Ch 9 - January 12, 2024 5:54 am

Ryan Walters

State Superintendent was in front of lawmakers for the first time in months Wednesday morning, presenting the 2025 education budget request.

The $3.92 million request is about $47 million less than the 2024 budget, and Walters is calling it the “most innovative budget in state history.” “I thought we had a great discussion of how to move education forward here in the state of Oklahoma,” said Walters.

The biggest change in the 2025 budget is Walters’ “Back to Basics” plan. “Rolling out our back to the basics plan talking about teacher signing bonuses, growth bonuses for teachers, new ways to recruit and retain teachers,” said State Superintendent Ryan Walters. “The $60 million for the back to the basics program, I do want to say upfront, would heavily invest in teachers in the classroom.”

Walters says about 80% of that money, $48,250,000, will go directly to teachers.

  1. Signing Bonus: $10 million
  2. Tutoring: $15 million
  3. Reading: $10 million
  4. Math: $5 million
  5. Growth Bonuses: $22 million
  6. Reading: $16 million
  7. Math: $6 million
  8. Training: $9.05 million
  9. Reading: $7.85 million
  10. Math and Science: $400,000
  11. History: $800,000
  12. $4,500,000 (7.5% of the request) to a statewide screener and online early warning and intervention system

Walters touted his teacher signing bonus as the highest in the country. He told lawmakers he wants to keep the number high to incentivize teachers to move to Oklahoma. “The reality is, the status quo has failed. We have to do things differently, and we’re here to help those districts do things differently,” said Walters.

He wants to allocate $10 million for the signing bonuses, giving between $15,000 – $50,000 based on the following criteria:

  1. PK – 3rd grade or PK-12th SPED with less than 3 years of experience: $15,000 standard signing bonus, or $20,000 elevated signing bonus for teaching in a rural or high poverty district
  2. PK – 3rd grade or PK-12th SPED with 3-4 years of experience: $25,000 standard signing bonus, or $30,000 elevated signing bonus for teaching in a rural or high poverty district
  3. PK – 3rd grade with 5+ years of experience: $25,000 standard signing bonus, or $50,000 elevated signing bonus for teaching in a rural or high poverty district
  4. PK – 12th grade SPED with 5+ years of experience: $50,000 standard signing bonus
  5. PK – 3rd grade or PK-12th SPED moving to OK with less than 5 years of experience: $25,000 standard signing bonus
  6. PK – 3rd grade or PK-12th SPED moving to OK with 5+ years of experience: $50,000 standard signing bonus

The state superintendent shared the results of the FY 24 teacher signing bonus results, which were largely paid for through $15,635,000 in ESSER and IDEA Part B Funds. He says 522 certified teachers in 200 districts hired to teach in critical shortage areas in exchange for a 5-year commitment:

  1. PreK – 3rd grade:
  2. 321 teachers
  3. $8,980,000
  4. Estimated impact: 6,420 students (20 per teacher)
  5. Special Education:
  6. 201 teachers
  7. $6,665,000
  8. Estimated impact: 3,015 students (15 per teacher)

Walters adds that the bonus attracted 16 national board-certified teachers and 48 previously- awarded teachers. He says he is hoping to continue to grow the program through the legislative allocation in 2025.

The state superintendent has also asked for $13 million for paid maternity leave for teachers and $13 million for additional teacher pay raises.

Walters also wants to give growth bonuses, setting aside $22 million to incentivize high-performing teachers. “When teachers do a great job in the classroom, we think they should be supported for that,” said Walters.

Walters is also requesting $15 million for a math and reading tutoring program that is specifically geared towards students performing in the bottom 5%. He wants to pair those students with veteran teachers and get them into a rigorously scheduled tutoring program. “It’s a great way to target investment for student improvement,” said Walters.

The state superintendent rolled out a similar program during Thanksgiving and winter breaks this year, and says he was impressed by the success and wants to continue into next year. Eight school districts participated in the tutoring programs this year, and Walters is hoping to increase participation next year.

The $3.9 billion request is about $47 million less than last year’s budget. “It’s not about adding a lot more money in education, it’s about making sure money is getting where it needs to go,” said Walters.

News9 asked the state superintendent what was cut in the budget to account for the $47 million decrease, and he did not give a clear answer.

House Education A&B Chair, Mark Mcbride says he has a few tweaks in mind but overall, McBride said “I’m happy.”

After a few months of tension, both Walters and McBride say today’s meeting was a good sign of what’s to come this year. “Going forward the superintendent and I can continue to have a good relationship as long as we stick to what’s best for teachers and students in our state,” said Rep. McBride, (R ) Moore. “I think we’re gonna have a great session and I really look forward to working together to improve Oklahoma education,” said Walters

State Superintendent Walters will be presenting the budget in front of the state senate tomorrow at 10 a.m.


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