Midwest City Beacon
State lawmakers passed a $625 million education funding package that includes teacher pay raises, additional money for school districts and tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools.
The legislature approved the bill May 15 and Gov. Kevin Stitt signed it into law a week later.
Each school district will be receiving funding for a teacher pay raise with Senate Bill 1119, for property tax with Senate Bill 1120 and for a safety program with House Bill 2904. The largest take-away from this package of bills is the pay increase for certified teachers across the state.
This package of bills will also help to improve the school districts and provide a better learning environment for students, state lawmakers say.
“[The education funding package included] $500 million in new, recurring money to the school funding formula for pay raises, maternity leave, and additional pay raises; $125 million in new, recurring money to the Redbud fund, which goes toward school districts like Mid-Del that have lower ad valorem tax rates than the state average; $150 million in one-time monies spent over three years on school safety; and $10 million in one-time monies spent over three years on improving literacy,” said State Rep. Robert Manger, who serves House District 101.
Lawmakers and the governor went back and forth on the issue for much of the session.
“I would say this is a historic investment in public education and I’m thrilled that we are investing in public education and providing quality education for the children across the state,” said Senator Brenda Stanley.
This final decision did not come easily during this session. There are few topics at the State Capital that elicit more passion than education, Manger said.
“With this passion comes a lot of opinions, and what you saw take place in the public eye this session was the democratic process taking place as the House, Senate and Governor went through the difficult process of consensus building. While the process took longer than any of us would’ve liked, going down to the wire in session,” Manger said. “The final result is one that we can all be proud of that’s good for Oklahoma’s kids and taxpayers.”
Not only is public education benefiting from these bills but so are private schools. With House Bill 1934, or the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, a tax credit will be provided to parents who choose to send their students to a private or charter school.
“One aspect of this year’s education package is that it provides a benefit for every student in the state of Oklahoma, regardless of how they receive their education,” said Manger.
This education package sets the standards for the future of education for students across the state.
“Everyone is aware of the workforce challenges throughout the state. Our teacher pipeline is no exception. With across-the-board pay raises for all teachers, as well as additional formula dollars to help pay for other classroom expenses, we are equipping our teachers to train the next generation,” said Manger.
Superintendent of Mid-Del Schools Rick Cobb says the funding package will help the district retain teachers and make improvements and repairs to its facilities.
Cobb said the district has experienced rising costs in recent years for things such as property insurance, custodial contracts and utilities alongside the recent added expenses such as technology and maintenance of the technology.
He believes the whereabouts of the funds should be flexible to the school districts.
Overall, the education package is set to change education for the good of students and educators across the state, Cobb said.
“I think it’s going to help keep people here. Every year there are people who look around to see if they can get paid more doing something outside of education. The more you invest in education the more it helps us keep people here. I think it’s also going to allow us to have more adults working with kids and hopefully give them more resources when they’re struggling academically or behaviorally,” said Cobb.