May 1, 2023
Last week the Oklahoma legislature completed the process of House and Senate bills being heard in the opposite House of Origin. Following Thursday's deadline, just over 200 House bills and roughly 300 Senate bills remain alive. 
Bills that passed now head to one of three places, depending upon whether their title is "on" or "stricken," and if the versions passed in each chamber are identical to each other.
  • Bills with their title and likely their enacting clause "stricken" head to a Conference Committee, where members will work to reach a compromise between House and Senate versions of the legislation.
  • Bills with their titles "on," but where amendments were added in the final chamber, now head back to the opposite chamber for consideration of House or Senate amendments.
  • Finally, bills with their title "on" that are identical to the version passed in the first chamber now head to Governor Stitt for his consideration. Prior to Sine Die Adjournment, the Governor may "approve" or "veto" a bill within five days (excluding Sundays) or may refuse to sign it and allow the bill to become law "without approval" after the five-day period has elapsed. 
2023 Education Plan Comparisons
Lots has been happening at the Capitol. Below is an update on the education plans that have been the most debated and talked about issue at the Capitol all session. 

On Wednesday, the House has passed the Governors plan (specifics below) and then on Thursday the Senate passed the newest updated senate plan. In the meantime, the Governor vetoed about 20 bills unrelated to education, with a veto message that he would continue to veto until a teacher pay raise and school choice bills are passed by the Senate and sent to him. As a result, the Senate then voted in rules committee late Thursday night to reject the Governor’s Cabinet Secretary appointments for Health and Commerce. 

Below is a summary of all four of the various plans that have been proposed and voted on so far. We hope these are helpful to see where we have been and what proposals are out there. Hopefully a compromise will be coming soon, so budget negotiations can begin on the rest of the state budget, which has usually begun by now.
House of Representatives Plan
Public School Funding (HB 2775)
Pay Raise: $2,500.00 across the board pay raise for classroom teachers – through the formula 

$150 million 
Redbud: $50 million 
Oklahoma Student Fund 
$300 million; distributed on Average Weighted Daily Membership.
• Cap at $2 million/school

 $500 million new investment in Public Education
Income Tax Credit for Private Schools (HB1935)
  • $5,000.00 Tax Credit for Private Schools 
  • $2,500.00 Tax Credit for Homeschool per person 
  • No income cap for participation 
  • If Common ed funding goes below FY 24 level, tax credit goes away 
  • If revenue failure, credit goes down by same percentage as public schools 

$300 Million Estimated Impact from House Calculations 
Both House and Senate have funding and income tax credit bills tied together. 
Senate Plan - As of March 27, 2023 
Public School Funding (HB 2775)
Pay Raise through the formula with adjusted Teacher salary schedule. 
  • $3,000.00 pay raise, 0-4 years of service 
  • $4,000.00 pay raise, 5-9 years of service 
  • $5,000.00 pay raise, 10-14 years of service 
  • $6,000.00 pay raise, 15+ years 

$284 million 
$530 million new investment in Public Education
No Additional Redbud :FY 2024 will have $44M 
Rewarding Excellent Educators Revolving Fund for the Qualitative (Merit) Pay program 
  • controlled by local school board, to include 5 components w/in a plan to SDE 
  • Allows up to 10% of teachers to receive stipend 
  • Maximum amount of stipend - $5,000.00 per teacher 

$30 million 
Expenditure requirement for funds generated by Pupil Categories through OCAS
Income Tax Credit for Private Schools (HB1935)
  • $7,500.00 Tax Credit for Private Schools 
  • $1,000.00 Tax Credit for Homeschool per family 
  • $250,000.00 AGI income cap for participation 
  • If revenue failure, credit goes down by same percentage as public schools 
  • $100 million Estimated Impact from Senate Calculations 
$100 million Estimated Impact from Senate Calculations 
Governor's Plan- As of April 21, 2023 
Oklahoma Student Fund 
$300 million; distributed on Average Weighted Daily Membership 
  • Cap at $2M/school 

$300 million investment in State Aid Formula 
  • Scaled teacher pay raise $2,000-$5,000 based on experience 
  • Weighted student funding adjustments (improved weights) 
“Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit” 3 Year Plan
$200 M the first two years

 Year 1 
  • $5,000 per private school student 
  • $1,000 per homeschool student 
  • $250,000 Household income 
  • $200 M annual total cost cap 

Year 2 
  • $6,000 per private school student 
  • $1,000 per homeschool student 
  • $250,000 household income preference 
  • $200M annual total cost cap 

Year 3 
  • $6,500 per private school student 
  • $1,000 per homeschool student 

NO INCOME or TOTAL cost cap 
 $600 million new investment in Public Education 
Senate Plan- As of April 27, 2023
Public School Funding
(HB 2672)
Pay raise through the formula (off the formula schools will be allocated funds separately to cover the cost of the salary increases):
  • $4,000 increase for years 0-5,
  • $5,000 increase for years 6-10,
  • $6,000 increase for years 11-15,
  • $7,000 increase for years 16-20,
  • $8,000 increase for years 21-25.

$350 Million
Additional money through the formula for local needs, a locally developed merit pay system and two formula weight increases.
$150 Million
A one-time $3,000.00 stipend for certified personnel, and support personnel at public school districts, including CareerTech instructional employees.
$200 Million – One Time

$700 million in new investment in Public education for next year and $500 Million ongoing
Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act (HB 1934)
The measure creates an income tax credit for qualified expenses related to private school tuition and fees equal to the following:
  • A maximum $7,500 credit if the adjusted gross income (AGI) less than $75,000,
  • A max $7,000 credit if the AGI more than $75,000 but less than $150,000,
  • A max $6,500 credit if the AGI more than $150,000 but less than $225,000,
  • A max $6,000 credit if the AGI more than $225,000 but less than $250,000,
  • A max $5,000 credit if the AGI more than $250,000.

$150 Million Cap – Year 1
$200 Million Cap – Year 2
$250 Million Cap – thereafter

$1,000.00 per-student income tax credit for qualified expenses related to homeschooling
Centers of strength: Oklahoma CareerTech sites aim to rebound after pandemic enrollment drop
After a loss of over 100,000 students during COVID-19, Oklahoma CareerTech officials say they’re optimistic participation in vocational programs will return to pre-pandemic levels as the state aims to meet demand for skilled labor.
Student numbers are expected to rebound across Oklahoma’s 29 technology center districts, said Brent Haken, director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
Haken said CareerTech centers are crucial to preparing future skilled workers, like electricians and plumbers, who often need a mix of classroom hours and on-the-job training rather than a college degree.
These workers are some of the most in-demand in Oklahoma’s economy.
Truck drivers, maintenance workers, pipe fitters, mechanics and electricians are among the state’s top 100 “critical occupations” that have hundreds of job openings a year and are projected for future growth, according to the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development.
“We play the most integral role in making sure the workforce is there,” Haken said. “When we can’t get the students the training they need, that’s when then the whole workforce system suffers.”
How COVID impacted jobs education, CareerTech
Enrollment in CareerTech centers dropped by more than 100,000 students during the COVID-19 pandemic, statewide data shows. More than 298,000 students attended these centers in the 2022 fiscal year compared to over 400,000 before the pandemic.
The number of adult enrollees has consistently fallen over the past decade, but CareerTech courses have become increasingly common among high school students, who can take classes free of charge.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits Francis Tuttle Technology Center Rockwell Campus in Oklahoma City in January and speaks with students about programs they’re enrolled in.
CareerTech centers now enroll more than twice the number of high school students as adult learners, according to state data. Forty-two percent of Oklahoma’s high school students were enrolled in a CareerTech program last year, the agency reported.
Haken, a former school principal and superintendent, said more students are taking vocational training before they graduate high school to avoid incurring student debt.
The number of established adults seeking to “upskill” their job capabilities has been on the decline, Haken said, but he predicted demand for adult training to increase in the next four to five years.
That’s why the state CareerTech Department requested a $55.7 million increase in funding from the state Legislature — to expand capacity in tech centers and K-12 schools to meet needs of both adult and younger learners.
“It is vital that we grow and that we meet more need, but we’re going to need the resources to do that,” Haken said.
Workforce development has been a consistent priority for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration. The governor urged school districts and tech centers to prepare students to be job-ready as soon as they finish high school to boost the worker pipeline to new corporations and industries.
Oklahoma state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters also sits on the state Board of Career and Technology Education, which oversees all 29 CareerTech districts and their 60 campuses.
Walters said these vocational centers are necessary to scale the most high-need areas of the state’s workforce.
“We must rethink our educational outcomes so it complements our future economy,” Walters said.
Oklahoma education talks incite conflict at Capitol, but a deal is ‘close,’ Gov. Stitt says
Months of tension between the Oklahoma House and Senate over education policy reached a fever-pitch on Thursday, but come Friday morning, the governor said he’s optimistic lawmakers are on track to make a deal.
“We’re close,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said at a Friday news conference. “I know that it feels like there’s a little bit of fighting going on, but I believe we’re going to get something done.”
Stitt said the Senate’s latest proposal rejuvenated negotiations on teacher pay raises, school funding and tax credits for families with children in private education or home-school.
Talks between Republican leaders have frayed in recent days.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is seen March 2 in the Blue Room at the Capitol.
Late Wednesday, Stitt vetoed 20 Senate bills as punishment for senators not adopting his education and tax-cut plans.
House Speaker Charles McCall placed the blame on the Senate for the Legislature’s lack of compromise. His chamber passed the governor’s education proposal that mixed priorities from Republicans on both sides of the Capitol.
“I don’t understand why the Senate’s having a hard time passing something that’s great for everyone,” McCall, R-Atoka, said while speaking with reporters on Thursday.
The Senate’s top lawmaker, President Pro Tem Greg Treat, said he was “appalled” Stitt vetoed senators’ bills over an unrelated dispute and pledged his chamber wouldn’t give in to “pettiness and bullying.”
Senators responded Thursday night by nixing confirmation of two of the governor’s Cabinet secretary nominees, Commerce Secretary Chad Mariska and Health and Mental Health Secretary Kevin Corbett. Even without the Cabinet position, Corbett will continue as head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Amid the political conflict, the Senate passed the highest teacher pay raise the Legislature has considered this year, a $150 million increase to public school funding, and private- and home-school tax credits based on household income.
“I would say to teachers, to parents — have hope,” Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said after the Senate votes Thursday evening. “The Senate heard you loud and clear. The Senate delivered on your request. We hope the House will do the same.”
A teacher pay bill, House Bill 2672, passed the Senate 46-1 on Thursday.
Minimum salaries would increase by $4,000 for teachers with five or fewer years of experience, by $5,000 for those working six to 10 years in the classroom, $6,000 for teaching 11 to 15 years, $7,000 for 16 to 20 years, and $8,000 for 21 years or more.
The bill also would give a one-time $3,000 stipend to all certified and support staff working in public schools and CareerTech centers. Teachers and vocational instructors working for the state Department of Corrections and the Office of Juvenile Affairs would qualify for a $3,000 stipend, as well.
The Senate’s latest plan would add $150 million to the education funding formula, the chief source of school funding from state government.
This is half as much new funding as the governor proposed. It also eliminates the $2 million cap McCall and Stitt aimed to place on how much each school district could receive from the extra allocation, which would be distributed per student.
Senate Republicans and Democrats in both chambers said the $2 million cap disproportionately benefited rural schools over larger districts.
Senate advances tax-credit plan for students in private, home school
In another key difference, the Senate package would place more income controls on refundable tax credits for private-school and home-school students.
Families earning under $75,000 a year would qualify for a $7,500 tax credit for each child attending a private K-12 school.
Households earning between $75,000 and $150,000 could receive a $7,000 tax credit for each student to offset private-school costs. Families with a yearly income between $150,000 and $225,000 could apply for $6,500 tax credits.
A $6,000 tax credit would reward families earning between $225,000 and $250,000 a year. Those with a household income above $250,000 could earn a $5,000 tax credit.
The state’s budget for the program would hit its peak in 2026 at $250 million. Under the governor’s plan, the state would initially budget $200 million and remove any spending limit on the tax credits after two years.
Home-schooling families would qualify for a $1,000 tax credit per student to apply toward the costs of educating their children, matching the House and governor’s proposal. The state would give no more than $5 million in total tax credits for home-schooling.
The tax-credit measure, HB 1934, passed the Senate 36-10.
The Senate Chamber inside the Oklahoma Capitol is seen on March 10.
Stitt said he disagreed with the Senate’s attempt to put a maximum on the tax-credit budget, but he said he would sign the package into law if it reached his desk.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “Now, we’re talking. We’re moving together. This should have happened a month ago, but now we’re actually getting somewhere.”
Whether the Senate package can survive the House is unclear. McCall said the governor’s plan, which his chamber already approved, works for “every student, every parent, every teacher and every school in the state.”
“The House welcomes negotiations with the Senate on their priorities to find a compromise and will come to the table at any time, even on nights and weekends, to get a deal done that works for all Oklahomans,” McCall said in a statement Friday.
Stitt vetoed 20 unrelated bills after Senate rejects his tax, education policies
Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed 20 Senate bills as retribution for not adopting his tax cut and education plans.
The bills cover a wide range of topics, including college athletics, opioid overdose prevention, child abuse protective orders and the existence of boards that regulate architects, chiropractors and psychologists.
Stitt has pressured lawmakers this session to adopt any combination of tax cuts on groceries, personal income and corporate income. He also has urged senators to compromise on proposals to raise teacher pay and give parents a tax credit if they send their kids to private school.
The veto messages Stitt attached to each bill were identical:
“Oklahomans elected me to advocate on their behalf and fight for the taxpayer. I take this responsibility seriously and so I cannot, in good faith, allow another year to go by without cutting taxes and reforming education, both of which we can absolutely afford with our $1.2 billion surplus and over $6 billion in savings,” Stitt wrote. “Therefore, until the people of Oklahoma have a tax cut, until every teacher in the state gets the pay raise they deserve, until parents get a tax credit to send their child to the school of their choice, I am vetoing this unrelated policy and will continue to veto any and all legislation authored by Senators who have not stood with the people of Oklahoma and supported this plan.”
Both the House and Senate would have to override the bills for them to become law. A veto override requires at least a two-thirds majority for most bills. By vetoing a wide range of bills, Stitt also forces the supporters of those bills into the discussion on tax cuts and education policy.
The following bills were included in the governor’s veto package:
  • Senate Bill 291: adds child abuse as a reason to file for a protective order, and allows for a petition to be filed on behalf of a minor victim for any of the listed reasons a person may file a protective order
  • Senate Bill 711: provides naloxone (Narcan) or another opioid antagonist to the Department of Corrections, and authorizes the creation of an opioid overdose education program to be used by DOC and county jails.
  • Senate Bill 712: Provides naloxone (Narcan) or another opioid antagonist to hospitals, and allows for some patients to leave the hospital with two doses
  • Senate Bill 840: brings Oklahoma in line with other states in regards to name, image and likeness regulations for collegiate athletes. Supporters have said the bill would make Oklahoma’s recruiting classes more competitive.
  • Senate Bill 34: updates statutory references to prevention of youth access to tobacco
  • Senate Bill 58: extends the Board of Governors of the Licensed Architects, Landscape Architects and Registered Commercial Interior Designers of Oklahoma until 2026
  • Senate Bill 60: extends the Board of Chiropractic Examiners until 2026
  • Senate Bill 162: extends the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists
  • Senate Bill 249: makes it easier for health care providers to provide hospice palliative drugs to patients
  • Senate Bill 123: relates to parole eligibility
  • Senate Bill 125: relating to how often law library boards of trustees must meet
  • Senate Bill 267: increases the membership of the Advancement of Wellness Advisory Council
  • Senate Bill 369: requires an employer to conduct a criminal background check before a nurse aide begins employment or a contract
  • Senate Bill 395: creates an income tax check-off to benefit the Recovering Oklahomans After Disaster organization
  • Senate Bill 479: updates definitions in the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act to include members of the active or reserve components of Space Force
  • Senate Bill 534: amends the gross adjusted income required to be eligible for the Family Support Program to a gross adjusted income that did not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level guidelines. The previous income line was $45,000.
  • Senate Bill 617: requires any action against a limited liability company to be brought in the county which it is situated or holds its principal place of business
  • Senate Bill 623: various updates to Service Oklahoma
  • Senate Bill 841: relating to motor vehicle storage
  • Senate Bill 889: expands the definition of a dairy farm and milk to include any hoofed mammal, and doubles the fee on milk products
Religious freedom bill sparks worries about funding religious schools
Oklahoma lawmakers have adopted legislation that some claim would create a legal framework to eventually allow public funding of religious schools.
The House author of Senate Bill 404, however, vigorously rejected those claims and said the proposed Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act is a simple measure.
On paper, it appears a simple law. The bill makes it more difficult, if not impossible, for state government to deny any person or entity from receiving governmental funds if that denial is based “solely on the religious character or affiliation of the person or entity.” House Floor Leader and bill author Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said the language reflects current case law.
“This is clear as can be. You cannot discriminate solely based on religious belief. It was not controversial when decided by the United States Supreme Court in a majority opinion,” Echols said, referring to the 2020 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.
In Espinoza, the court ruled that a Montana state law barring public scholarship funds from reaching private religious schools violated the First Amendment.
Vote comes after board rejects Catholic charter school, withdrawal of religious charter school opinion
The question of allowing religious schools to receive public funds has been a pressing question this year, with Attorney General Gentner Drummond withdrawing a legal opinion issued by his predecessor that gained national attention for its support of creating religious charter schools.
Then about two weeks ago, a state board rejected an application to create a Catholic charter school.
On the House floor Tuesday, Democrats questioned the necessity of the law and asked what problem it would fix.
“Either this bill does nothing, and we already protect persons from religious persecution, or it does something we do not wish to see. It will have secondary effects and unintended consequences we do not want,” said state Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa.
But there was a very real reason for proposing the bill, said Brett Farley, executive director for the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma. A few years ago, the Oklahoma State Department of Education rejected applications from two private Christian schools who wanted to serve students on the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship program, a state-run scholarship for children with disabilities to attend private schools. The rejection was linked to board rules that prohibited discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation.
“This effort long predates, obviously, this session and any of the debates related to the Catholic charter application,” said Farley, who is also a member of Oklahoma Faith Leaders, a major supporter of the legislation.
Farley said a decision by the Board of Education and a more recent attempt by the federal government to block discrimination in the distribution of federally funded school lunches led to the bill being introduced.
“This really was designed to create a firewall for things like that, so that religious entities can continue to partner with the state and participate in programs of public benefit without having to worry about checking their faith at the door,” Farley said.
The bill passed by a vote of 64-27, with some Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.
State Superintendent Ryan Walters to expand DEI inquiry to K-12 schools
State Superintendent Ryan Walters wants new special reports from public schools across the state in his quest to root out diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programming.
The State Board of Education voted 7-0 Thursday morning to mandate that local school districts detail their local, state and federal expenditures on staff, materials and any third-party contractors or vendors related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
According to the mandate, requested by Walters, districts have a June 9 deadline for preliminary responses and Sept. 1 for final reports.
“They use these names and nomenclature to let people think that these are feel-good programs. They’re not,” Walters said at Thursday’s meeting. “Absolutely, it would be more accurate to call them divide, exclude and indoctrinate. That’s really what these programs are.”
Based on amendments from board members Don Burdick of Tulsa and Trent Smith of Yukon, respectively, the special report requirement will include the names of third-party vendors and districts will be able to request a deadline extension if need be.
“I am greatly concerned that the concept of ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ (DEI) is increasingly being used to instruct students in harmful ideologies under the guise of promoting tolerance,” Walters wrote in his proposal to the State Board of Education, which was posted online Wednesday along with Thursday’s public meeting agenda. “No one disagrees that we should include students with disabilities in education or that all students should have access to a quality education regardless of race, religion, or background.
“DEI hides among these universal principles to force radical ideologies on students, teaching them that they must either accept a radical rejection of American principles or accept being labeled as exclusionary or racist.
“In particular, I am concerned about DEI instruction teaching our students that they must oppose long-held American traditions like equal rights, free speech, or meritocracy. Such DEI programs reject the equality of all people in favor of an equity defined solely to advance certain ideologies at the expense of a free society.”
In January, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education scrambled hundreds of employees to compile a 10-year review of its spending history on and current materials used for DEI programs at Walters’ request.
He was then also serving as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointed secretary of education, but he was recently replaced in that role.
In the end, the regents identified $10.2 million budgeted for DEI activities for the current fiscal year, of which the state contributed $3.7 million. That amounted to 0.29% of all higher education spending and 0.11% of state expenditures on higher education.
Walters wants all public schools to report whether their current expenditures will continue next fiscal year, although most local school boards do not adopt budgets for the next fiscal year until June.
The board supported his request to have districts release lists of personnel who spend at least a quarter of their time “operating or assisting with a DEI program” and electronic copies of all materials used by staff or third-party providers for DEI instruction during the 2022-23 academic year.
Ryan Walters announces teacher pay recruitment incentives, merit bonuses
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters held a roundtable discussion Wednesday with community and school leaders to present a major teacher recruitment package that could give new or returning educators up to $50,000 if they make a five-year commitment. The announcement comes among rising tensions at the State Capitol as legislators continue to haggle over a massive education funding and school choice reform package.
“What we’re here to announce today is the biggest signing bonus in the country — that teachers can make up to $50,000 through a signing bonus to come teach in the highest-need areas,” Walters said, flanked by students, teachers, administrators and a pastor in the Warner Public Schools gymnasium. “The highest-need areas are special ed and pre-K through third grade. We have seen every school across the state struggle to build these areas. We have states around us that are competing for applicants, and we want to give our districts the ability to compete for the best and brightest teachers in the state of Oklahoma and outside the state of Oklahoma.”
Walters’ program, which he said could be paid for with existing State Department of Education discretionary funds, launched today, but it would begin with educator contracts signed for the 2023-2024 school year. Certified teachers who did not teach in Oklahoma during the current school year can sign contracts with “critical shortage area” districts and receive bonuses up to $50,000.
Walters outlined the criteria for the bonuses in a press release. Each of the totals listed would only be available if an educator commits to five years in the profession:
  • Teachers with less than three years of experience can receive $15,000
  • If those teachers agree to teach in a rural or high-poverty district, they could get $20,000;
  • Teachers with three or more years of experience can earn $25,000
  • If those teachers agree to teach in a rural or high-poverty district, they could get $30,000;
  • Teachers with five or more years of experience who commit to teach in a rural or high-poverty district could get $50,000;
  • Teachers with five or more years of experience and who teach special education can receive $50,000;
  • Teachers moving to Oklahoma with less than five years of experience can get $25,000;
  • Teachers moving to Oklahoma with five or more years of experience can get $50,000.
Walters said thousands of Oklahomans have teaching certificates, making them prime candidates to recruit back into classrooms.
“We’ve got over 40,000 people with a teaching certificate that aren’t retirement age, and then we’ve got obviously thousands above retirement age that are out there with certificates,” he said. “We want to give them the incentive to go ‘You’ve done an exceptional job.’”
‘I may not be able to match to meet the system’
Beyond signing bonuses, Walters announced a so-called “teacher empowerment program,” which he said will allow districts to give up to 10 percent of their teachers raises of up to $10,000, which OSDE would then match.
Asked his reaction to that program, Warner Public Schools Superintendent David Vinson said he worried that his district would not have the funds to provide the first half of the raises.
“I have a whole list of teachers that I would give extra money to right now, if I could,” Vinson said. “My concern is that — (with) any matching system — I may not be able to match to meet the system.”
Walters, who took over OSDE in January, said the agency is pursuing private funding to finance an ad campaign that would let people know about the new signing bonuses. He declined to give details on that aspect of his plan.
“There will be a campaign. We’re getting that off the ground, and you’ll see [billboards] soon,” Walters told members of the media after Wednesday’s event. “And we will absolutely (say), ‘Hey, we’re coming for you, great teachers in other states. We want you here — we’ve got great schools here. We want the best for our kids.’ And so we are going to be actively getting some of the best teachers out of other states, and you’re gonna see that shortly. I don’t want to get specific with it.”
Walters also avoided specifics regarding the source of funds for his new OSDE programs, although the agency’s press release listed American Rescue Plan Act funding, money from the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and “other state level activities.”
“This is all money that we have at the agency. These are discretionary dollars that we have decided to allocate to attract teachers, so this doesn’t require any legislative oversight — or legislative approval or any type of approval from the [State Board of Education],” Walters said.
‘Problems that we’re facing are very complex’
Walters made his announcements in Warner, a 1,500-person town just north of Interstate 40 in the southern leg of Muskogee County. With 814 students enrolled in the K-12 district, Warner Public Schools displays numerous academic state championship flags on the walls of its gymnasium. During his announcement, Walters proclaimed Warner as “one of the highest performing schools in the state.”
Vinson, who acknowledged during the roundtable discussion that he disagrees with Walters’ policy priorities such as school choice, called the signing bonuses a “great start” to addressing the teacher shortage that has plagued Oklahoma and other states for years.
“What we need to understand is that the problems that we’re facing are very complex, so there’s not going to be just this one program that fixes it, but I think it’s a good start,” Vinson said. “And I think that it will attract some really high quality teachers to Oklahoma who might not have come otherwise. Or it might also attract people that are doing other types of jobs and just got out of education for this reason or that reason, and now they want back in because they see the incentive there. And we need all of those people to get back in because the shortage areas that they’re targeting with this program — special education and the early childhood — they’re pretty severe.”
Other educators in the district had mixed feelings about the plan.
“I think it’s a great idea — we need more teachers,” said Warner elementary counselor and curriculum director Charla Jackson.
But Jackson said current teachers also need a substantial raise, and she groused about the ongoing legislative negotiations in Oklahoma City.
“It’s almost a slap in the face to our teachers who are here, and they’re in the grind, and our legislators can’t come to an agreement to give them an incentive to stay,” she said.
Special education director Renee Murphy, whose area has been hit hardest by the teacher shortage, had similar feelings.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. I was in Oklahoma City in 1990. I was there several years ago at the Capitol,” said Murphy, referencing Oklahoma’s two most recent teacher walkouts. “And then, once again, we’re kind of in the same boat. The children are Oklahoma’s greatest resource. But yet, education — we’re the only industry, if you want to call it that — that has to beg to be supported.”
Walters will be back in Oklahoma City on Thursday for a State Board of Education meeting. Among other agenda items, board members could take action on a special report regarding districts’ diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Senate debates, advances bill providing guidelines for civil rights curriculum 
After much debate and discussion, the Senate advanced legislation Tuesday afternoon requiring the State Department of Education (SDE) to develop curriculum about the civil rights movement, focusing specifically on the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. 
Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, presented HB1397 to the floor, taking numerous questions from Senate Democrats before discussion turned to a lengthy debate among members. 
HB1397, by Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore, and Bergstrom, requires the State Department of Education to develop a curriculum about the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1968, the natural law and natural rights principles, and the tactics of non-violent resistance employed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It allows the course to be taught as a stand-alone unit or integrated into pre-existing course work. It requires there to be an additional unit of instruction studying other acts of discriminatory injustice, such as genocide, committed elsewhere around the globe.
During questioning, Senate Minority Floor Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, asked Bergstrom a series of questions about the bill and its potential to violate House Bill 1775, the controversial bill its proponents say banned the teaching of critical race theory in Oklahoma schools, enacted by lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt two years ago. 
“Can you tell me how House Bill 1775…and this bill can now co-exist together,” Floyd asked. 
Bergstrom responded simply, “They do.” 
“My question was how do they co-exist,” Floyd clarified, reiterating her point. “How are they not in conflict?”
“I’m going to answer questions on this particular bill…I don’t feel that any more answers in regard to that are necessary,” Bergstrom said, to which Floyd again asked, “How is this bill now in violation of the prohibition of critical race theory in the state of Oklahoma?” 
“It’s not,” Bergstrom replied. 
In a new line of questioning, Floyd noted HB1397 related to the study of the civil rights movement in the United States from 1954 to 1968 and then asked Bergstrom, “Was the civil rights movement violent at times?” 
“Yes,” Bergstrom said. 
“Would teaching small children about violent events such as parts of the civil rights movement not be in violation of teaching critical race theory,” Floyd asked. 
“No,” Bergstrom said. 
When he was asked by Floyd to define critical race theory, Bergstrom declined to do so. 
“If the author doesn’t understand critical race theory or is uncomfortable defining it, he can just say so,” Floyd asserted. 
“I understand it very well. That’s not germane to this bill,” Bergstrom countered. 
Sen. Kevin Matthews and Sen. George Young, the only two Black lawmakers in the chamber, stood to debate against the bill, both arguing the curriculum outlined therein was too narrow and a whitewashed presentation of history. 
Matthews, D-Tulsa, expressed disappointment that no members of the Legislative Black Caucus were briefed or provided an opportunity to provide input into the bill. 
“I’m disappointed that this is so narrow,” he said, conceding he felt many of the provisions were good but would be voting no due to the limited scope of the curriculum. 
Similarly, Young, D-Oklahoma City, he was voting no not because he felt SB1397 was a bad bill but because he was “very troubled” by its neglection of a much larger, more detailed review of Black history and civil rights. 
“If you want to talk about the civil rights movement, you have to go back to 1619 and then you have to travel all the way up until right after the Civil War,” Young said, noting the 13th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. “Dr. King was considered a criminal in his day. He was a risk, and if many of us would stop and read his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ we would see that he would not even vote for this bill.” 
He later argued that by “starting in the middle” in 1954, the curriculum effectively was “acting like there was nothing for us to overcome to get to where we are now.” 
Bergstrom would later close debate, apologizing to Matthews for not reaching out to consult on the language. 
“I got busy and forgot about it,” he said, noting the language was from the House. 
He also wished the discussion moved past critical race theory, arguing SB1397 was unrelated. 
“It’s got nothing to do with that,” he posited. 
Bergstrom argued society needed more peacemakers like King, noting his upbringing during the 1950s and 60s. 
“I was dramatically impacted by his words and his legacy,” Bergstrom said, later adding he did not like the term, “racism.” “I consider it bigotry because we’re one race, we’re the human race. What I will say is we need more people, more adults, more children who think like Dr. King did, more people who say like he did that there is only one race, the human race.” 
HB1397 advanced on a vote of 35-9 with Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Tulsa, being the only Senate Republican to vote against its passage. The bill now moves to Stitt for final consideration.
Provenzano’s HB1441 Becomes Law
HB1441, authored by Assistant House Democratic Leader Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt.
The bill caps time spent on required federal, state and local teacher training to 150 hours every 5 years.
Rep. Provenzano said the legislation allows teachers more time for dedicated planning for their students.
“Our teachers have been asking for relief from what seems to be an ever-growing list of new training requirements, which take considerable time away from preparing for class,” Rep. Provenzano said. “Putting a cap on how much we add to their plates will begin to balance that load and reducing the frequency of repetitive trainings will eliminate unnecessary redundancy.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoes OETA renewal, questioning public broadcaster’s long-term value
The broadcaster responsible for bringing “Sesame Street,” “Downton Abbey” and the “OETA Movie Club” into homes across the state is in danger of being shut down by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Voicing concerns about the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority’s long-term value to the state, the governor vetoed legislation Wednesday intended to renew OETA’s authorization for another three years.
OETA’s legal mandate to be Oklahoma’s public broadcaster will expire on July 1 without legislative intervention. Both the House and Senate would have to override the veto.
“Although the OETA may have played a principal role in the provision of educational television services at one time, today the OETA’s long-term, strategic value is at best unclear, if not outright imagined,” Stitt wrote in his veto message.
The type of legislation Stitt vetoed is usually unremarkable. Dozens of state entities need reauthorization, and sunset bills are among the least controversial at the state Capitol. But with the stroke of his veto pen, Stitt put the future of the state’s public broadcaster at risk.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed the reauthorization for OETA, Oklahoma’s public broadcaster. He questioned OETA’s long-term, strategic value.
‘It’ll be a real tragedy if we lose the service’
Robert Spinks, an OETA supporter who is a founding member of the Friends of OETA nonprofit board, said the governor’s action is not in the state’s best interest.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that an entity in the state of Oklahoma that serves every Oklahoman with equal concern and equal interest has become a pawn in politics,” said Spinks. “While the governor may have his reasons for what he did, I don’t believe that action is in the best interest of the state of Oklahoma.”
Spinks highlighted OETA’s 67-year history with programming for education, public safety and civic leadership.
“There are many examples through the years, and even recently, of the kind of service that educational television, through OETA, provides for the citizens of Oklahoma,” Spinks said. “It’ll be a real tragedy if we lose the service that public broadcasting provides.”
What happens to OETA if the veto is not overridden?
If an entity’s sunset legislation isn’t adopted before the expiration date, state law allows it to operate for one additional year. Any funds left over would be set to the state’s general revenue fund, and assets would be transferred to the Oklahoma Management and Enterprise Services agency.
The governor’s veto came on the same day he vetoed 20 Senate bills as retaliation for the Senate rejecting his tax and education plans. However there was no clear connection between those vetoes and his decision on terminating OETA.
House Speaker Charles McCall said Thursday that his chamber eventually will look at overriding the veto but said passing the governor’s tax and education plans are his priority.
“We have all kinds of time to talk about veto overrides, and we don’t have as much time to get something done on education,” McCall said.
This isn’t the first time the governor questioned OETA’s long-term vision. During a special legislative session in October, Stitt vetoed an $8.2 million appropriation to OETA for infrastructure upgrades to maintain and enhance datacasting and statewide emergency alert communications.
It’s also not the first time that OETA’s mere existence has been threatened. A decade ago, conservative lawmakers tried and failed to let OETA’s authorization lapse.
OETA’s impact on the arts
OKC sculptor Joe Slack grew up watching “Gallery America,” OETA’s long-running, Emmy Award-winning series spotlighting the visual and performing arts in Oklahoma and across the nation. “Gallery America,” which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021, is billed as the only broadcast television program in Oklahoma dedicated to shining a spotlight on the arts from this state.
The show is produced locally by OETA and broadcast across the state, with individual Oklahoma artist stories shared with other PBS member stations nationwide. In 2020, “Gallery America” dedicated a full episode to Slack and his work.
“I actually had a meeting with a client yesterday. I’m doing a gig for a building in Midtown, and it was because of her seeing that episode and then going to see the piece that she commissioned me to do this piece three years later,” Slack said of his 2020 “Gallery America” episode. “Potentially, people that have never been exposed to your work or seen it or might never see it could end up being interested and pursue buying a piece.”
Stitt vetoes wheat assessment measure, pledges to sign similar measure
Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill Friday that would allow the Oklahoma Wheat Commission to determine the fee paid by producers that is used for utilization efforts, research and market development but promised to sign a nearly identical bill when it lands on his desk.
Stitt vetoed HB1460, by Rep. Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko, and Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus. The bill eliminates the two-cent per bushel fee that wheat producers pay for products sold through commercial channels. The bill permits the Oklahoma Wheat Association to set the fee rate.

“Enrolled HB1460 included improper language that has been corrected in Enrolled SB0488, which I plan to sign once it is enrolled and presented to me,” Stitt wrote in his veto message.
SB0488, by Howard and Patzkowsky, does the same thing as HB1460. The difference is that SB0488  does not amend language related to the process through which producers are allowed to petition for a referendum to determine if the assessment is to be continued.

Current law places oversight of the process in the hands of the Oklahoma State Board of Agriculture’s president. HB1460 changed references to the “president” of the state board to the “commissioner” of the State Board of Agriculture.

Another portion of current law, which is not touched by either bill, requires, “The President of the State Board of Agriculture shall also be designated as the Commissioner of Agriculture...”

SB0488 passed the Senate 45-2 on February 22. It received a do pass recommendation from the House Agriculture Committee on April 11 and is on House general order, awaiting floor consideration. If approved without amendment, it would go to Stitt for his consideration.
Employment strong even as economy faces headwinds
In Oklahoma and across most of the nation, claims remain low for unemployment benefits made by people who have been laid off from jobs.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) statistics show the nation’s employers are continuing to create jobs, though evidence has begun to accumulate that the economy is slowing, perhaps even headed toward recession.
According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), initial claims made for unemployment benefits during the week that ended April 15 totaled 1,162, a decrease of 56 from the previous week’s total of 1,218. During the same file week, the less volatile four-week moving average for initial claims was 1,136, a decline of 38 from the number reported for the previous week.
Continuing claims for benefits recorded during the week totaled 10,117, representing an increase of 106 over the previous week, the OESC said. The less volatile four-week moving average of continued claims was 10,191, an increase of three over the previous week’s average.
According to the DOL, Oklahoma added more than 7,300 jobs last month. Nearly 1.85 million people were employed in the state during the month, and about 57,000 were counted among the unemployed. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate currently stands at 3%.
By comparison, the national unemployment rate currently stands at 3.5%.
Applications for unemployment benefits across the country fell during the most recent reporting period as the labor market continued to show strength despite some weakness in other parts of the economy.
The number of Americans filing for jobless claims through mid-April fell by 16,000 to 230,000, the DOL said Thursday. The four-week moving average of claims fell by 6,000 to 236,000.
At the start of the year, new claims for benefits were running at around 200,000 per week. They have been gradually ticking higher, the DOL said. Overall, 1.86 million people were collecting unemployment benefits in mid-April.
Employers added 236,000 jobs in March, down from 472,000 in January and 326,000 in February, but still strong by historic standards, the DOL said.
On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy slowed sharply from January through March, decelerating to just a 1.1% annual pace as higher interest rates hammered the real estate market and businesses reduced inventories.
Thursday’s results showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — weakened after growing 3.2% from July through September last year and 2.6% from October through December. However, consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, remained resilient, growing at a 3.7% annual pace, the fastest such rate in nearly two years. Spending on goods, in particular, was solid. It rose at its fastest pace since the second quarter of 2021.
Economists had been expecting overall GDP to grow at a 1.9% pace in the January-March quarter. Behind much of the quarter’s weakness was a sharp reduction in business inventories, which subtracted roughly 2.3 percentage points from overall growth. Companies typically slash their inventories when they anticipate a coming downturn.
The economy’s slowdown reflects the impact of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive drive to tame inflation, with nine interest rate hikes over the past year. The surge in borrowing costs is expected to send the economy into a recession sometime this year. Though inflation has steadily eased from the four-decade high it reached last year, it remains far above the Fed’s 2% target.
Economists expect growth to further weaken in the current April-June quarter — to just a 0.3% annual pace, according to the latest survey by the data firm FactSet.
An economic model used by the Conference Board, a business research group, puts the probability of a U.S. recession over the next year at 99%.
CTE Priority Measures
OkACTE tracks and monitors legislative bills. These bills can vary from CareerTech education policy, common education policy, education funding, teacher pay raise, tax credits, licensing, Ad Valorem, retirement, state employee pay raise, guns, economic development and much more.

Of these bills, we've compiled a listing of CTE Priority Measures linked below.

Visit to view entire text of the measures.

May 2023
May 27: Sine Die Adjournment (5:00 p.m.)