The Capitol has been fairly quiet this past week, which is typical for Spring Break. Lawmakers met briefly on the floor each day, and Senate bills were assigned to committees. Several of my colleagues and I brought our families to Oklahoma City for the break, and I really enjoyed getting to meet everyone. It was especially fun to watch our children play together and observe life on the House floor – a future generation of leaders, that’s for sure!
Even though floor sessions and committee meetings were pretty light this week, negotiations continue on a teacher pay raise plan. Leaders in the House, Senate and governor’s office are hard at work trying to provide teachers with proper compensation while balancing the needs of all other core services of government. It’s not an easy feat, which is why you may have seen several possible plans floating around social media lately.
Last week, House Speaker Charles McCall unveiled a proposal that is being dubbed the Transformational Teacher Pay Raise Plan. This plan is a backup plan should a grand revenue package we can pass not materialize. It is a long-range plan intended to come to fruition over the course of the next six years. What it lacks in immediacy, it makes up for in salary increases. By the time the plan is complete, Oklahoma’s teacher salaries would be highest in the region. Educators who have been in the classroom for 25 years would be making $60,000 on the minimum teacher salary schedule.
As the teacher walkout looms, there are a number of other plans on the table to fund education, fund teacher and state employee pay increases, and fund core services. It is becoming evident I will be forced to make some tough calls on your behalf soon. Lawmakers will be faced with choices I would honestly rather not face over these next few weeks and months, but my job is to listen to you and carry out the will of the people in House District 50.
Of course, none of this is easy – and all of it is taking much longer than anyone would like. But I am in this for the long haul, and I intend to stand with teachers every step of the way.
If you have any thoughts on the pay raise proposals, please reach out and let me know. I’m atMarcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7327. Thanks, and may God continue to bless our great state.
As the House worked through its floor deadline this past week, lawmakers continued to work hard on a teacher pay raise plan. This can sometimes feel like an insurmountable feat, but I remain committed to getting this done. The time is now.
Despite the high tensions surrounding the possible teacher walkout, I’m encouraged by the number of people actively following what happens in state government. Local politics tend to be overshadowed by what happens at the national level, but decisions made on the state-level are generally more impactful to you.
Of course, I wish this increased advocacy and activism had come about because of something positive, but I truly believe an informed public is a better public. Your frustrations are understood, and I share them with you. By harnessing the energy of teachers, superintendents and parents, I believe we can all find common ground and develop a solution that will work. Working across the aisle, bringing stakeholders to the table and doing some honest-to-goodness brainstorming will help us get there.
This change will not happen overnight. April 2 is fast approaching, and bills don’t become law instantaneously. Once a deal is reached, language must be drafted. The process itself of passing nearly any bill takes at least five days. That’s not to mention the fact that the Oklahoma Education Association’s request of $800 million for this upcoming fiscal year is a near-impossible task.
We’ve tried to raise taxes – even just to the tune of $160 million in the form of a cigarette tax increase – several times over the past year. Each time, a small minority of representatives has used its power as a way to prohibit progress. The House has passed a series of reforms that will help us better grasp our state budget, but we’re still far short of the $800 million OEA wants.
I do not say this to discourage a walkout. In fact, I encourage teachers to follow their hearts these next few weeks. Make your voices heard. Come visit me at the Capitol. Visit other lawmakers. Do whatever you need to do. I hesitate to give you false hope, though, because I honestly cannot envision a scenario where lawmakers are able to deliver on every OEA demand – especially before April 2.
Are teachers and support staff deserving of a significant raise? Without a doubt. Am I fighting to make that happen? Every single day. I am staunchly supportive of our educators, and I cannot fully express how appreciative I am for their dedication to our state’s future generations. My desire is to reach a compromise where the solution will both provide immediate relief and long-term growth opportunities for teacher salaries. Perhaps then we will start effectively recruiting teachers, rather than throwing up our hands in exasperation. I believe we can do this if we stop insisting on a Republican plan or a Democrat plan and demand an Oklahoma plan – a plan that is good for all Oklahomans.
Lastly, I have one quick bill update: my measure forming a commission to investigate elderly abuse, neglect and exploitation passed the House and is headed to the Senate. I am truly grateful for the support, and I’m excited that we seem to be on track to better protecting our senior citizens.
If you are planning a visit to the Capitol in the coming weeks, please let me know. I’d love to talk to you. I’m at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov and 405-557-7327. Thanks and God bless.
I’ve received more emails and phone calls in the past week or two from teachers in House District 50 than I have in a long time. Each conversation contains stories of educators who are just flat exhausted – they feel underappreciated and stretched thin. And they feel let down by lawmakers.
As much as I hate to see and hear the frustrated tone in the emails and phone calls, I have to admit I understand where the teachers are coming from. Please know, I stand with our educators.
House Republicans have voted on more than 20 revenue measures that could have helped fund – or funded entirely – a teacher pay raise. And that’s just since I’ve been in office. I’ve voted ‘yes’ each and every time. These revenue bills weren’t always the easiest measures to vote for or approve; as a conservative, I truly believe in protecting taxpayers from unnecessary taxation. But at a certain point, we must realize the path Oklahoma is on is not working out well. We need to adjust our policies and set our state on a better path.
I truly believe we can make changes that positively impact Oklahoma and provide for teacher pay raises. As lawmakers, we have a duty to put people above politics. We have a responsibility to think and make decisions bettering Oklahoma for the future, not just for today. Those decisions include ensuring we properly compensate teachers so our dedicated educators don’t flee the state. The time to act is now.
As for another pressing issue, most everyone has heard about the closure of Youth Services for Stephens County. I did not see this one coming, and I heard about it only after being contacted by a local news reporter. The closure is upsetting, and it will impact the many families who rely on services day in and day out.
Also, it is upsetting to me to blame the closure on budget cuts. I have learned the center received no cut from the Office of Juvenile Affairs this year. And again, nobody from the center contacted me alerting me of budget woes so severe they could prompt shutting the doors.
I’ve been in contact with folks at the Office of Juvenile Affairs, and we’re looking into exactly what happened at Youth Services. Their programs and services were valuable to our district, and I would love to see if there’s something we can do to reopen the center or replace services in another manner. I’ll keep you posted.
There’s a lot of news happening these days. Please trust that I think of the people in House District 50 every single day. Your worries and concerns are my worries and concerns. Your celebrations are mine, too. If you need anything, you know how to reach me. I’m at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7327. Thanks, and God bless.
Have you ever read a news article so horrifying that it sticks with you for months? Have you ever learned about a common practice that seems so backwards and inhumane that you couldn’t understand why people haven’t put a stop to it?
I hate to sound overly dramatic, but that’s exactly what happened to me when I read a New Yorker Magazine piece about the system of court-appointed guardians in the United States. According to the reporter, there are roughly 1.5 million adults who are part of this system across the country. Many are lucid, functioning senior citizens who simply live slower lives than they used to. And often times, they’re being forcefully removed from their home and moved to a living center without any say in the matter. These men and women can quickly become wards, losing their assets and being charged exorbitant fees by the “guardians” who oversee their cases.
After I read this article, I couldn’t stomach the thought of Oklahoma seniors losing their rights. Thankfully, I’m not alone. A bill I authored creating the Commission on the Prevention of Abuse of Elderly and Vulnerable Adults is now eligible to be heard on the House floor. The commission would study and make recommendations for changes to state policies to better provide services to individuals at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation under existing adult guardianship laws. A report would be due by Dec. 1, 2019.
If our state really wants to brag on our “Oklahoma Standard,” we have to carry that standard throughout the care of all our residents – including and especially our most vulnerable. My desire is to see this commission and its recommendations through to the end, so our citizens can be treated fairly and respectfully.
As part of House District 50’s goal to make sure Oklahomans are properly equipped to effectively engage in government, I’ve also authored legislation requiring the Oklahoma Tax Commission submit a biennial report to the Legislature on the overall incidence of the income tax, sales tax and other excise taxes. The bill cleared committee last week and will allow Oklahomans insight into who all is paying taxes in the state. This is great policy that promotes transparency and assists lawmakers as we craft budget bills each year.
Lastly, my bill expanding the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program received unanimous approval in committee. The measure permits the Physician Manpower Training Commission to waive the maximum rural population criteria currently in statute, which should entice more doctors and physician assistants to practice in rural areas.
These proposed policy changes are common sense measures, and Oklahomans will be able to see direct results from their implementation. Above all, that’s what I want to achieve as your state representative – policy changes you can benefit from. If you have anything you think I should know about, please reach out. I’m at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7327. God bless.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.