OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bold education agenda for one state senator amounts to half a billion dollars in new spending.

Senator Adam Pugh, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, announced four pillars that he wants to focus on in the education field.

  1. Recruit
  2. Retain
  3. Reward
  4. Reform

Pugh filed over a dozen bills which ask for $541 million in new spending.

One of the bills under the banner ‘Recruit” is Senate Bill 529. It would create an Oklahoma Teacher Corps. The goal is to pay tuition for students looking to become teachers. Those teachers would then need to commit four years of service at Title 1 schools.

Then under “Retain,” he filed SB364. It would establish 12 weeks of maternity leave for public educators. The price tag is $25 million dollars.

Senator Kristen Thompson, Vice Chair of the Education Appropriations Committee, said she learned just this week that teachers did not have any maternity leave.

Thompson is a freshman but committed to working hard to get the bill across the finish line.

Another freshman, Senator Ally Seifried, was at the press conference and said plans on sharing “personal experiences” with other senators to convince them to vote for it.

One way Pugh looks to “Reform” education is through Senate Bill 527. The goal of that bill is to improve literacy rates to 100 percent by 4th grade.

Pugh argued that literacy, or the lack thereof, is one of the key drivers of poverty.

“We need to give all of our students the gift to be able to read and read well,” said Ally Seifried, claiming this bill is the one she’s most excited about.

Representative Andy Fugate, Democrat from Del City, said there were a lot of promising ideas in the press conference.

“When we have folks that begin to share common vision about how we really radically improve public education with a focus on public education, I think all of us rowing in the same direction is very important,” said Fugate.

However, the lawmaker did point out that it is going to be a challenge to claw back the over 30,000 qualified teachers still in Oklahoma but have left the profession for other jobs.

“The 4 pillars that he identified I think are important for education,” said Fugate.

“I would add one more, and that is return. Over the last five years, we’ve replaced one in three Oklahoma teachers with somebody who has no certification, no formal training in how to teach. And that’s extremely important.”

Pugh said it’s too early to know where his bills would put Oklahoma in terms of per pupil spending, especially competitively, as other states work through their legislative sessions.  

“I hope this puts us at the top of the region,” said Pugh.