Gov. Stitt, Okla. Lawmakers Announce New Education Package At State Capitol

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt along with several other state lawmakers announced their joint education package Monday afternoon at the state Capitol.

Monday, May 15th 2023, 6:15 pm

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt along with several other state lawmakers announced their joint education package Monday afternoon at the state Capitol.

Once signed into law, the new education package will increase teacher pay, put more money into the classroom, fund school safety measures and more.

The package will include the following:

  1. $625 million in recurring total investment into public education.
  2. $500 million directly into the educating funding formula, including a six-week paid maternity leave.
  3. Teacher pay raises of $3,000 for teachers with 0 to 4 years of experience, $4,000 for teachers with 5 to 9 years of experience, $5,000 for teachers with 10 to 15 years of experience and $6,000 for teachers with 15 or more years of experience.
  4. An additional $10 million into a three-year literacy program to employ a literacy instructional team to support school districts.
  5. $125 million to the Redbud Fund.
  6. An additional $150 million into a three-year pilot program for school safety and security.

This plan comes after months of back-and-forth and closed-door negotiations between the house, senate and governor. Republican lawmakers are calling it a win.

“Simply put- today is a win. Today, kids win, parents win, teachers win. This is a big day for education regardless of the means,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said.

“Even though we had different ideas in the beginning, we came together as colleagues with one goal in mind - that goal was to help children,” Rep. Rhonda Baker, (R) House Education Chair, said.

While it’s not attached, this also means the tax credit plan for private and homeschool families is one step closer to the governor's desk. 

Two weeks ago, the house and senate passed a tax credit plan, but the house captured the plan and said they were holding it in their chamber until the senate passed a public school funding plan.

The plan is broken down into income brackets, giving the most money to the families that earn the least.

School Choice Tax Credit Bracket

  1. $75,000 or less a year: up to a $7,500 credit
  2. $75,000- $150,000 a year: up to a $7,000.00 credit
  3. $150,000- $225,000 a year: up to a $6,500 credit
  4. $225,000- $250,000 a year: up to a $6,000 credit
  5. $250,000 + a year: up to a $5,000 credit

The bill does have a spending cap though, that will increase over the first three years.

Total expenses: Private School Tax credits

  1. 2025: Should cost the state no more than $150 million
  2. 2026: Should cost the state no more than $200 million
  3. 2027: should cost the state no more than $250 million

House Speaker Charles McCall said in the press conference on Monday that he does plan to send the plan to the governor's desk as soon as this public school funding plan is signed into law.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters released the following statement after the announcement:

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in Oklahoma’s education system. With the help of Governor Stitt, Speaker McCall, and Pro Tem Treat, the legislature and governor’s office have agreed to pass the most significant education reform in our state’s history.
Top line categories include: $500 million towards the state-aid formula, $125 million to rural school district infrastructure, $50 million for school safety and security, and $10 million added to the Reading Sufficiency Act. More directly, the bill would bring families a universal tax credit towards a private school of their choice.
I would like to thank the Governor, and House and Senate leadership, for their rigorous efforts in reaching this agreement. Everyone has shown that we are all committed to doing what is best for children and parents in Oklahoma.”

President Katherine Bishop of the Oklahoma Education Association released the following statement after the announcement:

We appreciate lawmakers for listening to the concerns of educators and parents by investing $625 million into public education, including a $3,000 to $6,000 raise for certified educators, and six weeks of maternity leave. To keep and attract our best educators, it is imperative we not only compensate them as professionals, but also treat them with dignity and respect. 
That same principle applies to the education support professionals who are the glue of our schools. We encourage and expect local school districts to reward them with a much needed and well-deserved pay raise from the substantial funding allocated to local school districts. Oklahoma education support professionals are currently 50th in the country in pay, which is unacceptable. 
When we invest in the 90% of families who choose public schools and the professionals who serve them, we are investing in the future of Oklahoma. 
We want to thank the OEA members who held dinners with legislators in their communities, advocated for their students and profession at the Capitol, sent emails, made phone calls, and did whatever it took to work with legislators to produce a result that will improve the future for Oklahoma children. 
This current education plan is a great step towards making public education a core value of Oklahoma and lifting us out of the bottom of the region in per-student funding. We look forward to a continuing, long-term commitment to public education values to be competitive in the region and give every Oklahoma child the best chance at success.

The Catholic Bishops also commented on the package with the following statement:

“Today Oklahoma House and Senate leaders announced an agreement on new education funding which proposes notable increases for public schools, teacher salaries, and paves the way for final approval of the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act passed last month by the legislature.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City and Most Rev. David Konderla, Bishop of Tulsa, issued the following statement praising the agreement:
“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to House and Senate leaders for working tirelessly to arrive at a final compromise that expands educational opportunities for Oklahoma’s families. The legislature’s agreement offers essential and historic levels of funding for both public and private schools.
Oklahoma’s parents soon will have the option to send their children to the school that best meets their educational needs, free from arbitrary geographical constraints. This new funding package will help bring more quality education to all children, especially those who are underserved in our state.”

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