The Oklahoma House of Representatives has elected state Representative Terry O'Donnell as the new Speaker Pro Tempore.
O'Donnell represents district 23 which includes Catoosa and much of Rogers and Wagoner Counties.
O'Donnell released the following statement regarding his election:
I had the honor last week of being elected by my peers in the Oklahoma House of Representatives to serve as their Speaker Pro Tempore.
I appreciate the trust they’ve placed in me. In this role, I will help set legislative priorities and work to build unity within the House to accomplish those. I shared several of our goals for the coming year in my acceptance speech. I’ll repeat some highlights of those here.
A top priority is education. Over the past few years, we’ve been able to deliver back-to-back teacher pay increases as well as additional funding for our classrooms with the promise of improving student outcomes. We also gave retired teachers – along with other state retirees – their first Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 12 years.
The teacher pay raises were delivered as promised, but we still have a ways to go to improve student outcomes, particularly in the state’s urban school districts. COVID has disrupted learning in many ways, but we must still work to ensure appropriate oversight and accountability as we continue to make education funding a priority.
We also want to examine our education system as a whole – fix what’s broken and move on from those things that no longer fit student needs. Students of today are quite comfortable learning from multiple screens, for instance, and they process information at a much faster pace than in pre-technology days. We need to let teachers innovate to remodel their classrooms to fit the generation of students they now teach.
In keeping with this, is a priority to expand statewide access to broadband. Oklahoma is currently ranked as the 26th most connected state in the nation. We want to improve that ranking and close the divide in access between our larger cities and our rural areas. We learned the devastating cost of not having Internet connection with COVID. Improving broadband to rural areas will not only increase student access to quality educational materials and continuous learning, but it also will help us attract new business investment in rural areas. If you can work anywhere, why not choose a place with low cost of living, wonderful people and natural beauty?
Alongside these two priorities is the goal of improving workforce development. The No. 1 question businesses ask when considering location is about access to a skilled workforce. We can accomplish this by decreasing government red tape that creates barriers to entry and by facilitating better partnerships between industry and our schools and Career Technology training centers.
This is just a birds-eye view of three top priorities in the House this year. I will detail others as our work progresses.
For other regular updates, please continue to check my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RepresentativeODonnell.