Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.
Twenty-eight years ago, amidst a crisis in the Oklahoma economy, parents, teachers, business leaders and others told Oklahoma legislators that to make Oklahoma’s future better they would need to make Oklahoma’s schools better. Education experts told legislators to make schools better it would take good teachers teaching children who are ready to learn in smaller classes with the latest textbooks and technology.
In response, to weed out weak teachers, legislators changed teacher tenure, giving school boards authority to terminate teacher contracts based on incompetency. Before that contracts could be terminated for some form of wrongdoing. Because teachers did not trust school boards to fairly evaluate teacher competency, teachers were allowed to fully appeal their cases in court. This is called “trial de novo.” Legislators also mandated a $9,000 increase in the minimum salary schedule over 5 years, the equivalent of $17,200 today.
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