Supreme Court Confirms Teacher Raises Not Dependent On Tax Increase

Friday, June 22nd 2018, 5:56 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The effort to roll back a tax increase is turned back at the state supreme court. The court ruled the veto referendum was not properly written and will not go to the ballot but the group behind it promises to keep trying.

Besides turning back the referendum the most important thing in the decision was confirmation the teacher pay raises are in the law and do not depend on the tax increase.

The court rejected the referendum because it wasn't properly written but that's easy to correct and the people behind it say they are not done.

The teacher walkout was barely over when a group filed a legal challenge to the tax increase passed by the legislature. The connection between a teacher pay raise and the tax to pay for it was legally unclear until this morning.

“This decision clears the way, so districts can give that full pay raise as intended with the landmark legislation,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

The referendum was circulated by a group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite with former Senator Tom Coburn as a key player. The group was gathering signatures for the referendum, but the court decided the language of the referendum had enough technical issues it could be confusing to voters. They can start over with a new referendum.

Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite believes the decision could make it easier for them - because it separates the issue of the raises from the decision on the tax increase.

“I think after July first when that dollar a pack goes into effect, we'll have a number of people willing to sign a petition,” said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Taxpayers Unite.

School districts, for now, are praising the court's decision which clears the way for them to put the raises in the budget and in teacher contracts while they're still trying to hire for the fall.

“Schools have had uncertainty. They have not been able to be fiscally responsible and simply give the raise without knowing how to pay for it,” said Hofmeister.