The Oklahoma House of Representatives holds negotiations on education bills

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The views of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives on public education spending entered the formal negotiation stage Monday with the Senate rejecting Senate amendments to House Bills Numbers 2775 and 1935.

The procedural move, which was expected, moves discussions to a conference committee of House and Senate members in search of a way to settle what appear to be significant differences between the two chambers.

“House is ready to designate two conferences and get to work immediately as we strive to provide the citizens of Oklahoma with an education plan that works for every student, every parent, every teacher, and every school in the state,” said spokesman Charles McCall, R.D. -Atoka, in a written statement Monday afternoon.

A spokesman for Senate Pro Team Greg Treat, Oklahoma City, said there were “active discussions” and directed reporters to Treat’s comments at a news conference Thursday.

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“I don’t like to put disagreements on these things,” Treat said then. “I don’t feel really hopeful this week on the basis of progress, but we are in April…we will make progress, hopefully, if all parties want to reach the goals they say they are.

“I know we are committed to giving parents more choice and injecting a significant amount of money into the public school system. We act in good faith and we hope others will as well.”

The House and Senate agree that shared education should get a boost in appropriations by about $600 million this year, of which a large share will go to tax credits to help parents pay for private school or homeschooling.

The House of Representatives wants the tax credits to be available to everyone, while the Senate wants them limited to families with annual incomes of less than $200,000.

The other major disagreement is over the distribution of funds to school districts. The Senate wants all of the new money sent through the existing state aid formula, while the House wants a disproportionate share to go to smaller counties.

There are also disagreements over the allocation of raises to teachers and support staff.

Lawmakers have just over a month to reach a compromise before the final delay mandated by the constitution takes place on the last Friday in May.

Those with incomes of no more than $250,000 can receive $7,500 for a private school student and $1,000 for a homeschool child.