Teacher Pay, Charters Top Oklahoma Action
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
State lawmakers increased teacher pay, cleared the way for universities and cities to become chartering agencies in large school districts, and mandated financial-literacy instruction as a graduation requirement, among other actions in the legislative session that wrapped up on May 25. Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, last week signed the $7.4 billion state budget into law, $2.5 billion of which will go toward K-12 education in fiscal 2008, an 8.7 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
As part of a four-year plan implemented last year, $164.7 million will go to continue raising the minimum teacher salary. All teachers will receive a $600 base salary increase, and teachers with increased seniority and education qualifications can earn a pay boost of up to $2,400.
However, as Joel Robison, the associate executive director and chief lobbyist of the Oklahoma Education Association, said that “most school districts already pay above the state minimum,” so not all teachers will be affected.
Lawmakers also passed a measure that will increase funding for the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System, which is currently one of the most poorly funded pension programs in the country. The law will bring the program, now less than 50 percent funded, up to 80 percent funded by 2026.
The legislature also approved a measure allowing charter schools in districts with more than 5,000 students to appeal directly to universities and cities for the required sponsorship, including help with curriculum development and organization. Previously, charter schools could only go to local school districts for approval.
In the area of curriculum, all students beginning in the 2008-09 school year will be required receive financial-literacy instruction before graduating.
Vol. 26, Issue 41, Page 21