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Oklahoma House passes surprise bill tying teacher raises to Stitt's voucher-like tax credit program

House Speaker Charles McCall shakes hands with Gov. Kevin Stitt at the 2023 State of the State address.
Abi Ruth Martin
House Speaker Charles McCall shakes hands with Gov. Kevin Stitt at the 2023 State of the State address.

Oklahoma House Republicans bypassed standard legislative procedure to advance Gov. Kevin Stitt’s education plan. The last-minute change ties teacher raises to tax credits for private school and homeschool families.

Until Wednesday morning, Senate Bill 561 described updates to a state assistance program for needy families. But House Speaker Charles McCall shook things up on the House floor — or rather “shucked” things up. To shuck a bill is to amend it beyond all recognition, bringing legislation to a vote without requiring it to pass committees.

McCall amended SB 561 to get rid of all its original contents and replace them with legislation that would provide across-the-board raises to Oklahoma teachers. The raises range from $2,000 for first-year educators and up to $5,000 for Oklahoma’s most experienced teachers.

But McCall’s amended bill says teachers won’t see those pay increases unless two controversial education bills also pass. House Bill 1935 sets up a voucher-like tax credit program for private school and homeschool students.

The other measure is Senate Bill 2775, which would have established its own raises (slightly higher than those in SB561), but was amended during a special conference committee called Wednesday in light of the shucking. SB 2775 now no longer includes its own raises; it instead sets aside $300 million to pay for teacher raises and another $300 million to support public schools.

“Republican leadership through a series of tricks, procedures and ‘bill shucking’ have handcuffed across-the-board teacher pay raises to expansion of vouchers schemes to fund private schools,” said Tulsa Democrat Rep. John Waldron in a statement.

After about an hour of debate, the amended SB 561 passed the House 78-20. The conference committee advanced its updated versions of SB 2775 and HB 1935.

“This is fantastic news for Oklahomans,” Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison said in a tweet. “The governor's plan funds public schools across the state, gives every teacher a pay raise, and provides parents a tax credit to send their child to a school of their choice.”

All three bills now head to the Senate.

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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