Education bills a focus right now

By State Rep. Cynthia Roe

District 42

Throughout session, the House has focused heavily on education. While we were campaigning, education was definitely the top issue we heard on the doorsteps. We’ve spent the last three months of session focusing on both teacher pay and classroom funding, and now that budget discussions are ramping up, so is the attention on our education bills.

The House passed another teacher pay raise in addition to last year’s historic raise.

House Bill 1780 would provide teachers an across-the-board $1,200 pay raise. The bill has already passed Senate Appropriations Committee and is now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor.

The House has also passed a bill to increase the “in lieu of” amount for teachers that opt out of receiving the flexible benefit allowance for health care from $69 to $300.

This is HB2470, which passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and will soon be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

We also passed HB1360, which allows National Board Certified Teachers to apply for a $1,000 grant toward certificate renewal.

To provide districts additional recruiting tools, the House passed HB1781 to give school districts the option of paying their student teachers. This is a useful recruiting tool that would help keep our new college graduates in the state. HB1781 passed its Senate committee and can be heard on the Senate floor.

Another great recruitment tool is HB2521, which creates the Oklahoma Educator Loan Repayment Program that will assist classroom teachers with student loan forgiveness. The Senate Education Committee passed the bill, making it now eligible to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee before moving to the floor.

To address the statewide teacher shortage, we also passed HB2645 to provide a one-time incentive bonus up to $5,000 for certified teachers who return to public school classrooms.

In the area of classroom funding, we approved HB2502, which provides a $1,000 tax credit for teachers that purchase supplies for their classrooms or fees related to the teacher certification process. Both bills are in the Senate committee process.

Given the productive and positive session we’ve had thus far, my colleagues and I in the Legislature were all shaken by the hated-fueled destruction a few weeks ago in Oklahoma City and Norman.

Those disgusting displays of hate and racism are incredibly disturbing. There’s no place for this kind of hatred and ignorance in our state or our country.

Although I’ve been saddened by these terrible displays, I’ve also been uplifted by the overwhelming public outcry condemning these actions and the strong show of support for those who were targeted.

As we move forward and continue with our day to day lives, we must continue to combat the roots of these actions to prevent such instances of racism and discrimination from occurring again.

Lawmakers at the Capitol will continue to move through the legislative process. You will likely begin to hear more on the budget as the House and Senate continue to work with the governor and agency heads to draft a budget funding necessary programs.

If you happen to be in Oklahoma City sometime, stop by my office for a visit. As always, please reach out with any questions, comments or concerns by calling (405) 557-4365 or emailing me at cynthia.roe@okhouse.gov.

(Rep. Cynthia Roe, a Republican, represents District 42 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Garvin and McClain counties.)

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