts eligible for Redbud funding, and changes the fund’s revenue source from medical marijuana tax collections to state appropriations.
• SB1121 provides six weeks of paid maternity leave to full-time public school employees employed for at least one year. Includes teachers at career techs, Department of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Corrections and Office of Juvenile Affairs. Only the person giving birth is eligible and it must be used immediately after birth.
— Jennifer Palmer
- Former education department staffers say federal grants are not applying for federal grants, despite what Superintendent Ryan Walters told a House committee. [The Oklahoman]
- A leading education researcher has spent his career arguing that spending more money on schools probably won’t make them better. His latest research suggestions otherwise. [Chalkbeat]
- A Native American graduate is suing Broken Arrow schools for removing a sacred eagle plume on her cap at graduation. [Native News Online]
- Epic Charter Schools co-founders and former chief financial officer receive court hearing date for Oct. 23-25 and Oct. 27. The men are charged with embezzlement, fraud and racketeering. [Tulsa World]
New on Oklahoma Watch
Cleveland County detention officers failed to perform safety checks at the jail where two women died in December, according to a health department investigation.
Whitney Louis built a 15-year career as a psychologist helping incarcerated people transition back into society. She expected to do the same when hired at a women’s minimum security prison in Oklahoma. Instead, she was thrown into the middle of what she alleges were sexual assault coverups.
The $785 million in additional spending includes money for teacher pay raises and classroom funding. It is tied to a new refundable tax credit to reimburse parents who pay for private school.
Help Us Make a Difference
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.