State Sen. Carri Hicks is among a group of educators who sought public office in 2018 to fight for Oklahoma public schools. But by law in Oklahoma, when these legislators complete their service at the Capitol, they cannot return to the classroom for two years unless a school can find alternative funding that does not include state dollars. Hicks wants to give Oklahomans the opportunity to change that law and has filed Senate Joint Resolution 8. She’s dubbed the legislation the “Right to Return.”
“Current law actually prevents legislators from accepting any job paid with state dollars for the first two years after leaving office. I’m sure it was designed to prevent any deals with a state agency or other institution that could result in a high-paying job awaiting them as a result of efforts undertaken for that agency,” said Hicks, D-Oklahoma City. “But with teachers, it’s simply a matter of being able to return to the job they were doing before seeking office.”
Although the Legislature approved a significant pay increase for teachers during the 2018 session, Oklahoma has continued to issue record numbers of emergency certifications to address an ongoing teacher shortage. Hicks said given those circumstances, her proposed state question makes good sense.
“My fellow educators and I came here because we believed it was important to the future of our children and the future of our state to have that kind of representation from teachers here in the Legislature,” Hicks said. “I think it would benefit students to allow experienced educators to return to the classroom upon leaving office rather than making them sit out for two years. Some may not be able to wait that long and might have to leave teaching altogether. Getting educators back into our schools where they can share their first-hand experience in government would be of tremendous value to our students and our communities.”
“No one is getting rich from a teacher’s salary, but educators do enrich the lives of the children they teach. Ultimately, this is something I would really like Oklahoma citizens to have the opportunity to decide.”