OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) – A measure to prohibit the use of state funds for recruitment bonuses for teachers failed narrowly in the state Senate 22-20 on Tuesday.
State Sen. Ron Sharp, a retired educator, said he authored Senate Bill 57 to stop the practice of virtual charter schools rewarding teachers financially with state-appropriated dollars for successfully recruiting other teachers and students to their schools in the middle of the school year.
Sharp said SB 57 would have prevented certified teachers from being lured away from their contractual obligation with a bonus – a common practice utilized by the state’s virtual charters, which receive private funding along with state and federal funds.
“There’s no greater tragedy than for a classroom of students to lose their teacher during the school year,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “Traditional public schools can’t offer recruitment bonuses.”
Only virtual charter schools, which operate under different rules from traditional public schools, are allowed to recruit teachers with public funds, he said.
“This would have stopped this unfair practice and leveled the playing field for traditional public schools,” Sharp said.
SB 57 was a request bill from the Oklahoma Education Association. Under the measure, the State Board of Education and the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board would have worked together to make rules for implementation.
“Any extra state appropriations a school district has needs to be spent in the classroom or to provide raises for their teachers not recruiting teachers and students away from other districts. This is just one more example of the funding inequity between traditional public and virtual charter schools. It’s making it very difficult for traditional public schools to compete,” said Sharp. “Teachers are not headhunters. They’re education professionals tasked with educating our youth. I’m extremely disappointed that more of my Senate colleagues didn’t step up to stop this unfair practice and ensure state appropriations are used appropriately.”
SB 57 cannot be brought up for reconsideration this session but can be readdressed next session.