As a father of 4 and a concerned citizen of thousands, a quality education for all is a top priority. While Oklahoma’s educational system is doing well in some areas (such as, our high school graduation rate is above the national average), we are lingering in others (such as, our average ACT score is only 29th highest in the nation.) A hot button item of course is our teacher shortage, like so many other states are facing. I am committed to ensuring we have enough qualified teachers to continue the progress our students are making. I am proud of the education I received at Broken Arrow Public Schools from K-12, and I would like to see all Oklahoma students be afforded a quality education.
- Higher Teacher Pay Without Raising Taxes
Increasing teacher pay by $3,000 would help fix our statewide teacher shortage. Coupled with existing benefits and Oklahoma’s low cost of living, our overall compensation package would be very competitive. My plan to fund teacher compensation increases comes in large part through reform of existing government appropriations and incentive programs, such as the careening $2B per year business tax incentive program. While some incentives are helpful in promoting strategic industries, others have resulted in waste. For every $50M that we can glean from wasteful outlays, we can raise teacher salaries by $1,000. My plan targets $150M in waste that can be translated into an immediate teacher pay raise of $3,000.
- ReducingAdministrative Overhead: Unlocking More Funding for Teachers
We can make statewide school administration more efficient by consolidating many small, underperforming school districts. This would reduce administrative overhead and duplication of services; this would not close schools. It would also reduce the number of superintendents, which constitute the highest paid salaries. Last year Oklahoma paid $59M in superintendent compensation! Consolidation of many inefficient school districts could free up resources to be used towards higher teacher pay.
- Expanding Parent Choice
While common education (CE) is the best choice for many parents, not all students get to live in top-rated districts. There are families that live in challenged school districts, or for whom CE is not the right fit, who would like additional options for how best to educate their children. I support an array of parent choice options (such as a Parent Choice Tax Credit) so that every parent in Oklahoma may have a better chance to enable the best educational path for their child. Oklahoma has thriving examples that have received bipartisan support: the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship, which offers financial assistance for special needs students, and the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship, of which 87% went to families living below the poverty line last year.
- Reducing School Regulation
We can reduce school administration costs and lighten teacher workloads by removing unnecessary regulations. I applauded the passage of HB3218, which decreased the number of mandatory testing, especially in the third grade. Over-testing is non-productive and a distraction that disrupts teachers’ momentum with students. Additionally, I supported HB3218’s intent to replace EOY graduation tests with a national standardized test, such as the ACT, which would showcase student learning achievement in a low cost manner and provide graduates with a meaningful score that could be used nationwide.
- Promoting Career Tech
Not everyone needs to go to college. There are many high school graduates who are being counseled, pressured, or stigmatized into college enrollment who end up floundering only to incur costly student loans and missed time that they could have used towards a more appropriate trade school or the military. Career Tech graduates, such as CAD technicians, machinists, truck drivers, and welders, can earn good salaries beginning at a young age and incur little to no student debt. A skilled, drug-free Oklahoma workforce would attract high tech manufacturers, contribute to the tax base, and subsequently raise the standard of living.
- Advancing STEM Education
Prioritizing funding for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) programs will help catapult Oklahoma into the next generation of economic and educational success. STEM graduates have an immediate economic impact to the state as they tend to earn high income, establish companies that employ other skilled workers, and promote Oklahoma’s direction as a national leader in innovation. I support additional teacher bonuses in critical subject areas, such as STEM. Let’s empower those that are going to move our state forward.
- Respecting Our Teachers
While I am proud of education at Broken Arrow Public Schools, I have made it a goal of mine to learn about other educational styles, programs, and systems, even visiting and studying top-ranked educational models in foreign countries, such as Finland, Norway, Germany, Japan, and Singapore. In each of those countries, there was a common denominator that, unfortunately, is not as widespread in the US: high social respect for teachers. As an exchange student in Germany during my senior year in high school, I witnessed firsthand how members in society – whether in school or out in town – would treat their teachers with very high regard, similarly to how we treat doctors in our society. Although promoting respect for our teachers is not an item that can be legislated, as your State Senator I will continue my efforts as a community leader to rally others to show teachers the respect they deserve.
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