Friday, February 17, 2023

Speaker McCall, House GOP releases plan with $500M increase to education funding, plus private/homeschool tax credit

Over the past few years, the House and Senate have been at odds in many regards on education reform, particularly given the Senate's emphasis on vouchers for school choice. On Thursday, House Speaker Charles McCall and members of the House GOP caucus released a broad education plan that includes $500M for public schools (including a $2,500 teacher pay raise), plus a tax credit framework for private school and homeschool students.

I haven't studied this in detail yet, but homeschoolers generally are less opposed to the idea of tax credits, whereas straight vouchers draw much more severe opposition over the greater threat of regulation/intrusion. We'll have to see what the particulars are on this proposal.

Here's the official press release on the House GOP education plan:

House Republicans Announce Education Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Republicans on Thursday announced an education plan designed for every student, parent and teacher in the state.

House Bill 2775, authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, includes a $500 million increase in funding for public schools throughout the state that will fund $2,500 pay raises for every teacher not designated as an administrator; $50 million to be distributed to schools receiving below-average funding from annual local tax revenue; and $300 million to be distributed to public school districts on a per-pupil basis.

House Bill 1935 creates the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, which would allow a $5,000 annual tax credit for parents of eligible students that attend private schools and a $2,500 credit for homeschooled students.

"This plan works for every education stakeholder in our state," McCall said. "First and most important, it works for students and supports strong parental involvement in a child's education. We know the key to future success is a great education, and House Republicans are committed to ensuring each student can attend the school that best meets their needs.

"But as I've said repeatedly over the past year, we must accomplish this goal without eroding necessary funding to our public schools and our public school teachers who are so vital to student academic excellence. This plan continues our record level of classroom funding for our public schools and raises pay for public school teachers so they have the resources needed to excel in their jobs."

McCall said House education policy provides for less government intrusion into local districts and the personal lives and finances of Oklahomans.

This education plan will set Oklahoma even with Florida and put Oklahoma just behind Texas in per pupil expenditure. Additionally, it will put the state ahead of Arkansas and Missouri, and tied with Kansas for average teacher pay.

"This is a policy and funding plan that sets every kid up for success," McCall said.

Of the additional money appropriated per pupil through the school funding formula, the money may be used only for:

  • Increasing teacher and support staff salaries;
  • Programs related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) coursework;
  • Textbooks, curriculum and other instructional materials, including instruments or accessories for music or art courses, and technology for classrooms;
  • Increasing classroom capacity and additional institutional space for academic instructs if a school is at full capacity;
  • Fees for nationally standardized assessments;
  • Summer and specialized after-school education programs;
  • Student support services, including health and mental health; and
  • Tuition and fees for concurrent enrollment coursework at an institution within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

Parent tax credits would include:

  • Private school tuition and fee credits of $5,000 per dependent eligible student in each tax year;
  • Homeschool credits of $2,500 per dependent eligible student in each tax year for qualified expenses including tuition and fees for non-public online learning programs; tutoring services; and additional services or materials including classes, textbooks, curriculum or other instructional materials, and extracurricular activities and programs; and concurrent enrollment costs for courses at an Oklahoma higher education institution.
  • Credits would be retroactive to Jan 1, 2023, to allow individuals to claim the full credit this. year. 


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