Senator Susan Paddack, a Democrat from Ada, said Monday she is pleased a measure that will accelerate salary increases to all Oklahoma public school teachers and provide greater accountability in Oklahoma classrooms passed the Senate Education Committee on a bi-partisan vote.

“If we want to move Oklahoma forward, we must do so by offering our children the best education possible,” Paddack said. “And that means ensuring Oklahoma classrooms are guided by the brightest and best teachers.”

Paddack, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Majority Whip in the Senate, said economic development begins with bold investments to Oklahoma’s education system. She said in addition to across-the-board $3000 salary increases to all Oklahoma public school teachers, SB 1644 will provide a merit pay increase for those teachers who seek national certification.

“I believe Oklahomans want an education system that promotes personal responsibility and accountability,” Paddack said. “The national teacher certification program certainly empowers our teachers to demonstrate personal responsibility as they navigate through a rigorous curriculum designed to promote greater accountability in the classroom.”

The Senator said another component of the bill includes an increased stipend for mentor teachers. Paddack called this portion of the bill, extremely important for newly educated teachers entering Oklahoma classrooms for the first time.

“When our experienced teachers take the personal responsibility to take a newly trained teacher under their wing to ensure they are on the right track, it only makes Oklahoma classrooms an even better place for our children,” Paddack said. “Offering greater financial incentives for these experienced teachers to mentor younger teachers is simply the right thing to do.”

Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore Emeritus and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said this proposal accelerates the work the Legislature has done in the last few years under the direction of Governor Brad Henry to improve the education system in Oklahoma.

“It’s time to make a strong statement that says we value education in this state,” Taylor (D-Claremore) said. “I believe that both Democrats and Republicans will embrace this plan.”

The Senator also noted that Oklahoma has been engaged in 15 years of classroom reforms, beginning with the passage of the landmark legislation known as House Bill 1017 in the early 1990’s. A national study released in early January rated Oklahoma above the national average for holding schools accountable for their performance, he said.

The study ranked Oklahoma’s teachers among the nation’s best, but Taylor noted teacher pay in Oklahoma is among the worst in the country. Increasing teacher salaries is an important element in improving the state’s education system.

Taylor said that with the state experiencing a strong economy due to increases in the energy sector, there is no wiser way to devote the excess revenue than to invest in the education of our children.

“If we want to make tomorrow better for our children, we must take sensible steps toward substantial investments that promote personal responsibility and accountability in education,” Taylor concluded.

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