Lawmakers filed hundreds of education bills this session, seeking solutions to teacher pay, testing, and school funding in general. Here is a list of more than 30 bills that KOSU will be following closely this legislative session.
BILLS CONCERNING EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
ESAs are similar to school vouchers. They are meant to give parents more choices in how they educate their children. However, they are very controversial because they take money away from public schools. There are currently four states that have ESAs. These are the current Education Savings Account plans for Oklahoma: (UPDATE: All Education Savings Account legislation is dead this session. House Speaker Jeff Hickman put out a statement saying, “The desire to improve student outcomes and empower parents without harming our public schools will be the goal we continue to work toward in the future.” The State Department of Education also released a report showing ESAs could cost schools anywhere from $15.6 million to $68.9 million).
- The 80/20 plan: SB1263 by Clark Jolley would allow parents to take the money the state spends educating their child at a public school, and instead use that money to educate their child how they see fit. Private school tuition, online curriculum, textbooks, tutoring, testing for college, and many other things are approved through the bill. They would get 80 percent of the money – on average about $5,000—and 20 percent of the money would go to the school district the student would have attended. Similar bills: SB1401 by Nathan Dahm.
- The 30/60/90 plan: HB2949 by Jason Nelson is very similar to Senator Clark Jolley’s bill. However, under this law the student would receive 30 percent, 60 percent, or 90 percent of the funds based on their income level. Similar bills: HB3067 by Tom Newell.
LEGISLATION ON SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION
Oklahoma has a large number of school districts - about 530- in comparison to the number of students in the state. Lawmakers want to consolidate districts in an effort to save money on administrative costs. Some small districts worry this will hurt them. Here are some of the plans on the table: (UPDATE: All of these bills are dead. Senate Education Committee Chair, John Ford, said more discussion and exchange of ideas is needed before any schools are consolidated).
- Consolidating elementary schools: HB2824 by Lee Denney would require all elementary school districts to be subject to consolidation. Schools that score above a B- on the A through F School Report Card would be exempt. It does not require the closing of schools.
- Consolidating schools with specific student populations: SB934 by Kyle Loveless would require schools with fewer than 250 students to consolidate upon departure of their superintendent. SB1267 by Clark Jolley would require schools with less than 350 students would be consolidated. SB1384 by John Ford says school districts with fewer than 100 students should be consolidated by July 1, 2018. School districts with fewer than 250 students shall be consolidated by July 1, 2019. And school districts with fewer than 500 students shall be consolidated by July 1, 2020.
- County-wide consolidation: SB906 by Patrick Anderson would consolidate school districts in to county-wide districts.
- 200 school districts: SJR58 by David Holt puts a state question on the November ballot that would create a commission to create no more than 200 school districts statewide.
LAWS ABOUT SCHOOL FINANCE
Nationally, Oklahoma ranks 48th for school funding. With a looming $900 million budget shortfall, that is unlikely to change this year. So lawmakers are looking for ways to make every dollar count:
- School financial report cards: SB945 by Gary Stanislawski would require school districts to provide a financial report every month that lists all district expenses, (UPDATE: Active; passed out of Senate; awaiting a hearing in a House Committee). Similar bills: SB1264 by Clark Jolley, (UPDATE: Active; passed out of Senate; awaiting a hearing in a House Committee), and SB1181 by Kyle Loveless, (UPDATE: Dead; Never heard in committee).
- Spending limits: HB2693 by Representative Earl Sears mandates that school districts spend 63 percent of their state aid on instruction, which includes teacher salaries. (UPDATE: Dead; passed out of committee, never heard on House floor).
- Superintendent salary caps: SB1045 by Jason Smalley establishes a maximum salary schedule for district superintendents. (UPDATE: Dead; never heard in committee).
- Private school accountability: HB2947 by Katie Henke requires the State Board of Education to grade private schools on the A through F School Report Card system, if they directly or indirectly receive revenue from the state allocated for the financial support of public schools. (UPDATE: Dead; passed out of Committee, never heard on House floor).
Students in Oklahoma currently take at least 26 standardized tests from 3rd to 12th grade. Multiple bills seek to reduce that number:
- Reading Sufficiency Act: HB2454 by Mike Shelton exempts certain third grade students from the Reading Sufficiency Act retention requirements if they are taught by an emergency certified teacher, or a teacher with a certain rating. Under SB1080 by Dan Newberry, the Reading Sufficiency Act will only apply to school districts that receive a “D” or an “F” on the A through F School Report Card. (UPDATE: Both bills are dead; never heard in committee).
- End of Instruction exams: HB2490 by Ed Cannaday replaces the End of Instruction tests required for high school graduation, with the ACT, or American College Test. Provides a minimum score necessary to pass. HB2527 by Dennis Casey eliminates all tests in grades three through 12 that are not mandated by federal law, and requires the State Board of Education to adopt a new system of assessments. Similar bills: SB938 by Jason Smalley and SB1463 by JJ Dossett. (UPDATE: HB2490, SB938, and SB1463 are all dead; were never heard in committee. HB2527 is active; awaiting a hearing in a Senate Committee).
TEACHER PAY SOLUTIONS
Oklahoma teacher's salaries are ranked 49th in the nation. The state is currently undergoing about a 1,000 teacher shortage, in part because educators can make more money in surrounding states. At least 18 bills were filed concerning teacher pay:
- Encouraging retired teachers to come back: HB2247 by Randy McDaniel would allow retired teachers to be rehired, and earn up to $18,000 dollars before they experienced a reduction in their Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System pension benefit. After 36 months there would be no cap. Retired teachers can now earn up to $15,000 without penalty. (UPDATE: Active; awaiting a hearing in a Senate Committee).
- Removing restrictions on how funds are spent: SB1216 by Roger Thompsen allows schools to spend money that is typically earmarked for things like building maintenance, technology, and utilites on teacher’s salaries instead. (UPDATE: Dead; never heard in committee).
- Giving teachers stipends: HB2498 & HB2505, by Doug Cox would impose a $1.50 tax on a pack of cigarettes. 66 percent of the revenue would go in to a newly-created “Common Education Classroom Teacher Performance Stipend Revolving Fund”. The money would be budgeted and expended by the State Department of Education for the purpose of granting stipends to classroom teachers. (UPDATE: Both are dead; never heard in committee)
- Senator David Holt’s plan for $10,000 pay raises: SJR57 – This puts a state question on the November ballot that would require the Legislature during the 2017 legislative session to identify $200 million in ongoing annual savings by reforming tax credits, rebates, exemptions and deductions. SB1238 works in concert with SJR 57 to codify this legislative session a $5,000 pay raise contingent on successful implementation of the goals set forth in SJR 57. SB1256 codifies that all revenue growth after Fiscal Year 2017 will be captured exclusively for future teacher pay raises, up to $200 million. SB1278 works in concert with the legislation above to codify this session a $5,000 pay raise contingent on the capturing of future revenue growth envisioned in SB 1256. (UPDATE: All of these bills are dead; were never heard in committee).
GENERAL INTEREST & ACTIVE BILLS FROM LAST YEAR
- SB1320 by John Sparks: Mandates school districts that employ teachers with emergency certifications to provide written notification to the parents of students who are in the teacher's class. The notification shall include the name of the teacher issued the emergency certificate and the classes he or she teaches.(UPDATE: Dead; never heard in committee).
- SJR67 by Greg Treat: Under this Senate Joint Resolution, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, currently Joy Hofmeister, would be appointed by the Governor, instead of voted in by the people. (UPDATE: Dead; never heard in Committee).
- SB1324 by Greg Treat: This bill would take pre-kindergarten funding out the State Aid formula. It would seek to try to supplant that with a local funding stream, like ad valorem, but only if the local district chose to do that. (UPDATE: Dead; never heard in committee).
- HB1380 by Dan Fisher: This bill would bar state funds from being used on AP History. The legislation specifies what should be taught in the classroom by specifically identifying dozens of documents, writings, speeches, proclamations and recordings related to the history, heritage and foundation of the United States. (UPDATE: Dead; made it out of committee, never heard on House floor).
- HB2721 by Emily Virgin: Ensures that the sex education curriculum in schools uses anatomically correct information. No longer makes abstinence the primary purpose of sex education. (UPDATE: Dead; never heard in committee).
- HB2269 by Justin Wood: Gives schools another year before they implement the Teacher Leadership and Effectiveness system used to assess teachers. It would also eliminate the “Value Added Model” within the assessment, that is very controversial. (UPDATE: Dead; never heard in committee).