OKLAHOMA CITY — A state senator who heads a powerful education committee on Wednesday unveiled his “bold” and “aggressive” plan for public schools to boost educational outcomes.
State Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, who serves as education chair, said he had been tasked by the Senate president to develop a comprehensive education plan that meets children’s needs, empowers parents, rewards teachers and improves overall outcomes.
“For far too long, Oklahoma has lagged behind the rest of the nation in education outcomes, which is doing a disservice to our children and state overall,” he said.
Pugh said he met with more than 200 superintendents, hundreds of teachers and parents, and dozens of education advocacy groups over the legislative interim to develop the plan.
The $541 million plan would:
• Provide $500 stipends for new teacher mentors.
• Create a multistate teacher licensure compact.
• Create a paid 12-week maternity leave program for teachers who have been with a district for at least a year.
• Invest $50 million into hardening schools against active-shooter threats.
• Spend $241 million to give teachers a pay raise. The plan moves starting pay to $40,000 with a $3,000 raise at entry. At five years, educators would receive a $4,000 raise; at year 10, they would get another $5,000 raise, and a teacher with 15 years would receive $6,000.
• Remove the attendance metric on the state’s A-F report card and replace it with a “school climate survey.”
• Put more money toward kindergarten through third-grade reading proficiency with the ultimate goal of a 100% literacy rate by the fourth grade.
• Allow for school credit to include internships, externships and part-time jobs.
• Reform charter schools by adding stricter accounting requirements, financial controls and reporting criteria.
• Create three graduation tracks — college, career and core. It also would require four years of high school math and science.
Pugh said that after meeting with parents, administrators and teachers, he decided not to include vouchers or so-called “educational savings accounts” in his plan.
“I hope this plan will demonstrate to teachers that we’re serious about the work that you do, and we appreciate how you pour your heart and your soul into educating kids, as we need you to stay in the classroom, and we need more of you,” Pugh said.
He said he hopes parents feel empowered by the plan, and said he firmly believes if the lawmakers enact it, using additional money, educational outcomes will improve.
Pugh, though, said the plan is a starting point for discussion among his legislative colleagues, who continue to file dozens of education-related measures.
State Sen. Ally Seifried, R-Claremore, vice chair of the education committee, said she’s “really excited for this plan” and appreciates Pugh’s “thoughtful approach.”
She said she’s particularly excited about Pugh’s plan to have literacy rates at 100% entering fourth grade.
“We need to give our students of Oklahoma the gift of being able to read and read well,” she said. “We know that illiteracy leads into poverty. It’s a direct correlation there. So I’m very passionate about it. It’s aggressive. I think it should be. Our Oklahoma students deserve the best.”