OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new budget proposal from the Department of Education has been approved by new State Board of Education members.

The total is $3.512 billion.

It is $60 million less than the budget adopted last September with former State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

Two new changes:

  1. A cut to universal teacher raises
  2. A new student reading proficiency program

In Hofmeister’s budget, there was a plan to provide a $5,000 pay raise for all teachers.

Walters said a merit-based pay raise is a better alternative.

“We keep talking about equity,” said Walters. “Well, what I want is excellence.”

His plan provides a raise anywhere from $2,500-$10,000 to certain teachers.

“We need to be incentivizing best practice so that everything we do in education is to get our kids better equipped for the workforce,” said Walters.

“Teacher Pay” under Walters’ budget, compared to Hofmeister’s budget, will drop around $159,000,000.

A new line item was added for the student reading proficiency program.

The cost will be $100,000,000.

“We can see results within a calendar year and we can see significant results within two years with this program,” said Walters, confidently announced about the new plan.

Percent of students at-risk of not reading at grade level (via OSDE)

The superintendent said the money will go toward reading coaches, tutoring, Dyslexia intervention grants, and a program called “Grow Your Own.”

The grants will be used to identify students with Dyslexia. Walters said the money can be used to hire outside resources to help districts.

Grow Your Own is a program that trains college and some high school students with existing teachers. Walters said the goal is to build out teachers with people that are used to the culture of their district.

Other points of interest:

  • Flexible Benefit Allowance, which provides health insurance to 87,000 Oklahoma education employees, will stay flat because of carryover funding
  • Textbook spending will increase because the cost of books has gone up
  • Administration support will increase from $19 million to $20 million
  • Support of Students and Teachers went from $117 million to $226 million because of the reading program

The State Board of Education is now made up entirely of Governor Kevin Stitt appointees.

The budget was approved unanimously. However, there was one vocal critic of Superintendent Walters on Thursday.

Ashley Daly is a parent of a first grader. She does not approve of the rhetoric Walters continues to use against public school educators on social media.

“Please stop calling teachers indoctrinators. Please don’t say that they’re pornography pushers. And please don’t say that they are grooming,” said Daly. “The teachers I know are selfless and they are kind. They are not waging a civil war.”

Walters ran on the platform of ridding public schools of pornography and “left-wing indoctrination.”

Daly brought up teachers and students and how they may not have voted for Walters, but now they depend on him.

“They need you to focus on bolstering the system and not name calling teachers,” said Daly. “Remember, it is a precious thing we honor to be elected, to serve. You have a constitutional mandate.”

The budget that was adopted by the board is not the final version. The next step will be for Walters to present it to the House and Senate education subcommittees.

Lawmaker will be able to ask questions and will eventually be the body that decides what numbers and programs stay.