The Oklahoman

Senate OKs education measure at center of McCall’s ultimatum

- Dale Denwalt The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK

The Oklahoma Senate has advanced part of its education agenda that would funnel more money to public schools and teacher developmen­t.

The package consists of six bills that would cost the state an estimated $81 million. After passing the Senate, bills need approval from the House of Representa­tives and the governor to become law.

However, the Senate bills face an uphill battle in the House, after Speaker Charles McCall said last week that the Senate’s education priorities were “dead on arrival” unless the Senate passed his own slate of education bills — without any amendment.

McCall, R-Atoka, told reporters that he would interpret any amendments to his legislatio­n on school choice tax credits, teacher pay raises and school funding as an act of “sabotage.” Senate leader Greg Treat has said the speaker’s bills don’t have enough votes to pass without being amended.

The bills adopted by the Senate on Tuesday include the creation of a mentorship program, teacher scholarshi­ps, a reworking of how schools are funded and the creation of a task force to study child literacy.

“I firmly believe in the bills that we are advancing through the Senate. I cannot control what the other chamber does, and it’s certainly their purview to bring bills to the floor or not,” said Pugh, who said he spent months speaking with teachers, parents, school administra­tors to develop a bipartisan education plan that addresses some of the state’s most important education needs. After Pugh’s bills passed the Senate, McCall’s office confirmed that his threat to block Senate education policy still stands.

Senate Bill 529 would create the Oklahoma Teacher Corps, a program that would provide scholarshi­ps for people earning a teaching degree at a college or university. The bill requires recipients to work for four years in schools with high numbers of impoverish­ed students.

Senate Bill 359 adjusts the public school funding formula so that schools will receive state aid based on a more accurate set of data, Pugh said. The current formula allots money to school districts based on projected ad valorem, or property tax revenue, which can fluctuate; if this legislatio­n becomes law, the formula would account for actual ad valorem collection­s.

Typically, a school that receives significant revenue from local ad valorem taxes will receive less (or no) state aid.

Senate Bill 522 creates a $500 stipend for teachers who mentor new teachers. Another bill that passed, Senate Bill 525, would let a school be reimbursed for covering some of its teachers’ certification costs.

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