PROMO Education - Money College Scholarship Cap Diploma - iStock - William_Potter

Oklahoma subcommittee recommends new teacher bonus plan

© iStock - William_Potter
Merrilee Gasser

(The Center Square) - Educators who choose to teach in Oklahoma public schools could receive signing bonuses of $7,000 per year for five years under a bill approved by a House subcommittee on Monday.

Eligible teachers would receive $35,000 over five years under the bill in addition to their base salary.

The cost of House Bill 4107 is contingent upon how many certified personnel choose to participate in the program, but similar programs have cost around $18 million, according to the bill’s fiscal analysis.

If passed, the signing bonuses would incentivize educators not currently working in Oklahoma public schools. The $7,000 annual bonuses would be available for teachers with at least three years of prior teaching experience, a valid or expired teaching certificate, and have not been employed by a public school in Oklahoma for the past five years, according to the bill summary.

PROMO 64J1 Miscellaneous - Oklahoma Welcome Sign Native America Tribe Tribal - iStock - jaflippo

© iStock - jaflippo

The teachers must agree to teach full-time for at least five years and meet additional requirements to be eligible for the signing bonus.

The program would begin with the 2024-2025 school year.

The bill’s next stop is the full Appropriations and Budget Committee.

The subcommittee also approved another bill Monday related to teacher compensation that would create the Teacher Compensation Review and Adjustment Act.

House Bill 3074 would require a study of Oklahoma’s average teacher salary compared to the regional average every two years.

If the state is below the regional average, the legislature would periodically introduce a bill to increase Oklahoma’s teacher salary to the regional average, according to Rep. Neil Hays, R-Muskogee, who introduced the bill.

“Having been an educator, the one thing I wanted to do was try to find a way to make the teaching profession more attractive for a long-term career path and trying to attract more students to enter this profession,” Hays said.

Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, said Oklahoma has previously posed two state questions to voters over the last 15 years that would have dealt similarly with teacher compensation, and they were both voted down.

“We know the people, when they have the opportunity to vote on it, have voted against that and against mandating that. So why are we going to do it here?” asked Caldwell.

“I just think that we have to find a way to make sure that we mandate that it gets looked at every two years and it doesn’t have a 10-12 year lull between anything getting done on it. And the hope is if you do it every two years, if you have to make any adjustments to it, the amount that you’re putting into it is not that large,” Hays said.