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In a special session this summer, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a $2.3 billion K-12 budget for fiscal 2007—an increase of 8.5 percent over fiscal 2006.
The largest portion of the $185 million increase in appropriations is earmarked for teacher raises. As part of a four-year plan by Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat who is up for re-election this year, to bring the state’s teacher salaries to the regional average of $38,993, the legislature allocated $136 million for the raises, boosting teachers’ salaries by $3,000.
School support personnel will also receive a pay raise under the new budget. Beginning Oct. 1, support-staff pay will go up 50 cents an hour across the board, which will cost the state $18.8 million.
The governor’s Achieving Classroom Excellence, or ACE, initiative—a plan Mr. Henry developed last year to create more rigorous high school standards—received considerable attention this session. Following the recommendations of the ACE task force, which came out just before the session, the legislature allocated $5.7 million for test development and administration. During the 2006-07 school year, the state board of education is expected to develop end-of-instruction high school tests in English, geometry, and algebra. The tests will be implemented the following school year.
The ACE legislation also requires students entering 9th grade in the 2008-09 school year to pass four out of seven end-of-instruction tests to receive a high school diploma. All students will have to pass tests in Algebra 1 and English 2, along with at least two of the following: English 3, U.S. history, Biology 1, geometry, or Algebra 2.
A version of this article appeared in the September 13, 2006 edition of Education Week