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What education measures are still alive in the Oklahoma legislature?

State lawmakers applaud during Gov. Kevin Stitt's sixth State of the State speech at the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2024.
Whitney Bryen
Oklahoma Watch
State lawmakers applaud during Gov. Kevin Stitt's sixth State of the State speech at the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2024.

StateImpact has this round-up of some of the measures still on tap for Oklahoma classrooms, Career Tech centers and universities.

K-12 teacher benefit expansion and recruiting incentives:

  • House Bill 4017 by Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) would establish a returning teacher sign-on bonus program similar to the one launched by the State Department of Education last year. However, after problems with vetting and clawing back errant bonuses were identified in an investigation by StateImpact and nonprofit news outlet Oklahoma Watch, lawmakers would put more checks and balances on this version, such as limiting payments to smaller installments rather than a large lump sum.

  • Senate Bill 1256 by Pugh would remove the requirement for school districts to pay half of teacher raises for educators identified for the Oklahoma Teacher Preparation Act passed last year. That policy allows schools to identify exceptional teachers in their districts and give them raises. According to State Superintendent Ryan Walters in an early-session legislative hearing in January, the program has not been as popular as anticipated due to the requirement for schools to put up half of the funding for the raises.

K-12 finances:

  • Senate Bill 1257 by Pugh would remove the limit on carrying over general fund surplus from year to year, as well as remove the penalty for doing so.

  • Senate Bill 1258 by Pugh would remove the requirement for OSDE to approve the use of a district’s general funds for capital expenditures. Instead, those financial choices would be made by local school boards.

  • House Bill 3943 by Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-Oklahoma City) would require the 10 top-funded state agencies, including the State Department of Education, to submit quarterly financial reports to the legislature detailing expenditures and disbursements made by the department and the Board of Education.

K-12 teaching certification:

  • House Bill 3523 by Rep. Mark Vancuren (R-Owasso) would require OSDE to publish annual reports on the status of adjunct teachers, whose qualifications are largely determined by each district. The reports would include qualifications adopted by the State Board of Education to determine adjunct teacher candidate eligibility, the subject areas or courses they are teaching and the types of distinguished qualifications they have to make them qualified to teach those courses.

K-12 student attendance, wellness and safety policies:

  • House Bill 1006 by Rep. Rick West (R-Heavener) grants students excused absences to participate in 4-H activities. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt on March 26.

  • House Bill 4016 by McBride would create the Oklahoma School Safety Training Program Revolving Fund, which would budget money for schools to implement a hard-wired notification system for identifying security threats and notifying staff, as well as for trauma first aid items and training in secured response options.

  • House Bill 4015 by McBride would train middle and high school staff to identify potential student threats and support students who may be on a “path to violence.”

  • House Bill 3884 by Rep. Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow) would require school mapping data to be compatible with software used by public safety agencies and schools without additional costs. It would also establish the School District Mapping Data Grant Program within the State Department of Public Safety, which would allow the department to seek grant funds to provide mapping data for all public and private schools.

  • House Bill 3329 by Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Pauls Valley) would require every public or charter school to make menstrual products available at no cost to students in at least one neutral location — such as a nurse’s office — for lower grades and accessible in school bathrooms and neutral location for upper grades.

  • House Bill 1081 by Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman) would create the Right to Recess Act, which would require districts to provide daily recesses outdoors — weather permitting — for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. This changes existing law that only “strongly encourage[d]” daily recesses. It also directs teachers to make a “good-faith effort” to not withhold recess as a form of punishment.

  • House Bill 3836 by Rep. Ajay Pittman (D-Oklahoma City) would create the Handle with Care Oklahoma Program. If a student is exposed to a traumatic event, the bill would allow law enforcement to notify the HWC Oklahoma Program. The program would then contact a multidisciplinary team that would notify designated representatives of the student’s school. The notice would not include details about the event unless there is an imminent threat to safety, and the notice would include language that says, “the child referenced has been exposed to a traumatic event in the last 24 hours and could exhibit academic, emotional and behavioral problems because of exposure to a traumatic event. Please handle with care.”

Higher education financial aid expansion:

  • Senate Bill 1302 by Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) would give a student placed in DHS custody during 8th-11th grade access to the state’s scholarship program, OHLAP — also called Oklahoma’s Promise. According to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Statement, 50 students are estimated to be affected, totaling about $250,000 that would come from the Promise Trust Fund.

  • Senate Bill 1339 by Sen. Ally Seifried (R-Claremore) would create the Oklahoma Access and Achievement Program, which would provide scholarships to eligible students with intellectual disabilities studying at a university comprehensive transition and postsecondary program. According to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Statement, about $380,000-400,000 is anticipated to come from the OHLAP fund.

  • Senate Bill 1328 by Sen. Todd Gollihare (R-Kellyville) would expand OHLAP access to students seeking admission to Career Tech institutes. According to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Statement, it is estimated to impact about 200 students from each high school graduating class. Next fiscal year, it is expected to cost about $480,000.

  • House Bill 3669 by Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond) would create the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Educational Assistance Program, which would provide financial assistance to students pursuing transportation-related degrees who agree to work for the department for five years after graduation.

Bills must reach their third readings in the opposite chamber from the side they originated in by April 25 to still be alive for this year’s legislative session, barring exceptional measures. Sine Die Adjournment is May 31.

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Copyright 2024 KOSU. To see more, visit KOSU.

Beth Wallis
Nuria Martinez-Keel of Oklahoma Voice