OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The stalemate continues between the House and Senate over education plans with each side giving a different outlook.
“I don’t feel real hopeful this week based on progress but we’re in April and I’ve been thru this enough that we’ll have a breakthrough hopefully,” said Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-OKC.
In the Senate, the President Pro Tem said there was more work to be done. But across the rotunda in the House, Speaker Charles McCall was quite optimistic.
“I don’t think we’re very far apart really,” said McCall, R-Atoka, with a smile.
The disagreements are over specifics to the private school tax credit, funding to school districts, and teacher pay raises.
The Senate proposal for private school tax credits would include a household income cap of $250,000. Any family making more than that amount would not qualify.
“Having an income limit was extremely important to my caucus and the ability to get it done,” said Treat, but added there is room for negotiation. “But I haven’t said anything is off the table to discuss.”
The House does not have an income cap, and Speaker McCall believes a cap creates “class warfare.”
“If you put an income cap on this tax credit you cannot say that every parent and every student in the state of Oklahoma wins,” said McCall.
Another area of contention is funding for districts.
The House plan would add more money per student to rural schools over larger districts, such as OKC and Tulsa.
After amending the House plan, the Senate would add funding through the state aid formula, which provides more money to bigger urban and suburban districts.
Speaker McCall said he is open to adjusting the formula to meet the Senate’s needs.
“We can run more money thru the formula to help sure up the larger schools,” said McCall.
Both chambers are run by a Republican supermajority, so Democrats must watch as the drama unfolds.
The minority party’s concern is centered around the mechanism that ties the two plans together.
For an example, if the private school tax credit plan is nixed, then the funding package including, teacher pay raises and more money to districts, is also dead.
“The highlights of what we have seen advanced are in jeopardy because they’re doesn’t seem to be a unified agreement among the supermajority to do the right thing for education this session,” said Sen. Carri Hicks, D-OKC.