Friday February 3, 2023

Real, Not Rhetoric

There are 769, or roughly 25 percent of the 3100 bills filed this legislative session that relate to education in some form or fashion. Many are so divisive in nature that they will hopefully not see their way out of committee and onto either the House or Senate floors. Education needs legislators who will champion policy that moves our kids, and our state forward.

A lot of the headlines and media attention has been focused on these divisive bills, which is worthwhile because it shines a light on the potential of some of this legislation. As the legislative process play out, it will become more and more important to also focus on the legislation that isn’t garnering the headlines, but can play a real role in our public education system.

On the House side, there are bills focused on funding literacy instructional teams (HB 2672) and optional career-readiness assessments (HB2673) by Representative Rhonda Baker. Representative Baker has also authored bills to create a task force to study and make recommendations to modernize state graduation requirements (HB2675) and one that would modify computer science curriculum (HB2674). She also has a bill adding definition for English Language Learners (HB2677).

Rep. Charles McCall has authored bills regarding school transfers (HB1936) and permission for private school students to enroll in public school part-time (HB1937).

On the Senate side, Senator Pugh’s plan has a number of bills supporting teachers, including a multi-level pay raise (SB482) and paid maternity leave (SB364). There is also a bill for creation of an Oklahoma Teacher Corps, which is a grow your own program for our high school students wishing to become teachers in our state (SB529), and a mentorship program which pays stipends for mentors of new teachers (SB522).

Senator Pugh’s plan also includes a bill on reading proficiency(SB527), as well as changes to the A-F report card (SB531). There is a bill to change the funding formula ad valorem dollars to account for previous year actuals and not projected (SB359). There is also a bill to change graduation credits to increase STEM preparedness (SB520) and one to combine the virtual charter school board and charter school board that also adds stricter accounting requirements, financial controls and reporting criteria, among other items (SB516).

This is just a snapshot of the serious work being done by our legislators. Whether we agree with them or not, we should applaud them. As the citizens who voted them into office we do have a continuing role to play by letting them know what we think as these pieces of legislation move through the process. We certainly need to let our voices be heard about the divisive and negative pieces of legislation. But, we must also continue to pay attention to the real, and not just the rhetoric.

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