The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 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.
Oklahoma lawmakers passed a $2.15 billion K-12 budget for fiscal 2006—an increase of 7 percent over the previous year.
Most of the new spending is earmarked for teacher-pay raises and state financing of teachers’ health insurance, both of which were approved by the legislature in 2004 but never funded. In all, more than $57 million will be spent on raises for teachers, and nearly $43 million in first-time state payments for teachers’ health insurance. The pay increases are the first step in a plan to raise the average annual salary from its present level, $35,061, to the regional average, $38,993, over the next four years.
The legislature also adopted Gov. Brad Henry’s Achieving Classroom Excellence, or ACE, initiative, the student-accountability and -achievement plan that was the focus of the Democratic chief executive’s Feb. 7 State of the State Address.
Lawmakers approved more than $21 million to pay for a new full-day-kindergarten program, and changed course requirements for older students. Beginning in the fall of 2008, all high school students will be required to take a college-preparatory curriculum, unless their parents opt in writing to keep them out of the program.
End-of-instruction tests will be phased in over several years in 8th grade and high school courses. Students will be required to pass the tests to advance in grade or graduate.
Mathematics instruction is another focus of the ACE law. Some $2 million is allocated for the state board of education’s Mathematics Improvement Program, a professional-development program for math teachers. An additional $2 million is budgeted for math labs at 10 middle schools across the state.