Historic Education Package Announced Monday- OKFB and AFR Offer Rural Oklahoma Reaction

Speaker Charles McCall, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and Governor Kevin Stitt at the State Capitol as the Education Deal is Revealed (Pic courtesy of Non Doc)

After weeks of stalemate- Oklahoma House and Senate Leaders, along with Governor Kevin Stitt, have agreed to a massive $625 million dollar education package- which breaks the Capitol logjam and will allow other appropriation measures to come together as a part of a fiscal year 2024 budget as we rapidly approach the end of the regular session of the legislature for 2023.

According to NonDoc- “the grand agreement that will pump more than $625 million of additional dollars into public school districts, adjust the state funding formula to support smaller schools and raise teacher salaries statewide between $3,000 and $6,000.

“According to House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka), the historic education funding agreement will also cause him to send the governor HB 1934, a new refundable tax credit program for private school and homeschool families that the House had withheld from the governor’s desk despite voting to approve it May 2. That tax credit package has a payout cap of $150 million for its first year, which brings the total new allocation toward education closer to $800 million in a year where lawmakers have had about $1.2 billion in additional recurring revenue to allocate.” Click here for the complete NonDoc story on the Education deal.

Both Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the AFR provided the Oklahoma Farm Report with reaction following the announcement at the State Capitol.

OKFB’s Steve Thompson provided us his view of the key elements of the deal- “$500 mil recurring increase to the funding formula. $3-6k teacher pay raise based on years of experience. (This will be the third teacher pay raise in the last six years.) Six weeks paid maternity leave and $10 mil over three years for reading specialists.

“From a rural perspective the funding formula will be adjusted to benefit smaller schools and schools with longer bus routes. It increases the Redbud Fund for low property tax revenue districts to $125 mil, up from the current $44 mil. And it provides $50 mil for school safety, split evenly per school ($96k/district) for three years.

Thompson adds that OKFB is ” Very thankful rural Oklahoma was so thoughtfully considered throughout the negotiations and excited about the additional support our rural schools will be receiving.”

As for the AFR– here’s their initial reaction: “AFR policy—developed and voted on by AFR member delegates—strongly opposes vouchers or tax credits. Although AFR does not support those funding mechanisms, we do support the several positives for public schools in this education plan, including an increase in funding, teacher pay raises and a significant allowance for school safety.

“In particular, we appreciate the Legislature’s trigger mechanism that cuts the aforementioned tax credits if public education money is reduced. We intend to hold lawmakers accountable for that trigger in the future.”

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