House Speaker Charles McCall gave a stern warning to the Senate on Thursday: Hear the House’s education package “as is,” or any Senate education bills will be dead on arrival when they come to the House.

In a press conference on Thursday, McCall, R-Atoka, said if the Senate votes to change his chamber’s education package, House Bill 1935 and House Bill 2775, they are voting to “kill the legislation.” 

After publicly coming out against Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat’s school choice legislation last year, McCall introduced his own school choice legislation this year, HB 1935, or the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act. It would provide up to a $5,000 refundable tax credit to families for each student they have in private school and a $2,500 refundable tax credit to families for each student they have in alternative education methods such as homeschooling.

The other part of the package, HB 2775, would provide a $2,500 teacher pay raise and put an additional $300 million into the per-pupil funding system for public schools. The complete package could cost up to $800 million.

“Amending either one of those pieces of legislation, we made it very clear, you are trying to sabotage the education plan,” McCall said. 

McCall’s comments took Treat, R-Oklahoma City, by surprise and the Republican Senator did not hold back in his response. Treat said McCall’s statements were “asinine,” and said the Senate “won’t be bullied into a position.”

“If the Speaker’s goal is to kill school choice, he’s doing a great job,” Treat said at his weekly press conference. “… It’s setting the trap to be able to blame me for school choice dying. … I’m unashamed about being for school choice. If school choice dies because we make an amendment or two to the package, that will be on whoever kills it, not the people who advance it.”

McCall emphasized the House is open to supporting other education legislation set to come out of the Senate this session, but he wants to see that separate from his package.

Sen. Greg Treat, president pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate, speaks on Jan. 5, 2021. BEN FELDER/The Frontier

“We have made it very clear that we’re not saying that’s all that we would consider in terms of education initiatives this year … But the correct place for those are in different pieces of legislation,” he said.

Treat complimented the education plan presented by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, saying they are not going to “wad that up and throw it in the trash can because there’s a new idea out there,” and they will continue “to advocate for Senate priorities.”

Pugh’s plan would raise minimum salaries for teachers by $3,000 to $6,000, and require districts to provide certain teachers at least 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

If the House’s package is heard unamended, they will consider follow up legislation, also known as trailer bills, on the Senate’s education priorities, McCall said.

Treat said McCall’s suggestion was “very benevolent,” but noted there had been “no serious discussion of trailer bills.”

“We all know trailer bills are only as good if they get to the governor’s desk and signed,” Treat said. “And so there’s a reason they tied (HB) 1935 and (HB) 2775 together. If they want to have trailer bills, we’ll tie all the effective dates together.”