Even with both sides of the aisle pushing for teacher raises, one lawmaker said they likely won’t come anytime soon.
Senator Mike Shulz said, "If we find the money, absolutely we do it this year; but I think this is a high hurdle to get over."
Melissa Abdo with Stand For Children.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -
Oklahoma ranks near the bottom in the nation for teacher pay. Even with both sides of the aisle pushing for raises, one lawmaker said they likely won’t come anytime soon.
Education advocates say a raise is something teachers desperately need, and it's time for legislators to make bold decisions for the sake of Oklahoma children.
"We're dead last in teacher pay, that's got to be a priority for our students, and the future success of our state, is to make sure we've got quality teachers in the classroom, and we need to pay them," said Melissa Abdo with Stand For Children.
Oklahoma faces a nearly $900 million shortfall for the 2018 fiscal year; and the way things are stacking up, that deficit won't change, at least not enough to provide the teacher raises so many are desperate for.
Senator Mike Shulz said, "If we find the money, absolutely we do it this year; but I think this is a high hurdle to get over, to think we are gonna come out of this session with dollars going into their paycheck."
There are multiple bills on the table addressing teacher pay raises, however, Shulz, Senate president pro tempore, said legislators are more optimistic on at least establishing the framework that wound one day make the raises possible.
"There will be a coordinated effort between the two chambers to put a pay raise in place that will be funded over time, and I do not expect it to be a political fight," he said.
Abdo said the Penny Sales Tax voted down in November was the closest Oklahoma got to improving teacher pay.
She said with every delay in legislation and roadblock, the future seems bleaker.
"It's disappointing. Nobody suggested it was an easy solution out there but there does need to be a solution and it's going to require bold leadership," she said.
Abdo said while legislators are making strides toward coming up with something, she said they could get inspiration by actually going to classrooms and meeting teachers where they are.
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