Rep. Mark McBride’s proposal would use portion of TSET funds for health education compensation

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, last week filed a measure that would transfer funds from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) to use as a recurring revenue stream that school districts could use to compensate educators and staff that promote health and well-being for Oklahoma students.
House Bill 1245 would transfer 50 percent of “the moving ten-year average earnings amount” from the TSET fund, which would then be allocated to school districts to “promote the health and quality of life for students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.”
“My goal is to find an ongoing revenue stream that we can use to compensate certain teachers involved in health and wellness, while freeing up funds to pay other teachers,” said McBride, R-Moore. “Not only would this provide those teachers and support staff a funding stream for compensation every year, but it would also indirectly help us reduce smoking among students. Studies show that better educated youth are much less likely to smoke. Increasing pay helps us attract and retain quality teachers, which helps improve our entire education system.”
McBride said the amount transferred could be anywhere from $15 to $25 million annually, depending on how well the TSET investment portfolio performs. In 2016, the investments produced a return of $26.3 million, but produced $46 million the prior year.
TSET has a corpus endowment of more than $1 billion, and receives an additional amount annually from the tobacco settlement agreement with tobacco companies.
The funds could be used “for the purpose of compensating personnel involved in specialized mental health services, physical education exclusive of organized athletic programs, school nurse programs, special education services” and other programs that are consistent with promoting health and wellbeing of school children.
Robert Romines, superintendent of Moore Public Schools said the bill would allow school districts an additional revenue stream to compensate some teachers while freeing up funds from the districts general fund to compensate others.
“Mental health services is a growing and on-going expense for public schools,” said Romines. “For example, the Moore School District employs several individuals in the mental health profession. Salaries for these individuals are paid from our general fund and or special education funds. The proposed bill would offset part of these expenditures and would allow savings to the general fund.”
The 2017 legislative session begins on February 6.