Oklahoma session draws to a close, lawmakers still disagree with education

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Today is the deadline for the bills to be heard in the corresponding chamber committee. After a full week of meetings between the House, Senate, and governor, there is still a lot up in the air for education legislation this session.

There are some key differences in the two chambers’ plans – mostly affecting funding for rural or smaller schools versus urban and suburban areas.

The original plan of the house

The cost of the House’s original education plan was to be about $800 million, between the tax credit for private and homeschooling, and funding for public schools.

The plan was divided into three parts, for a total of $500 million in increased funding for public schools.

  1. The $150 million in financial support was used to increase the salaries of teachers, not the administration, by $2,500, regardless of what is currently being paid or the bottom line on the pay scale.
  2. The $50 million is distributed pro rata as the Redbud School Grants, which are grant funding for low-income areas.
  3. $300 million distributed to public school districts on a per student basis.

The House’s original plan includes $300 million to be distributed to public school districts on a per-pupil basis, but with a cap of $2 million per school.

This will include up to $5,000 in credits for private school students (per student, per year) and up to $2,500 for home school students (per student, per year).

These expenses will also only be paid for eligible purchases with receipts. Some eligible expenses include tuition and fees, teaching services, textbooks, curriculum or other educational materials, and nationally standardized assessments.

Today, Speaker of the House Charles McCaul said their plan will likely cost close to $670 million, instead of the originally projected $800 million.

The Senate changes the House plan

The Senate made some major changes to the house plan on the floor a few weeks ago.

The school selection initiative in the Senate looked very different from the House of Representatives. They cap income at $250,000 per household in order to qualify for a tax credit.

They increased the private school amount to $7,500 per student and reduced the homeschool credit to $1,000 per family.

The Senate has proposed a $248 million investment in teacher pay increases, combining a bill they were already working to pass this session with what the House sent.

  1. $3,000 for service from zero to four years
  2. $4,000 for five to nine years of service
  3. $5,000 for 10 to 14 years of service
  4. $6,000 for 15 (+) years of service

The way the House originally wrote it, Senate Pro Tim Greg Treat says it was not equal to counties across the state. They said he would give more money to rural schools.

The Senate’s $630 million plan would give an additional $216 million that will be used in the state aid formula, Treat says. That equates to an additional $414 per child regardless of whether they attend an urban or rural school.

what happened after that?

Now the two councils and the governor are negotiating plans, hoping to compromise on one.

“He’s blowing all the air out of the room in all of the other negotiations without a doubt,” said Senate Pro Team President Greg Treat. “I don’t feel really hopeful this week based on progress,” said Tritt.

“I’m pleased with what happened this week,” said House Speaker Charles McCall.

The House and Senate leaderships remain divided over the progress of their negotiations.

We negotiate all points. “Determining income was critical to my caucuses,” Treat said.

“If you put an income cap on that tax credit — you can’t say that every student and every parent in the state of Oklahoma wins,” McCall said.

The Senate voted to place an income cap per household of $250,000 on the tax credit bill.

“The Oklahoma Student Fund case is a must for the House of Representatives.”

This is the House’s public school funding plan that the Senate says will provide disproportionate funding to rural versus urban schools.

“We can run more money through the formula to help support great schools,” said McCall.

Both boards say they have the same goal — getting money for public education and giving school choice — but how they plan to do that is where they differ.

“Obviously we had a very different pay for the teachers—they were only $2,500 for the class teachers. We went up to $6,000; $6,000 to $3,000 depending on the service,” Treatt said.

The bill he’s talking about, the Senate teacher pay raise bill, was not heard on House committee today.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been negotiating in terms of the education package,” McCall said, “It doesn’t surprise me at all that an individual bill hasn’t been introduced on that.”

This is very normal, McCall said, as there have been bills the Senate hasn’t heard from the Senate as well.

With more than a month left in the session, there is still hope that the two chambers will finally reach an agreement.

“I think we always find a way,” said McCall.

“We’re committed to putting money into the public school system into the pockets of educators, and it’s a fair and equitable way to do that as well as school choice,” said Treat.