A trio of bills aimed at recruiting more teachers for Oklahoma classrooms and assisting Oklahoma students passed the House today.
The legislation is authored by Mark McBride, R-Moore, who chairs the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee for Education.
Two of the measures would expand scholarships for students electing to enter teacher preparation programs, including those for critical industries.
“In order to thrive and succeed to their fullest potential in our schools, students need a knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated teacher,” McBride said. “Unfortunately, Oklahoma like other states are suffering a prolonged teacher shortage. These bills will help incentivize those who choose to enter this noble profession. This will benefit our students and all of our state.”
House Bill 2555 creates the Oklahoma Critical Industries Scholarship program, a four-year pilot encouraging high school graduates to pursue careers in industries critical to the economic growth of the state.
The program will match state funds up to $15 million with the same amount from private funding sources. It will be administered by the state Regents for Higher Education, which will determine the scholarship amounts and student eligibility. The Regents, in consult with the State Career Tech Board, will identify critical industry programs.
House Bill 2559 will add funding to the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program. The program was started last year through legislation authored by McBride as a way to inspire high school students to enter the teaching profession.
McBride said so far about 2,000 students have applied for the scholarships. This bill includes students who have graduated high school, earned their GED or who have been homeschooled.
An additional piece of legislation, House Bill 2318, would extend the provisions of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship tax credit to include contributions made to eligible college and university foundations.
The tax credits are capped at $25 million total for all university foundations, and $6 million per individual institution of higher education.
The Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program currently grants tax credits to individuals and businesses for contributions made to non-profit organizations that then provide school scholarships to low-income students and public school districts or foundations.
This higher education piece would match scholarships already available to students in K-12.
This bill was requested by Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma as a way to expand needs-based scholarships to eligible college students. The caps are in place, however, to ensure funds are available to regional institutions as well.
“This will just help ensure that students who want to go to college but who lack the funding, will have an opportunity through these scholarships,” McBride said.
These bills now await committee assignment in the state Senate.
HB 2318 and 2555 are authored by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
HB 2559 is authored by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, who serves as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and vice chair of the Education Committee.
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