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Controversial bill combining teacher raise with four-day school week requirements moves forward

Oklahoma Capitol building
Posted at 4:28 PM, Apr 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 23:20:13-04

WAGONER, Okla. — For the last few years, Shelley Mackey has watched hiring and attendance rise. The third-grade teacher said both are outcomes of moving to a four-day school week.

"That makes a huge difference," Mackey said. "We're able to be consistent with what we're teaching and not have lapses in instruction so I don't have to go back with my kids."

If Senate Bill 441 passes, districts will have three options. One is the current standard of 180 days of instruction. The second is the same amount of hours within a minimum 158 day period. The final option is getting a state waiver to teach the required hours without a time limit.

To get a waiver, districts would have to show they've cut costs while improving student outcomes.

"We're not saving money because we're putting it in the bank, we're re-investing those savings into other things," Wagoner Public Schools superintendent Randy Harris said. "So can we show that our four-day week we've set aside all this money? No, because we've re-positioned it and put it in other facets."

Harris said one of his biggest concerns is bus drivers, as districts face a shortage across the state.

"If it goes back to five days several of them have already said, 'I didn't get into this so I could drive five days a week and work five days a week, I still want to stay retired.' You know, pseudo-retired. So how hard is it going to be to replace nine or 10 bus drivers in a year?" he said.

The state superintendent said five-day weeks are the best way to stay competitive and provide resources on an additional day. But some lawmakers are worried about the legality of combining this with the teacher pay raise.

Because of that change, the bill now goes back to the senate.

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