As the state’s beleaguered education system again shapes up to be the topic du jour — or de l’année — among members and observers of the Oklahoma Legislature, the presentation of a new “plan” drew a lot of attention last week.
Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) held a press conference at the State Capitol to outline his plan for public education this session, including several bills designed to increase resources, retain teachers and reform complicated components of the education system. Most of the bills would require new funding for implementation. However, I’m told state leaders have a fair amount of money at their disposal this year, which gives those seeking education reforms the chance to “pay” for support by pumping funds into the Oklahoma State Department of Education — particularly for rural schools.
Notably absent from Pugh’s proposed plan are private school vouchers, the panacea championed by new State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters and Gov. Kevin Stitt. Even more interesting to me was Pugh’s statement about meeting with thousands of people within the education sphere, including teachers and parents, to develop his proposals. One might be able to connect some dots on the implication there, but Pugh was adamant that he was only speaking for himself — and not about others — when presenting these ideas.
Will any of this come to fruition? It’s early in the process and tough to say what will gain traction and what won’t among legislators. Last year, Pugh voted in favor of a voucher plan presented by his proverbial boss, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC), who has said he continues to prioritize private school vouchers and other school choice concepts this year. Meanwhile, Sen. Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville) and Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) filed their own bill for private school vouchers, and conversations seem underway among House leadership and the governor’s office as well.
Will anybody get everything they want in the 2023 session? As always, that’s unlikely. But be ready for having more than a few recipes bandied about ahead of the big dinner.
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