Governor Stitt On A Mission To Improve State Education With New Budget

Friday, May 17th 2019, 7:00 pm
By: Amy Kauffman

Governor Kevin Stitt is in Tulsa touting the $8.2 Billion budget he and lawmakers agreed on.

The governor says he believes it's a great first step to moving Oklahoma forward.

Governor Stitt told me he believes he's delivering on the goals he laid out at his inauguration.          

The governor says while there's still work to be done, he's working hard to make Oklahoma a top ten state for education.

This year's budget calls for a $203-million increase for public education.           

That includes a teacher pay raise and more money to hire additional teachers and counselors.         

“I don’t think there’s any better way to get dollars into the classroom than to give it to our great teachers in our state,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. 

Governor Stitt says with this teacher pay raise; this brings Oklahoma to number one in the region for teacher pay.

But the big debate on the floor was whether this money should be going to teachers or straight into the classroom.

“That means more than Texas, more than Colorado, more than New Mexico,” said Governor Stitt. “That’s significant, something we should all be proud of to show that we value education in Oklahoma.”

Former Booker-T High School Teacher turned legislator, John Waldron says it's great to see these raises go to teachers, but wishes other staff and students would see more of the benefit.

“The teachers need that raise, they deserve to be compensated but so do support staff and everyone else who makes the school system go,” said House District 77 Representative, John Waldron.

“The pay raise is expected to go into effect on September 1st for teachers on the funding formula as part of the Oklahoma Department of Education salary schedule. Teachers should start seeing the increased number on their October paychecks.” 

“I am mandating and kind of line iteming this budget that we want it to go to everyone on the state funding formula that we want it to go across the board $1,220 to the teacher pay raise,” said Governor Stitt.  “We're going to put that on a line to hold everyone accountable so that everyone in their districts can look to see how that money was spent.”

Governor Stitt says there are only 1,300 teachers off the funding formula right now in Oklahoma.

Governor Stitt says he is asking those districts to also give a teacher pay raise because he wants the raise to go to all 49,000 certified teachers in Oklahoma.

But Representative Waldron says it's not only about money for many teachers, but it's also about feeling appreciated in their own classrooms.

“We're still shedding teachers; we are still losing them to Texas,” said Representative Waldron. “We've got to do more to keep our good people here teaching in our classrooms.”

Governor Stitt believes an additional pay raise is important to attract teachers to come to Oklahoma compared to other states and believes it could also make teachers want to stay.

“We've got to let the young people know entering college that this is a great profession, you're paid competitive wages and you really can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Governor Stitt. “That’s why it was so important to me to let teachers know they are valued in our state.”