OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Senate approved legislation on Monday to help Oklahoma’s teachers and school employees access childcare.

According to author, Senator David Bullard, R-Durant, Senate Bill 16 would develop a pilot program to offer childcare grants to school districts.

“We’ve been working so hard in recent years to find innovative ways to help retain our current teachers and recruit more outstanding professionals to our classrooms. As a former teacher and from speaking with other educators, I know one of the major problems is having access to childcare or being able to afford it if its available,” Bullard said.

“This will create a two-year pilot program where districts can apply for grants to either provide on-site childcare services, contract with a local daycare, or help employees pay for such services. This is a commonsense benefit for families that will hopefully keep teachers and school employees in the workforce.”

Officials say SB 16 instructs the State Board of Education to develop a two-year pilot program to give grants to school districts in order to provide childcare for its employees. The grants may be used to create an on-site childcare facility, contract with a local daycare, or give stipends to employees to help with childcare-related costs. The board would be responsible for determining grant criteria.

The Department of Human Services would be available to offer guidance and technical support to districts awarded grants. Participating school districts would submit a report to the board after the two-year pilot program is completed.

“One of the biggest barriers to teaching, and many other professions, is the cost of early childcare for families. In fact, after numerous studies, it was found that this was one of the greatest factors that led to the Great Resignation nationwide during the pandemic,” Bullard said.

“Having a pilot program will allow us to see what the best way is to set this up before we attempt to go statewide. I’m grateful for my colleagues’ support, and I hope the House gives this fair consideration and doesn’t let politics get in the way of good policy for our dedicated teachers and school employees.”

SB 16 will now go to the House for further consideration where Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, will act as the principal House author.