Bill allows teacher donations: Debate emerges over a bill allowing parents to make $1,000 tax-deductible donations to teachers | Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill that encourages parents to gift their children’s teachers $1,000 is facing criticism that it would create inequity, cause favoritism and pressure parents rather than lawmakers to increase the remuneration of educators.

Proponents, however, defend the plan as an “outside the box” way to increase pay for the state’s top teachers.

House Bill 3351 would allow parents to make a tax-deductible donation of $1,000 per child to their child’s teacher. The tax credit would be 100% deductible, but could not exceed $1,000 per child per tax year. The Oklahoma Tax Commission would have the authority to make the rules necessary to administer the program. The agency would also be required to create a process for a parent to donate anonymously.

A legislative tax analysis found that if just 1% of the parents of the 647,600 students enrolled in public schools gave $1,000 directly to teachers, it would cost the state about $6.5 million. If half the parents gave $10, it would cost the state coffers about $3.2 million.

President Charles McCall, R-Atoka, who authored the measure, intends that all donations to teachers be anonymous.

“Rewarding teachers with generous, anonymous donations is a common sense option to recognize our many quality educators in a way that meets the Oklahoma standard,” he said in an email.

State Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, the Senate author, was unavailable for comment.

State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, said he’s not opposed to anything that helps teachers make more money, but isn’t sure that’s the best way to do so because “it just opens a lot of boxes of worms”.

Rather than improving opportunities for math, science or English teachers, Pemberton said he fears coaches will be the big winners. Although the bill would require that the $1,000 gifts be paid only to teachers, many coaches are also certified educators or physical education teachers. Some coaches, especially those who win, could receive up to $65,000 in donations if they teach 65 kids.

“I’m afraid a lot of them are bypassed by sports programs for basketball coaches, wrestling coaches, football coaches, or maybe a group manager,” he said. .

Pemberton said there is also concern that if a parent gives $1,000 they might expect a certain grade for their child in return. And, he said, the plan could also put pressure on parents who can’t afford it to pay teachers so their child isn’t the only one not contributing.

“Public education is the business of the state,” Pemberton said. “The obligation of the state is to fund public education. It is not up to us to ask parents to fund education. If you want private education, you want to pay for private education, that’s one thing, but public education, we should fund it.

He said the bill had good intentions, but was not fully thought out to address the inconveniences that come with it.

Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said there were a lot of “holes in this bill, a lot of problems with it,” but acknowledged that it will likely move forward.

The measure overwhelmingly cleared the state House largely along party lines and continues to gain ground in the state Senate.

Floyd said it would put educators in a “really bad position” to have to choose between affluent suburban neighborhoods or low-income urban and rural neighborhoods. She said educators working in wealthier districts could potentially see their individual salaries increase by up to $25,000 a year, unlike teachers working in very poor areas.

“Frankly, there are a lot of communities in this state where parents can’t afford to match those numbers,” Floyd said. “So I think we’re going to see problems in areas of the state across the state that just don’t have the resources and the parents don’t have the resources to deal with that.”

She said supporters argue there won’t be a mass exodus to wealthy neighborhoods because teachers “have their hearts in service”. But Floyd said it may not be wise to rely on teachers’ willingness to make monetary sacrifices for altruistic reasons.

“When we have a teacher shortage and teachers have more flexibility about where they go to teach, why wouldn’t they go to a school where their income is increasing so they can take care of their families? ” she asked.

State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, a co-author of the measure, said he does not envision a mass exodus from low-income areas of rural Oklahoma to wealthier suburban neighborhoods. However, he acknowledged that the bill could also pose problems.

“You can find issues with everything we do,” McBride said. “We’re just trying to think outside the box, to find ways to get more money for teachers to spend in the classroom.”

McBride had tabled a measure that year that would have given every teacher in Oklahoma a $1,000 stipend, but his bill never received enough support to move forward.

He said Oklahoma needed to do more for educators and that it was important to keep that philosophy in the public eye.

Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI newspapers and websites. Contact her at [email protected]

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