It’s been just over a year since the legislature approved the biggest tax increase in state history to give teachers a $6,000 raise. Now News 9 has the numbers to show the raise succeeded in drawing more teachers to the classroom.
Since the raise was approved, Oklahoma has 1,148 new teachers.
“I have seen numerous teachers leave just out of frustration of class sizes, funding, pay raise, but loved teaching,” said Representative Rhonda Baker (R) Common Education Chair.
Baker, a former teacher turned legislator, says the raise was a good start, but says a proposed $1,200 dollar raise this year, will make Oklahoma number one regionally in teacher pay.
“We do know that Texas is planning to do another pay raise, so there is a chance that we could go back to number two. But it’s better than falling lower in the rankings, and that’s what we do not want to do,” said Baker.
Representative Mark McBride (R) Appropriations & Budget Chair added, “My job is to keep the momentum going. So as education approps chair, is to see to it that we get another 140-150 million dollars into the formula, teacher pay raise, money to the classroom.”
The House is pushing for $1,200 annual across the board raises for teachers, and $70 million more for classroom funding.
The Senate wants only the lowest paid teachers to get the raises, and districts get upwards of $100 million to decide whether higher paid teachers get raises or the money is spent on the classroom.
“It gives more flexibility to the school districts to do what they need to do, so if they need to hire more teachers to get lower classroom sizes, they can use that money. Their hands aren’t tied for a pay raise,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore. “That’s the big logjam if you will. Once that gets decided, everything else will fall into place.”
Teachers say they need the raises and the increase in classroom funding.
“We still have a huge deficit in getting teachers into our classroom, which helps lower our classroom sizes. And so, we need that teacher increase in salary, but we need that money into our classrooms,” said OEA Vice President Katherine Bishop.
The legislature is required to have a budget in place by the end of the month. The governor is siding with the House of Representatives in pushing for across the board raises.