Oklahoma Lawmaker Unveils Plan for Teacher Shortage Response, Education Reforms

KOKH - January 19, 2023 10:46 am

Oklahoma Senate Education Committee Chairman Adam Pugh (R-Edmond)

Oklahoma Senate Education Committee Chairman Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) unveiled his plan to address the teacher shortage and reform public education during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

The proposals total approximately $541 million, according to Sen. Pugh.

When formulating the measures, the state senator shared that, “I met with over 200 public school superintendents. I met with every college president in the State of Oklahoma. I met with hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers and parents and advocacy groups. And the goal there was just to listen.”

He shared that he focused on recruiting, retaining, and rewarding teachers.

Included in Sen. Pugh’s proposal is $240 million in teacher pay increases, recognizing out-of-state licenses, and offering 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to educators.

According to Sen. Kristen Thompson (R-Edmond), “I also learned, just yesterday, that teachers do not get paid maternity leave. I have three children. That was quite shocking to me.”

Sen. Pugh anticipates that his plan will change as he builds support among other legislators. According to him, Wednesday’s presentation was, “a starting point for where I as senate education chair would like to go, and where I’d like to make investments, and where the targeted resources need to be. And that will hopefully begin a conversation in this building, and over the next four months we’ll work through this plan.”

Among education reforms brought forward was achieving a 100 percent literacy rate for students entering the fourth grade.

Senate Education Committee Vice Chairwoman Ally Seifried (R-Claremore) asserted that, “It’s aggressive. I think it should be. Our Oklahoma students deserve the best. We haven’t been getting there, and it’s a disservice.”

Former teacher Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-Oklahoma City) shared that he agrees with much of what Republicans brought forward on Wednesday. However, he worries school voucher programs — if implemented — could take funds away from the proposed reforms.

In his view, “I think we’re in for a rocky road for this legislative session. Because, you have a lot of legislators who want to defund public education and divert taxpayer dollars to private religious schools.”

School vouchers are not currently a part of Pugh’s plan.

Vouchers were one of the most contentious items lawmakers debated during the 2022 legislative session. While a measure to implement a voucher system failed, both Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) have signaled there could be a path forward for vouchers during the upcoming session.

Professional Oklahoma Educators released the following statement in response to Sen. Pugh’s plan:

Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) looks forward to advocating for our members at the Capitol this legislative session and working with Chairman Pugh and the Senate Education committee to find ways to support Oklahoma teachers, empower our communities, and better serve our students. We are encouraged by Senator Pugh’s statements. POE agrees that school security and safety, competitive pay and maternity leave for teachers, and improving the literacy rates of our students are top priorities.

We are looking forward to working with Senator Pugh, Senator Seifried and Senator Thompson on these issues and bringing the perspectives of our members to the conversations.

Sen. Pugh released this full list of his education proposals:

Sen. Adam Pugh’s 2023 Public Education Plan

Recruit/Retain/Reward/Reform

Recruit

SB 529 – $15 million- Create Oklahoma Teacher Corps – provide scholarships to students who enter Oklahoma Colleges of Education, graduate and receive teaching certificate. Those who pass their program must commit four years of service in a Title I school or pay scholarship amount back to state.

SB 522 – $5 million – Mentorship Program – this bill will provide $500 stipends for mentors of new teachers. The goal is to pair every new teacher (both to the career or new to the district) with a mentor.

SB 361 – Create a multistate teacher licensure compact – Be the first state to recognize teacher licensure reciprocity in a multistate compact. Recognize professional experience and licensure from other states, and not lose teachers because of bureaucratic paperwork that discourages immediate entry into the workforce upon moving to Oklahoma.

Retain

SB 364 – $25 million Paid Maternity Leave – Will give teachers who have been with a district for at least one year 12 weeks of maternity leave. With a career field that is 76% female, this will allow new mothers to take time away to be with their newborns and return to the classroom as able. Solves a key workforce issue, is pro-life, and does not force a new parent to choose between career and family.

SB 523 – $50 million School Safety – Provide the Oklahoma School Security Institute with $50 million in grant funding to allocate by application process to meet unique and individual district needs for added security personnel, infrastructure, technology, training.

SB 525 – $1 million Credentialing – Reimburse each school district to pay for recertifying each teachers’ credentials if they are asked to gain additional credentials.

Reward

SB 482 – $241 million Teacher Pay Raise – Provides a teacher pay raise. Moves starting teacher pay to $40,000 with a $3,000 raise at entry through four years. Years five-through-nine will receive $4,000; 10-14 years of experience will receive $5,000; and a teacher with 15+ years of experience will receive $6,000.

Reform

SB 531 – Removed attendance metric on A-F report card and replace with school climate survey, which includes parents, students, and teachers/staff.

SB 527 – Puts more money toward kindergarten through third grade reading proficiency, with the ultimate goal being 100% reading proficiency for kids entering the fourth grade. Increases K-3 weights, special education weights, transportation weight, and gifted/talented, and socio-economic disadvantaged weights.

*K-3 100% literacy rate. The last round of NAEP scores showed Oklahoma at 25% ELA assessments.

SB 523 – Learn Everywhere Bill – Recognize that learning takes place in non-traditional settings and allow for credit to include internships, externships, part-time jobs, or other non-classroom activities that directly contribute to learning and college or career advancement.

SB 516 – $1.5 million – Charter School Reform – Combine the virtual charter school board and charter school board. Add stricter accounting requirements, financial controls, and reporting criteria. Require any authorizer fee be expended on charter school oversight, provide training for charter school authorizers, and prevent authorizer ‘shopping’.

SB 359 – $60M – Funding Formula – Move the funding formula ad valorem dollars to account for previous year actuals and not projected. All chargeables in the funding formula are based on actual numbers except for ad valorem dollars, that is based on a projection. This also accounts for potential ad valorem protests, which can withhold ad valorem dollars despite projected incoming money. Would predominantly protect rural schools.

SB 520 – Graduation Credits – Build 3 graduation tracks to include college, career, and core. Require four years of math and science for college track to increase STEM preparedness. Recognize that a career and core track can still pursue college and concurrent enrollment. Address Oklahoma’s lagging STEM standards and help build modern high-tech workforce. Opportunity to leverage many partnerships across private and public sector to include local businesses, higher education, career tech and more.

*Funding Request – Move to common Student Information System and update SDE accounting system $11 million – provide SDE and all school districts with technology upgrade to ensure seamless and standardized date entry system. Will also allow SDE to track how schools spend weighted dollars. For example, K-3 funding should be spent directly on K-3 students. There are federal requirements on funding but no such requirements on tracking accountability and transparency of state dollars in funding formula.

 

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