When I was campaigning last year, one of the biggest issues I heard echoed over and over again was a concern for the state of Oklahoma’s education system. It inspired me to run for office and represent House District 50 to ensure my constituents’ voices were being heard. And I was able to vote on two important bills this past week regarding education.
The one which had received the most press is House Bill 1114, which is the House’s teacher pay raise bill. It passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 92 to 7. We call this the 1-2-3 plan because it gradually implements a $6,000 raise over the course of three years. Teachers would see a $1,000 increase the first year, $2,000 the second, and $3,000 the third year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a responsible approach to giving teachers the raise they so desperately deserve. The first year will cost the state roughly $53 million, which is absolutely doable, even in our fiscal situation. Right now, the bill lacks a funding mechanism, but I have full faith that we’ll find a way to pay for the raise before the end of session.
We also passed HB 1693, which puts into place the framework and components for a new A-F School Grading System that brings Oklahoma into compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. This is an important step to fixing the flaws that were in the original A-F formula. School accountability is important; we just want to be sure we give schools the proper instrument. Both HB 1693 and the teacher pay bill now move over to the Senate for consideration.
I’m looking forward to hearing HB 1760 on the floor. The bill removes the sunset for the probationary promotion under the Reading Sufficiency Act. Basically, this legislation allows parents to continue to be involved in the third grade reading test and to have a say in whether a third grader moves onto fourth grade or is retained. It passed out of committee last month, and I think this is a great thing for parents in our state.
Lastly, an education savings account bill was pulled from consideration early this month, and that appears to be the last ESA bill for the session. I’m grateful the senator who pulled his bill decided to do so. Vouchers make no sense for rural school districts, and furthermore, they take money from the funding formula. I was prepared to vote “no” on the bill, but I’m even happier I won’t see it come across my desk in the first place.
There are dozens of education bills making their way through the legislative process, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Please call my office at (405) 557-7327 or email me at Marcus.McEnitre@okhouse.gov to let me know what you’re thinking. Thank you, and God bless.