(The Center Square) – Oklahoma teachers will see raises between $3,000 and $6,000, depending on experience, as part of an education package approved by lawmakers by lawmakers on Friday.
The bill package also distributes $500 million in state aid for Oklahoma schools. Also approved is a school safety pilot program that would update security and provide offers to school districts.
Teachers employed for at least a year will also get six weeks of paid maternity leave.
House and Senate leaders were deadlocked over the spending plans while negotiating a school choice bill that also passed. The bill would provide tax credits of up to $7,500 for parents to use to send their children to the school of their choice. The bill also includes a $1,000 tax credit per child for homeschooled children.
The homeschool credits are capped at $5 million a year. The private school tax credits are capped at $150 million in the tax year 2024, $200 million in the tax year 2025, and $250 million in the tax year 2026 and subsequent tax years, according to the bill.
“Negotiations were tough and combative at times but I value the transformative product that came out of the process,” said Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat. “We are making historic investments in public education, giving meaningful teacher pay raises, delivering maternity leave, making critical investments for school safety, and delivering choice for kids and parents in Oklahoma.”
Lawmakers said the bills were what the voters wanted.
“Every year, our constituents tell us they want to see additional investments into public education, and thanks to thoughtful budgeting, we have been able to direct historic levels of new money into our public schools this year,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “With the implementation of this year’s education plan, the Legislature will have invested more funding into public education in the past five years than in the previous 27 years combined.”
Democrats said the bills should not have been tied to the private school tax credits.
“It is important to remember that we are talking about $600 million over three years that will not serve 95% of Oklahoma students,” Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, said in a statement this week. “This voucher scheme is a tax shelter for individuals who can already afford private school tuition.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the chambers reached an agreement on Monday and is expected to sign the bills. They will take effect on July 1.