Checking status of major Senate education bills (Capitol Update)

The House and Senate leadership dispute and closed-door negotiations on education policy and appropriations has sucked nearly all the air out of the Capitol in the past few weeks. Appropriations discussions on other areas of government have ceased pending a determination of how much money will be available after the education appropriation is settled. Several bills containing substantive law changes with a fiscal impact are also caught up in the dispute. 

Normally, House and Senate leaders agree on big-ticket items like education, state employee pay raises, etc. early on, then the appropriations committees can do their work. This year, the House and Senate are so far apart on money (about $300 million) and policy (private school tax credits) that it has been impossible to make those decisions and move on.

Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, worked with educators during the interim on an ambitious common education proposal that was introduced in the form of 16 separate bills. I thought, with passage of the deadline for Senate bills to clear House committees, it would be a good time to see how his proposals are faring. 

Four bills failed to clear the Senate, likely because Sen. Pugh was prioritizing, or because they could be included in other bills. Twelve of the 16 bills passed the Senate. Of the 12, only five remain alive after the House committee deadline. The five remaining bills are important, but not major policy issues. Among the bills failing to move forward were bills to provide eight weeks of maternity leave for teachers, the Senate teacher pay raise plan, and the Senate plan to update the state-aid formula and appropriate new funding through the formula. Listed below is the scorecard.    

  • Senate Bill 359 modifies the state school funding formula regarding protested property tax revenues. Passed Senate. Passed House Common Education Committee.
  • SB 360 requires every public elementary school site to employ a reading specialist to assist in providing literacy and reading instruction to students in grades three and below. Failed to receive Senate floor hearing.
  • SB 361 creates the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact Act to facilitate the mobility of teachers. Failed to receive Senate Education Committee hearing.
  • SB 364 requires districts to provide certain teachers at least 8 weeks of maternity leave. Passed Senate. Failed to receive hearing in House Appropriations Education Subcommittee.
  • SB 482 provides a teacher pay raise that establishes $40,000 as a minimum starting salary with graduated raises to the minimum salary schedule based on longevity. Passed Senate. Failed to receive hearing in House Appropriations and Budget Committee
  • SB 516 abolishes the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board; creates the Statewide Charter School Board; requires the board to have the sole authority to sponsor statewide virtual charter schools in Oklahoma and can sponsor charter schools in Oklahoma. Passed Senate, passed House Common Education Committee.
  • SB 519 requires the Commissioners of the Land Office to provide a right of first refusal to a charter school located in the same county or an adjacent county as the real property available for lease. Passed Senate. Passed House Common Education Committee.
  • SB 520 creates high school graduation tracks; requires students in the college track to have four years of math and science; others to complete work-ready curriculum or competencies. Failed to receive hearing in Senate Education Committee.
  • SB 522 creates a mentorship program that provides $500 stipends for mentors of new teachers. Passed Senate. Passed House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
  • SB 523 appropriates $50 million to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to fund the Oklahoma School Security Grant Program; schools could apply to meet their security needs. Failed to receive hearing in Senate Education Committee.
  • SB 525 provides that a school district may reimburse the cost of a subject-area competency examination where a teacher, at the request of the employing district, takes and passes a subject-area competency examination and earns certification to teach an additional subject in the school district. Passed Senate. Passed House Common Education Committee.  
  • SB 526 removes all references to the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System and incentive pay plans and requires a district to provide an individualized professional development program for teachers and administrators. Passed Senate. Passed House Common Education Committee.
  • SB 527 updates the state aid formula in several respects including adjusting the transportation factor, grade level and category weights. Passed Senate. Failed to receive hearing in House Appropriations and Budget Committee. 
  • SB 528 creates the Early Childhood Literacy Task Force to study and make recommendations regarding teaching literacy to students in early childhood and elementary grade levels. Passed Senate. Failed to receive hearing in House Education Committee.
  • SB 529 creates an “Oklahoma Teacher Corps” providing scholarships for students who enroll in and graduate from Oklahoma colleges of education and then commit to four years of service in a Title I public school in Oklahoma. Passed Senate. Failed to receive hearing in House Common Education Committee. 
  • SB 531  creates the Rewarding Student Outcomes Act, to build an outcomes-based career, college, and military readiness incentive program for school districts, charter schools, and virtual charter schools; removes the chronic absentee metric on A-F school report cards and replaces it with a “school climate survey.” Passed Senate. Failed to receive hearing in House Common Education Committee.

Sen. Pugh is participating in the negotiations, and it is likely some of these ideas are included in the discussions. Ideas in bills that are now dormant can be resurrected as part of the final House/Senate education agreement, if in fact a comprehensive agreement is reached.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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