The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 27, 2013

Budget panel OKs new Oklahoma teacher-bonus plan

By Sean Murphy
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — A plan to tie bonus pay to a new teacher evaluation program cleared a House committee on Wednesday despite concern the proposal will replace a separate incentive for teachers who receive National Board Certification.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 13-10 for the bill to provide a $1,000 bonus for "superior" rated teachers under the new Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System, or TLE. Teachers receiving a "highly effective" ranking would get a $500 bonus. The measure now heads to the full House for consideration.

"This is another way to reward those teachers," said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, the House sponsor of the bill.

The TLE program was created by the Legislature as a new way to evaluate teachers, but it hasn't yet been implemented statewide. It is scheduled to take effect in the 2013-2014 school year, but the State Department of Education has asked the Legislature for a two-year delay to fine tune some of its components.

Several members opposed Sears' bill because the TLE bonuses aim to replace the current system that awards nationally board certified teachers a $5,000 annual stipend. New applicants to that program no longer are receiving the stipend after the Legislature suspended it in 2010 because of statewide budget cuts.

"This is a tried and true program," said Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. "I don't know why we made a decision to summarily execute it."

When the National Board Certified teacher program was first enacted in 1998, 39 teachers qualified for the stipend for an annual cost to the state of $195,000, but those numbers increased dramatically each year. The cost of the program nearly doubled after fiscal year 2006 when the law was changed to include speech pathologists, audiologists and psychologists who receive a separate national certification in their field.

It now costs an estimated $15 million annually, and the Legislature suspended it amid concerns that it was unsustainable as more and more teachers entered the program.

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Online: Senate Bill 316