Preparing for the Legislative Session

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The legislative session will start in just a few weeks on Feb. 3, but lawmakers have already been meeting to hear early details of this year’s economic outlook. All indications are we will have a flat budget year after a few years of revenue growth. This is primarily due to a slowdown in oil and gas, on which our state is still heavily reliant.

This slowdown is shown in the state’s December General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections, released this week. We received a total of $631.8 million, which is $11.2 million, or 1.8%, above collections in December 2018 but $8.9 million, or 1.4%, below the estimate for the month.

And, even though our total GRF collections for the first six months of Fiscal Year 2020 are above estimate by $28.3 million, or 0.9%, that’s not enough of rise to pull us much above what we had to appropriate during our last legislative session – hence the flat budget projections for Fiscal Year 2021. 

This will mean some conservative budgeting for state agencies. Honestly, though, this is always my heart – fund only what is absolutely necessary to deliver core state services. We will continue to keep transportation as a priority, making sure our roads and bridges plan stays on pace. We also will likely add more money to education again this year to limit classroom sizes and see better education outcomes in the number of students reading and performing math and other subjects on grade level. Graduating students who are ready for the higher education or the work force is important not only to our young people but to our state as a whole.

Health care and public safety also will continue as a priority in our state budget, and we will continue to save money to prudently plan for possible future downturns in the economy.

On the topic of health care, lawmakers are awaiting the governor’s plan on how to best receive more federal Medicaid dollars. We don’t want to put Obamacare into our state constitution and tie our hands to spending billions of our taxpayer dollars in the likely event the federal government will quit paying its share in the future. We also want some flexibility over things such as work requirements for non-disabled individuals. Lawmakers have plans to address these issues, but we must pass something the governor will sign. This is why we are waiting on his lead in this.

In the meantime, the governor has yet to resolve his dispute with Oklahoma tribes over gaming revenue, which by law is to be handled between the executive branch and the tribes. The governor contends the gaming compacts ended Jan. 1; the tribes contend they renewed automatically. The governor wants to renegotiate for higher revenue to match what is received in surrounding states. I trust this business arrangement can come to a resolution soon. 

Due to term limits, this is my final year in the Oklahoma Legislature. I’ve been blessed with many legislative successes over my last 11 years. These include laws that crack down on drunk drivers, strengthen the rights of crime victims, add training to help teachers recognize students with dyslexia so they get help earlier, a tax exemption for the American Legion that helps our veterans, laws that ease restrictions for volunteer fire departments to recruit qualified firefighters and access better equipment among many others. I also remain a staunch defender of adequate transportation funding, Highway Patrol Trooper Academies and many other areas of core services that help everyday Oklahomans.

Just because this is my last session, I have no intention of slowing down. I will be as active as ever in pursuing laws that improve the lives of Oklahomans. In my next column, I will detail my legislative agenda for this year. I also remain the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, so I will be able to help some of the new lawmakers coming up behind me as they transition into leadership roles. I also will continue to serve this year as the chair of the House Utilities Committee.

As always, it is an honor to serve you. If I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 ormike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

 

Add your reaction Share

Best Christmas Ever

By Rep. Mike Sanders

I’m afraid sometimes we’ve heard or read the Christmas story so often we take for granted how amazing it truly is. We too easily glide past the static Nativity scenes; we know the next scene in the Christmas pageant; we’ve heard all the words of the carols numerous times. We eat, drink and make merry, but do we really take time to consider the true meaning of this holiday?

Our Savior chose to leave Heaven and come to this earth to be born to a young virgin girl in the midst of utter chaos. The Jews were under brutal Roman rule. They hadn’t heard from a prophet of God in 400 years. They had a promise of Messiah, but they obviously had lost hope that one would truly come for them. When the Messiah did appear it was in such unlikely circumstances that many missed Him altogether, refusing to believe that Jesus was truly the Son of God. He was merely the carpenter’s son to many.

If we’re not careful, we miss this humble Messiah as well.

And yet I find myself approaching Christmas asking the Lord for a new childlike faith to believe that miracles really are still possible. Like the one where the angel appeared to Mary to tell her she would be with child even though she was not yet married and had never been with a man. Like the one where the angel then had to appear to Joseph to reassure him that this really was the hand of God. Like the one where the angels sang to the shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem on the night of our dear Savior’s birth, alerting them to the fact that a Savior had been born and that God’s peace had now come to mankind. Like the miracle of the wise men following a star all the way to place where they encountered the Christ child, giving gifts in adoration and worship.

I want to see Christmas anew this year, and every year. 

I love the thrill of the holidays – the activities and parties, the decorations and lights, the music and presents. But, I want to appreciate the deeper meaning – the best gift of all: my salvation, brought in the form of this tiny baby. He was born into the most humble of circumstances and would grow to be the man crucified on a cross to save me from my sins, to save the whole world if they will just believe. This to me is the best part of Christmas – God with us, Immanuel.

This year, as I spend time with my wife Nellie, our sons and our extended family, I will be grateful to God for all of His blessings in my life. But most of all, I will be thankful for this most precious gift – salvation and the promise of eternal life. I hope you will do likewise.

Merry Christmas to all!

Add your reaction Share

New Laws in Effect

By Rep. Mike Sanders

More than 300 laws took effect Nov. 1. Let me give you a snapshot of a few of them. The first two are laws I authored.

House Bill 2051 allows retired firefighters who are already part of the state’s pension program to return to service in volunteer fire departments without it affecting their current retirement benefit and without it counting as an accrued retirement benefit against the state’s pension plan. This bill is a companion to one I authored several years ago that eliminated the 45-year-old age limit for new firefighters by giving them the ability to join a department without the requirement that they be added to the pension plan. These bills help build the ranks of our rural fire departments, which are largely staffed by volunteers, and they help protect lives and property.

House Bill 1228 will provide professional development for teachers beginning in the 2020-21 school year to help them recognize students with dyslexia and determine how best to help these students to put them on a better pathway toward learning on pace with their peers. This will help these students be able to perform well in school, join the workforce and avoid many of the challenges currently experienced by students with dyslexia.

House Bill 2640, Francine’s Law, requires law enforcement to put into the NamUs national database information of unidentified bodies so that families of missing persons can search for their loved ones. The bill was named after Francine Frost, a mother of two who was abducted in Tulsa in 1981. Her case was cold for more than three decades until a grandson found information in the NamUs system that later turned out to be that of his grandmother. This law will lead to quicker identification.

House Bill 2597, otherwise known as constitutional carry, allows citizens 21 years old and above who are lawfully allowed to carry a firearm and active duty military below 21 to carry firearms in public without having to first secure a permit or license. The law still requires background checks and does not allow convicted felons, those with adjudicated mental illnesses or illegal aliens to carry. Private property owners can still prohibit people from carrying firearms openly on their property, and guns are still prohibited at airports, colleges and government buildings. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms without the requirement of paying for a permit or license. Oklahoma is one of 14 states to restore this right.

Senate Bill 142 requires a nursing home resident or their legal representative to provide informed consent prior to being prescribed anti-psychotic medication unless a physician deems it necessary. Oklahoma has been No. 1 in the nation for nursing home residents taking anti-psychotic drugs without a psychiatric diagnosis. This will improve the lives of those who are too often prescribed medications to modify their sleep or behavior without proof they need these powerful medications.

House Bill 1071 permits, but does not mandate, speed limit increases on rural segments of the interstate highway system and on state turnpikes if the changes are supported by engineering studies. Such safety studies are expected to be completed early next year, and then reviewed and potentially approved by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Commission or the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Board.

Senate Bill 89 expands Oklahoma’s current “Move Over” law to require all drivers on multilane highways to change lanes when approaching a vehicle stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights on, when it safe to do so.

House Bill 1926 allows law enforcement to use cameras on school buses to track down drivers who illegally pass buses that have stop arms extended. The law requires a minimum ticket of $100 for violators; 75% of the money collected will be deposited into the newly created Cameras for School Bus Stops Revolving Fund, a grant that schools without video surveillance on buses can apply for in order to purchase the equipment. Drivers that pass stopped school buses endanger our children and should face stiff penalties.

Senate Bill 1019 allows pharmacists to dispense emergency prescription refills to patients who need life-saving medications but who don’t have a current prescription on file if the patient can’t get in touch with their doctor for a refill. Pharmacists will be able to dispense a “reasonable” amount of medication if the patient has a record of the prescription on file and the pharmacist determines the medication is essential to treating a person’s chronic condition. Examples of such medications include insulin and rescue inhalers.

House Bill 2380 creates a criminal penalty for possessing or using a scanning or skimming device to access, read, obtain, memorize or store – temporarily or permanently – information encoded on the a credit or debit card without the permission of the authorized user of the card and with the intent to defraud.

This is just a snapshot of all of the bills passed and signed into law this year. You can see a full list here: https://www.sos.ok.gov/gov/legislation.aspx.

Remember, I am always available. If I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

Add your reaction Share

Reps. Sneed, Frix, Sanders Meet with Rural Fire Chiefs

OKLAHOMA CITY – Wednesday, State Reps. Chris Sneed (R-Fort Gibson), Avery Frix (R-Muskogee and House Majority Leader Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher) met with rural fire chiefs from Muskogee and Cherokee counties in Muskogee.

“We discussed issues facing our rural fire departments and firefighters,” Sneed said. “This included a discussion on the need for a cost-of-living adjustment through their state pension plan, other issues surrounding pensions, recruitment and retention, aging equipment, ways to attract younger volunteers and more. I was happy to help facilitate this meeting as we look at ways we as lawmakers can support our rural fire departments.”

Frix, who has run legislation the past few years to give firefighters and other state retirees a COLA, said today’s discussion was productive. “This gives us a better grasp of the issues facing our rural firefighters and their needs as they work to protect lives and property.”

Sanders said he has spent much of his career as a lawmaker working to ensure the needs of rural fire departments are met. He’s passed several pieces of legislation that have allowed fire departments to recruit volunteers over the age of 45 who do not need to be added to the state’s pension plan.

“I have always been on the side of our rural fire chiefs, and will continue this work to build the ranks of volunteers and to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs,” he said.

Add your reaction Share

Funding for Dyslexia Screening

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Recently I invited educators, reading specialists, parents and others to the state Capitol to tell me and other legislators about their experience in parenting or working with students who are dyslexic and to discuss possible solutions.

We heard several heartbreaking stories of children who were bullied at school or pressured by parents and educators because their disability was undiagnosed and misunderstood. We heard the story of Nathaniel who truly wanted to learn, but who just could not read at the same level as his peers and fell further and further behind in school. Not understanding that his brain was not properly decoding the letters and words on the page, his teachers thought he was rebellious and obstinate or lazy. They made him skip recess and class parties because he was behind on his work. He watched as his classmates enjoyed ice cream and other treats that he was denied because he had not finished assignments. He was pleaded with to just try harder – not a technique the works for dyslexia. Nathaniel eventually gave up sports and other activities that provided him an outlet and eventually dropped out of his public school. Today, he learns through an online program at home. Even now that he’s been properly diagnosed and is receiving help, he still battles with anxiety and depression. 

The saddest part is, there is no need for this to have happened to Nathaniel or any of the other thousands of students who have dyslexia. We have the evidence-based research that shows us which screening tools actually help teachers recognize these students in early grades when intervention is most successful. One issue, of course, is cost – there are hundreds of areas of need that pull state dollars. Another issue is getting school districts and the state Department of Education on the same page as to which screening tools and reading programs are necessary, are actually evidence based and proven to work, and that best serve the needs of students. We hear about local control, but we need to make sure we are selecting services proven to work.

All of this was the focus of an interim study I held before the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee. I invited members of Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma who worked with me on House Bill 1228, which passed the Legislature earlier this year and was signed into law by the governor. This law will provide professional development for teachers beginning in the 2020-21 school year to help them recognize students with dyslexia and determine how best to help these students to put them on a better pathway toward learning on pace with their peers.

My interim study also looked at a possible next steps, including adding screening for these students and examining how that might be funded. I also think a good argument could be made for requiring our teaching colleges to add courses that train teachers in how to teach reading, particularly those that are entering early elementary classrooms.

We also heard from educators, reading specialists and administrators from the state Department of Education to explain what currently is being offered to students with dyslexia and what will best help them moving forward.

I was encouraged by the presentations. It seems we know the tools that work. Now we have to work on funding them and getting them into each elementary school in the state. This will help us properly identify dyslexic students and get them on a path toward reading.

Reading is not just another subject; it is the foundational skill for all other learning. If a student can’t read, they can’t perform well in science or history or even math. Add to that studies that show students with dyslexia are at a higher risk of dropping out of school or holding a job that earns them a living wage or studies that show our prisons are full of people who cannot read. Many of our prisoners may in fact be dyslexic.

And yet, with the proper screening and interventions at an early age, the same research shows that 90 percent of children can learn to read. We owe it to them to give this skill.

Remember, I am always available. If I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

Add your reaction Share

Observing Veterans Day

By Rep. Mike Sanders

On Nov. 11, 1918, at the 11th hour – after a brutally fought and bloody war that took an enormous toll in terms of human life and suffering – allied nations and Germany put into effect an armistice to stop what was then considered “the war to end all wars,” World War I.

Thus was born the original Armistice Day – a day to celebrate peace and an end to war.

We, of course, now know how fleeting was that hope. That would not be the war to end all wars. In fact, United States of America military men and women have been often involved in conflicts both at home and across the globe many times since 1918 – World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, 9-11 and others.

And so, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day – a day to celebrate and honor all of the men and women who have served in the various branches of our military since our nation’s birth to present day.

It is on this day that citizens of the United States of America gather far and wide in local assemblies, parades and other ceremonies to thank these heroes for their service and their sacrifice and to remember that is because of their valor that we remain the strongest free and independent nation in the world.

We listen to stories, salute flags and say prayers of thanksgiving for this service.

On this day as on many others, I examine at my own life – my beautiful wife and happy and healthy sons, my extended family, a roof over our heads where our family can grow in the thriving community we call home, the job I get to go to each day and the many events and activities we enjoy – and I am reminded anew of the quality of life I wish to preserve. And then I think of our veterans and the cost they paid so that I and other Americans might enjoy such blessings.

Often our veterans sacrifice youth, body, innocence, time away from family, friends who die in the line or duty or who simply move on with their lives while the veteran serves, and too often our service men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice - their very lives. Families pay a great price as well, waiting and worrying and handling all of the burdens of home until their loved one returns, grieving beyond comprehension when they don’t.

And while all of our veterans and their families deserve our gratitude and our honor, they also deserve our pledge to try to understand their needs and to help them in any way we can as they transition back to civilian life.

It has been one of my goals as a lawmaker to author and support legislation that benefits our veterans and eases life for them. We of course have a long way to go to make sure their health needs are met, that they receive each benefit to which they are entitled, to ensure they are trained for secondary careers once they exit the military and to ease the burdensome process that now exists in our veterans administration system. I personally will keep working toward these goals, and I know others will as well. Our veterans, after all, deserve the best treatment in exchange for their valiant service. Thank you to all who have served our nation. May God richly bless you.

Add your reaction Share

Pausing to be Thankful

By Rep. Mike Sanders

In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. Of course, this wasn’t the first such proclamation to be issued – that was done by the Continental Congress in 1777. The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated under the new Constitution took place November 26, 1789, in the first year of George Washington’s presidency. He called for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. After that, Presidents John Adams and James Madison issued similar proclamations, adding a plea for fasting. But the policy fell into disuse until Lincoln, and it is his proclamation I like best of all, perhaps because it came during a time of civil disunity and yet it recognized there was still much for which to be grateful. Whatever the case, I reprint it here:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theatre of military conflict, while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

I am blessed to live in this wonderful nation and in Oklahoma, its best state. I am blessed to have my wife Nellie and our sons and to be surrounded by so many friends and constituents who care for preserving our freedoms and our way of life. May God richly bless each of you this Thanksgiving.

Add your reaction Share

Interim Studies Underway

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Interim studies are underway in the Legislature. Several are being held each week on a wide variety of topics from economic growth to agriculture, utilities, energy, education, health care and much more.

Once session starts in February 2020, lawmakers will hear dozens of bills in each committee meeting and then vote on hundreds of pieces of legislation over a short period. These interim studies give us time to slow down and ask questions of different experts on each topic and analyze costs and other factors of proposed legislation.

I will be holding my own interim study this fall on funding for dyslexia screenings for students as part the Reading Sufficiency Act.

In this particular interim study, the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education will take a look at adding screening for these students and how it could be funded. We’ll hear from the experts on this matter, including those from Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma Task Force, so we’ll know how to move forward on any potential legislation.

I was able last year to pass a bill to provide professional development for teachers to help them recognize students with dyslexia and to help them determine how best to help these students to put them on a better pathway toward learning on pace with their peers.

An interim study I attended last week at the Capitol tackled a completely separate issue – Oklahoma’s formula for calculating corporate income taxes.

This study examined what it would mean to shift from Oklahoma’s current three-factor formula for corporate tax liability calculations to a single-factor formula. The current formula uses each corporation’s property tax, sales tax, and payroll tax in a three-factor calculation, whereas a single-factor formula would only use each corporation’s sales tax for such calculation. Many states have adopted the single-factor structure touting it as a way to incentivize corporate relocation and growth

Legislation to change Oklahoma’s structure was presented last session but then laid over after the State Chamber voiced concerns about the bill.

Tony Mastin, executive director of the Oklahoma Tax Commission suggested lawmakers take a closer look at Oklahoma corporations that may be affected by a corporate tax structure change. He suggested change would have a negative impact such as revenue loss for at least the first year with more analysis needed. Director Mastin also discussed some analysis of states that have already changed, including Pennsylvania and Georgia.

I’ll be attending other interim studies this fall, including several that will be heard in the Agriculture Committee. One will seek to identify the bureaucratic and statutory problems Oklahoma beef producers face and identify legislative measures that could benefit them. We also want to look at ways to educate Oklahoma beef consumers of the benefits of choosing Oklahoma beef products. Another study will examine changes made by OSU to the extension program and the role of county extension offices in cooperative extension in the future.

On the energy front, one study will look at investment in renewable energy sources to help continue to diversity Oklahoma’s economy.

A study before the Transportation Committee will look at potential conflicts between state statute and the administrative code on funding and maintenance of the state highway system and county highway system.

One study that will come before the Utilities Committee, which I chair, will involve the topic of eminent domain as it relates to wind transmission lines. This is being sponsored by the representative from the Panhandle where this has become an issue with property owners in that area. Another will look at expanding the broadband network to rural areas and communities.

Another study before the Utilities Committee that could have an impact for rural communities will examine Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grants, looking at the structure, funding level and effectiveness of the grants for rural communities to see if there are opportunities for growth or improvement to the program.

I’ll keep you posted on things I learn.

In the meantime, if I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

Add your reaction Share

Real Progress Needed on REAL ID

By Rep. Mike Sanders

I received an email from a constituent recently asking if she could still use her Oklahoma driver’s license to fly commercially. I thought it was a question that others might like to see the answer to as well.

Here’s our status: We are in compliance via an extension from the federal government through Oct. 10. This means the federal government will continue to recognize Oklahoma’s driver license and ID cards until that date. Oklahomans also can gain access to federal buildings and military installations using these documents until that date.

Gov. Stitt, meanwhile, has submitted the required letter of request for an additional extension to become compliant fully by October of 2020, and it looks as if the Department of Homeland Security is working closely with Oklahoma to review that request.

On Aug. 5, the Department of Homeland Security issued the following statement about the few remaining states out of compliance, including Oklahoma:

“The majority of states have already been determined to be fully compliant by DHS, and all the remaining states have committed to becoming compliant by October 2020,” said DHS spokesperson McLaurine Klingler. “The remaining noncompliant states are working closely with DHS to share their plans and schedules for implementing the Act. All the states granted extensions to the compliance deadline by DHS are participating in periodic program reviews with DHS and are making timely progress towards meeting the REAL ID requirements.”

I wish I could tell you that the 2020 extension had been officially granted, but we are still waiting. In the meantime, it might be wise if traveling after Oct. 10 to carry alternative forms of identification. A list of alternative identification documents accepted by the Transportation Security Administration can be found here:https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

REAL ID stems back to 2005, when the U.S. Congress approved the measure as a response to 9/11. The Act was intended to make it more difficult for criminals to falsify identification cards. But many states, including Oklahoma, rejected the Act, after many citizens voiced concerns about government overreach, potential privacy violations and compliance costs.

Oklahoma lawmakers in 2017 voted to comply with the Act, but work to implement the change by state agencies has been slow to say the least. Partly because of this, Gov. Stitt recently made changes to leadership at the Department of Public Safety, as the Legislature granted him the ability to do in the last legislative session. He’s promised that we are now getting the right people and the right software in place to move more quickly towards compliance with REAL ID.

Gov. Stitt recently met with Department of Homeland Security executives in Washington, D.C. to assure them of the state’s progress. He said the state is expected to beta test our version of the ID in April and will be compliant by October 2020. If we’re granted an extension, I will let you know.

In the meantime, if I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

Add your reaction Share

Welcome to a New School Year

By Rep. Mike Sanders

I want to welcome students, teachers, staff and administrators, both in our public and private schools, back to a new school year.

It’s an exciting and a perhaps a bit of a nervous time of year as young people anticipate entering new classrooms, with the challenge of learning new information and acquiring new skills. They no doubt will be happy to reconnect with old friends but will be making some new acquaintances as well. They’ll be getting to know new teachers and new routines. They might need a little extra grace and rest as they get back into the swing of things.

Parents likely will be breathing a happy sigh of relief that a long summer has come to an end. Before long, though, the school fundraisers, the sports schedules, the homework and the constant buzz of activity that surrounds the school year will help dull that feeling of euphoria. Be prepared.

This should be a great year for our students, teachers and administrators. Last year, the Legislature voted in the second pay raise in a row for our teachers. This is hoped to help curb the teacher shortage and encourage new recruits to this field. It’s proven that a highly qualified teacher is one of the top factors in student success. I certainly appreciate the great teachers we have in our House District, and I want to encourage others to consider this profession.

The Legislature also gave more money to the school funding formula this year to aid in the support of our classrooms and for other needs decided by our local school boards. And, we fully funding the Reading Sufficiency Act to help students who struggle with reading.

While teachers are certainly key to a child’s success, parents play an even greater role. Teaching your child to enjoy learning at home at an early age is of great importance. A love of learning can be fostered through keeping a good supply of age-appropriate books and learning games on hand; taking time to sit down with your child in the evening to talk about what they learned during the school day; ensuring they understand their homework and class assignments. Be available to your child if they have questions or concerns. Remember, what may seem like a small issue to you may seem very large your child’s mind. Having a parent reassure them goes a long way towards building a child’s confidence.

Please also take the time to get to know your child’s teachers and the administrators at your child’s school. Look over the books and materials your child will be using this school year. If you have concerns, first approach your child’s teacher.

Seek ways you can help in your child’s schools. Maybe they need a hand in the library or the lunchroom. Maybe they need some extra supplies in your child’s classroom. Stay involved in athletics, art, band or other activities in which your child is involved.

Keep an eye out for school zones and buses. Safety on our roadways is critical during the school year to keep our young lives safe.

Finally, have some fun. School can be one of the great joys in life. In addition to all that is learned, it can be a time of creating great memories. Have a blessed and safe school year.

If I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

 

 

Add your reaction Share