OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Two bills that could make sweeping changes for students, parents and teachers passed through several committees with amendments Monday.

Members of the Oklahoma State Senate voted on and approved two proposals, to include pay raises, school choice measures and local control. 

Two bills totaling approximately $630 million were approved, sending the measures to the Senate floor.

According to the Senate Pro Tem, the bills would:

Grant teachers the following pay raises:

  • $3,000 for zero to four years of service
  • $4,000 for five to nine years of service
  • $5,000 for 10 to 14 years of service
  • $6,000 for 15 (+) years of service

Provide for school choice – $100 million investment in school choice (including an income cap):

  • Income cap at $250,000 per household for participation 
  • $7,500 tax credit for private schools
  • $1,000 tax credit for homeschool families (receipts required)

“By putting the income limit, we were able to raise the value of the test tax credit for private schools in order that people who can least afford it can now afford it [and] I have ultimate belief that parents know best for their children and will make informed decisions” said Treat in committee Monday.

Foster local control – $30 million investment in qualitative pay by local school boards for raises for teachers who qualify based on criteria set by the school board

  • Additional $216 million investment in the state aid formula
  • Provide more money for Special needs students and their teachers
  • Help economically disadvantaged students receive more opportunities

In a statement released late Monday, Pro Tem Treat said the legislation could improve the trajectory of Oklahoma education.

“This package incorporates ideas from various members of the Senate – in addition to the reforms we have already passed out of the senate. This package is the largest, targeted investment in education in state history and it shows that the Senate is here to support our educators, school districts, students and families,” said Treat.

Conversely, Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, voted against the measures, saying in a release that the measure “uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize unregulated private schools”.

“Struggling schools mirror struggling communities. The Oklahoma Legislature has ignored the urgent need to address the fact that 60% of Oklahoma’s children in our public schools live in poverty. Oklahoma ranks 42nd in children’s health and 45th in education. The Republicans continue to expand vouchers at an alarming rate, which promotes competition by excluding students with higher needs and leaves behind our most vulnerable. Approximately 90% of Oklahoma families choose their local public schools. Public funding belongs in public schools,” said Sen. Carri Hicks.

The proposals come in addition to 44 other education bills that have passed through the Oklahoma Senate, including school reform, teacher recruitment and retention, and student outcomes.

An amended version of House Bill 2775 could offer sought after raises for teachers, starting at $3,000 for new teachers and up to $6,000 for tenured educators with at least 15 years of experience.

The bill would also establish a $30 million dollar grant program for teachers, allowing them to earn bonuses of up to $5,000 per year.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the bills Thursday.