Play to Learn Act Passes House, becoming eligible for Senate consideration
OKLAHOMA CITY – Play-based learning is a step closer to becoming an integral part of Oklahoma’s early childhood education experience as the Oklahoma Play To Learn Act overwhelmingly passed the House on Tuesday (March 9) after a vote of 76-16.
The Oklahoma Play to Learn Act (House Bill 1569), authored by Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, declares the Legislature’s intent to focus on the importance of child-centered, play-based learning as the most developmentally appropriate way for young children to learn.
The measure also authorizes educators to create learning environments that promote movement, creative expression, exploration, socialization, and reading for pleasure, among other things.
Additionally, H.B. 1569 allows school districts to provide ongoing early childhood professional development for teachers and administrators, which may include existing State Department of Education professional development programs.
And, the measure prohibits a school district from preventing a teacher from utilizing play-based learning in early childhood education, which the author says will empower early childhood educators to teach children the way they were taught to teach.
The proposed law is the product of a 30-person task force of educators and education advocates Rep. Rosecrants put together and has led since 2019.
A January press release specified the legislation’s three different planks:
1. Declares legislative intent to focus on the importance of child-centered, play-based learning as the most rigorous and most developmentally appropriate way for children in the early childhood grade levels to learn.
2. Allows early childhood educators to create learning environments that are developmentally appropriate and involve play-based learning opportunities that focus on movement, creative expression, exploration, socialization, art and music.
3. Directs school districts to provide ongoing early childhood professional development opportunities for early childhood educators and administrators, which may include existing professional development programs from the State Department of Education.
In that pre-session communication to reporters, Rep. Rosecrants said he views the act as a positive for students and school districts:
“The teacher shortage is felt sharpest in the early childhood grade levels. By letting prospective early childhood teachers know that they can teach kids the way they were taught to teach them, this legislation can be part of the solution to Oklahoma’s teacher retention problem.”
According to news material sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, Rosecrants believes: “Play-based learning is about engaging children on their terms. Our hope is that through that engagement we can foster a lifelong love of learning in students.”
As explained in this week’s legislative staff communication, “This is the second time the legislation has passed the House. However, the bill stalled last year due to COVID.”
Rep. Rosecrants concluded, “This is a victory for the many education advocates that have had a hand in this legislation. Once it gets across the finish line, The Play to Learn Act will be a victory for Oklahoma students and will serve as a great way to recruit and retain our early childhood educators.”
Note: Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.