“This vote is about rural Oklahoma,” said said Jon Echols, R-OKC in his debate prior to the vote.
“The adults needs to get back in the room and do what’s best for kids,” he said.
The bill, intended to provide tax credits for parents who want to send their kids to private schools, passed through the House of Representatives Tuesday, by a vote total of 61-31.
Actual Link to Vote
Under the education plan, parents can get anywhere from a $5,000 to $7,500 tax credit per child to send students to private schoools outside of their zip-code assigned public school.
Following the vote, House Speaker Charles McCall released a statement calling on the Senate to work with the House to develop a plan that work for “all students and parents”.
However, in a statement explaining the decision to “hold” on to the bill, House Speaker Charles McCall said the move was made in an effort to get “an agreement” on the public education funding plan.
The Senate has made it clear that their priority was a tax credit bill that reflected the will of their members. We have passed that and are now asking them to work with our members on funding public schools, particularly in rural areas, a priority for our chamber. We are calling on the Senate to either pass the governor’s compromise plan, or move off their hardline position and come back to the negotiation table on a public education plan that works for every school in the stateHouse Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka
“We are adamant that we must provide needed support to rural schools.”
That plan would also theoretically include teacher raises, according to McCall.
In a statement late Tuesday evening, Senate Pro Tem Treat responded to the decision.
“It is beyond disappointing that the Oklahoma House of Representatives chose to unanimously reject the largest teacher pay raise in state history on Teacher Appreciation Day, of all days,” said Pro Tem Treat. “The Senate is committed to fighting for our hard-working teachers to get them the pay raise they deserve. I encourage every teacher in the state to ask their House members and Speaker Charles McCall why they didn’t want them to get a pay raise this year.
“Further, the unprecedented move to hold the school choice legislation hostage until the Senate agrees to pass the constitutionally questionable Oklahoma Student Fund and other pet projects is also a non-starter for the Senate Republican caucus. The plan we sent them treats every student the same no matter what their zip code is. Their plan with the Oklahoma Student Fund is to disproportionately give kids in certain areas (for instance, Atoka Public Schools) more money than all others. Their plan is a ridiculous and shameful notion that segregates children. The Senate is simply saying – treat every kid the same.Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, House Democrats spoke out against the measure, saying the bill is a voucher “scheme” that does not provide choices for all children.
“HB1934 prioritizes vouchers over public schools. The bill takes hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools and reroutes it to subsidize the private school education of wealthy families. We continue to ignore the needs of 700,000 public school students to satisfy a few wealthy donors,” said House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa.
“House Republican leaders will hold on to the bill to use HB1934 and the amendments made by Republican Senators as a bargaining tool to get what they want—which is millions of taxpayer dollars going to fund private schools,” said Rep. Cyndi Munson.
The bill can be reconsidered at any time during the 59th Legislature.