The key to a brighter future for Oklahoma’s next generation is making sound investments in education—investments that bring greater accountability to the classroom and investments that keep our most experienced teachers in the classroom. 

We are making great strides in education here in our state.  These facts prove that Oklahoma’s education system is doing well:

• Oklahoma has the highest percentage of nationally board certified teachers in the nation,

• Our student’s ACT scores are the best in the southern region,

• We consistently rank in the top ten among all 50 states for students completing high school and,

• We rank first in the country at the number of students enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs.  These statistics are a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication from our high quality teachers.  We must continually work to ensure that legislation we pass in the Oklahoma Legislature reflects the value we place on keeping Oklahoma teachers in our state. 

A bill I authored this session that passed the Senate this week will invest $25 million in the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System.  Doing so will make the system more actuarially sound, and will ensure that retired teachers receive the retirement benefits they have earned throughout their careers.  The bill also corrects inequity within the system by ensuring that our most experienced teachers receive the same benefits as those who are beginning their careers as educators. The bill also includes a $100 increase in health insurance benefits for Oklahoma’s retired teachers and state employees.  With the rising cost of healthcare, retirees often find it very difficult to pay for their health insurance.  This bill will now go to a conference committee before its final passage on the Senate and House floors.

Another measure I authored this session will bring greater accountability to Oklahoma classrooms and allows our students to compete in today’s growing global economy.  The Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) legislation includes the following key measures:

4 Requires students who are currently in 6th grade to pass four of seven end of instruction tests including; English II, Algebra I, US History, Biology, English III, Algebra II and Geometry,

4 Provides remediation opportunities for Oklahoma students, and

4 Requires teenagers under the age of 18 to demonstrate they are proficient in 8th grade math before obtaining a drivers license.

I believe Oklahomans want an education system that promotes personal responsibility and the provisions of the ACE bill set standards of excellence for our students.  This bill will also go to a conference committee before final passage in both chambers of the Legislature.

I am confident the results of these two pieces of legislation will enhance Oklahoma’s pursuit of excellence in the classroom and will give Oklahoma an economic development advantage over other states.  We owe it to the youth of this state, who are Oklahoma’s future leaders, to do everything we can to provide them with the tools necessary to be successful when they enter the workforce. 

I am also happy to report that this week the Caitlin Wooten Act was passed on the House floor and will go to the Governor’s office to be signed.  It was a long, hard fought battle to get this legislation passed, but it was worth every minute.  I believe many people will be protected from enduring this type of tragedy and the bill serves as a tribute to the life of this wonderful young lady.

As always if you have any questions about a legislative matter, please contact my Senate office at (405) 521-5541 or my email at paddack@lsb.state.ok.us

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