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New Oklahoma Senate education funding plan features bigger teacher raises, maternity leave, separates voucher-like tax credits

Oklahoma Watch
Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat speaks at a Capitol news conference.

As Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to veto bills until an education funding stalemate ends, the Oklahoma Senate unveiled its new education package Thursday in the hopes of moving closer to the finish line.

In a resounding answer to the House’s education plan, the Senate’s is markedly different:

  • Instead of the $2-5,000 teacher raises from the House plan, the Senate’s plan bumps that to $4-8,000 depending on experience. Cost: $350 million recurring. 
  • Instead of the $350 million House plan for building and school funding (which featured a controversial $2 million cap for districts), the Senate plan adds to the funding formula. Cost: $150 million recurring.  
  • A new $3,000 one-time stipend for all full-time school employees returning from the last school year. Part-time employees would receive a prorated amount. Cost: $200 million one-time. 
  • Teacher merit pay bonuses of up to $5,000, offered at the districts’ discretion. Cost: about $17 million recurring from spillover funds from the state lottery. 

Also on the table is 8 weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers, a student literacy pilot program, reimbursement for teachers who earn additional credentials and an expansion of the teacher mentoring program.

In a Friday press conference, Stitt said the new package is encouraging.

“Teachers out there should be very, very happy that we’re going to get something across the finish line that’s going to help all of education,” Stitt said.

The Senate plan also includes the voucher-like tax credits for private and homeschool students like those in the House plan, but notably, the Senate’s plan divorces that from the rest of the education funding package — meaning it would not have to pass for the rest of the measures to pass.

It also offers the tax credits on a graduated basis, per student:

  • Households earning under $75,000 would be eligible for $7,500 
  • Households earning between $75,000-$150,000 would be eligible for $7,000 
  • Households earning between $150,000-$225,000 would be eligible for $6,500  
  • Households earning between $225,000-$250,000 would be eligible for $6,000  
  • Households earning more than $250,000 would be eligible for $5,000 
  • Homeschool students would receive $1,000 for expenses 

The Senate’s new plan was made possible by shucking some bills — that is, getting rid of the wording on a bill still working through the legislature and replacing it with new wording. That allows the bill to avoid committee hearings.

“Now we’re talking, they’re actually moving, we’re moving together. This should have happened a month ago, but now we’re actually getting somewhere,” Stitt said. “Sometimes, you know, pressure has to mount a little bit, and it happens every single year it seems like, and I wish it didn’t. But we’re going to get something landed and it’s going to be great for Oklahomans.”

Beth Wallis holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from Tulsa, she also graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in conducting performance. She was a band director at a public school for five years.