Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmaker Suggests Education Endowment System

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmaker Suggests Education Endowment System

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma's public school system could see an infusion of cash from a taxpayer-supported endowment if legislation proposed this month is adopted.

State Rep. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, said he will file a bill to create an education fund similar to those found in local school districts and universities.

"This would be a statewide thing," Montgomery said. "This way, folks from all over the state could make that contribution and it would impact us statewide."

Money from the account would be distributed for teacher pay raises, bonuses, classroom materials, teacher training courses and possibly a teacher mentorship program.

Montgomery said the endowment would eventually apply for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which would make contributions tax- deductible. People could donate directly or through an income tax checkoff.

"We could take that if they wanted to, as a donation, and put it into this endowment," Montgomery said. "It would become a permanent investment in education. We're creating an opportunity where Oklahomans can directly say that they want to support public education and to what extent they want to do that."

Lawmakers have wrestled with ways to support teacher pay raises, but last session's efforts were in vain. The budget shortfall that left most agencies with a smaller or flat budget also killed the idea of a $1,000 raise in teacher base pay.

Another plan introduced by Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister would have bumped pay by $2,000 in the first year. Another proposal introduced this year by University of Oklahoma President David Boren would levy a 1-cent sales tax and partially support teacher pay raises.

Montgomery hasn't promised how much a teacher raise would be or even how much the endowment would provide each year. There's no estimate, but Montgomery said it could be tens or hundreds of millions, depending on how much Oklahomans want to donate. …

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