Oklahoma School Districts Concerned About Teacher Raises
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Supreme Court Monday heard arguments on a petition drive to repeal the taxes to fund teacher raises. School districts are hoping the court will give them guidance on how to move forward as they try to hire teachers this summer.
The legislature passed two separate bills: The teacher pay raise and the tax increase to pay for the pay raise. But now schools don't know if they will get the tax revenue, so they don't know what to tell teachers they are trying to hire or keep.
“It’s a big nobody knows what’s happening,” said Regan Bowler.
Bowler was a special education teacher at Bristow. But when it came time to rehire her, because of the uncertainty of the veto referendum, her school district couldn't guarantee a raise. So, she decided to go to another district up the road that doesn't depend on the state funding formula.
“At the end of the day it was for sure an extra $5,000 where the rest of it is in limbo. And as much as I loved the people I worked with and I loved the school district, love doesn’t pay the bills,” said Bowler.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Jessica Sherrill an attorney with the OSSBA.
Sherrill said they have received lots of calls from districts about what to do when hiring teachers.
“If there was a lot more concrete information it would definitely help, but I think the uncertainty is very anxiety inducing for everyone. It’s especially hard in working with school districts that really want to give the raise but also not wanting to make some cost cutting measures later if that funding is not available,” said Sherrill.
Dr. Sean McDaniel, Incoming Superintendent for Oklahoma City Public Schools said, "School districts across the state, including OKCPS, are proceeding cautiously as we wait for more information from the state before making financial decisions for SY 2018-19. At this time, there are more questions than answers. If the petition for a referendum is successful, the funding schools need for the teacher pay raise would be put on hold, at least temporarily.”
McDaniel added that State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has asked for the attorney general’s opinion “to clarify the obligation of schools because the full funding may not be immediately available. “
But In the meantime, teachers like Regan are having to make tough decisions too.
Oklahoma City and other education advocates are also asking the court for a quick decision, so they know how to move forward.