This past Wednesday, the House and the Senate met in joint session on the House floor to honor our state veterans, active-duty military and members of the Oklahoma National Guard in a Veterans Awareness Day ceremony. Gov. Kevin Stitt addressed those gathered, and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell presided over the ceremony, in which veterans, service members and supporters packed the House floor and galleries. Rep. Josh West was named Representative of the Year by the Oklahoma Veterans Council. Rep. West is a veteran and was very deserving of the honor. We have many veterans serving in the House of Representatives. It was a very moving ceremony.

I want to point out the education bills that passed through the House and are now in the Senate. The bills are designed to address the teacher shortage and get more dollars into the classroom.

• HB1780 – would provide teachers an across-the-board $1,200 pay raise. While we understand that this is not near enough, hopefully, we can continue with raises each year to get our salaries up to the regional average.

• HB2470 – would increase the “in lieu of” amount for teachers that opt out of receiving the flexible benefit allowance for health care from $69 to $300.

• HB1781 – would allow school districts the flexibility to pay student teachers. This could be used by school districts to recruit and retain future quality teachers.

• HB1360 – would allow National Board Certified teachers to apply for a $1,000 grant toward certificate renewal.

• HB2521 – creates the Oklahoma Educator Loan Repayment Program that will assist classroom teachers with student loan forgiveness.

• HB2502 – provides a $1,000 tax credit for teachers that purchase supplies for their classrooms or fees related to the teacher certification process.

• HB2645 – creates a one-time incentive bonus up to $5,000 for certified teachers who return to public school classrooms.

While this doesn’t fix our problems in education, we hope it will help keep the momentum that was started last year with HB1010xx.

We also passed HB2304, which is a 4 percent cost of living increase for State Retirees, 98 – 3. It has been 11 long years since retirees have received a COLA.

Thank you for reading, and let’s all continue to work together for District 25 and to make the great state of Oklahoma a top 10 state!

Reach Rep. Ronny Johns at 405-557-7336, or by email at ronny.johns@okhouse.gov. Visit Ronny Johns at the Oklahoma State Capitol in room 329A.