House of Representatives

O'Donnell Bill Grants Liability Insurance to Educators and Secures First Amendment Rights


4/8/2021 1:44:00 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, on Thursday won committee passage of a bill that will provide liability insurance coverage to all full- and part-time school employees up to $1 million per occurrence.

Senate Bill 634, authored by O’Donnell and Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, also will require school employees wishing to have payroll deductions made to professional organizations or for political contribution to renew their requests annually with their district.

“This bill is extremely pro-teacher and quintessentially reasonable,” O’Donnell said. “For the first time, it offers state-paid liability insurance to all educators. At the same time it protects their First Amendment Rights by specifying that if a professional organization violates those rights at any time, the teacher can choose to exit that organization without owing any further dues without having to comply with hidden or prohibitive rules imposed by the organization or the school district.”

SB 634 would provide liability insurance to be administered through the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and appropriated by the Legislature.

The measure also would require the Secretary of Education to create a form for the authorization of a school district’s professional organization dues to be signed each year by those employees wishing to join or remain a part of the organization. The signature must be confirmed before any deduction can be made from the employee’s paycheck.

Authorization for professional organization dues and political contributions as provided for in current statute, shall be on a form prescribed by the Secretary of Education. The authorization should include the employee’s full name, position, professional organization and signature shall be submitted to the school district, and would need to be reauthorized by the start of the first full pay period each school year. As passed, the reauthorization should be completed each calendar year, in conjunction with the teacher annual contract renewal, thereby causing no additional administrative burden.

O’Donnell said this is not unlike employees that have to sign up each year for health insurance or changes to their retirement plans. Making this an annual requirement ensures educators willingly are choosing to have professional dues and political contributions deducted from their paychecks, and that they have been made aware of the costs.

SB 634 passed the House Rules Committee with a vote of 9-2. It now is eligible to be considered by the entire House.