By Rep. Mike Sanders
The House on Monday night passed a historic teacher pay raise, giving first-year teachers a $5,000, or 15.8 percent, raise. This is a step plan. Teachers will receive more money for years of service and each higher level of education. A 25-year teacher will earn $7,700, 18.2 percent, more under this plan as a reward for their longevity. Those 25-year teachers who hold a doctorate will make an extra $8,300.
Teachers can see the proposed new salary schedule here, starting on Page 2: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2017-18%20ENGR/hB/HB1023XX%20ENGR.PDF
Not only will this help recruit beginning teachers, it rewards those who decide to stay in the profession, helping us retain good teachers. This is a win win for teachers and our state.
The Senate passed the bill Wednesday evening, and the governor has said she will sign it.
The raises would begin next school year and carry into the future. The raises are aside from benefits teachers already receive. In addition, school support staff will receive a $1,250 increase, and state workers will make between $750 and $2,000 more beginning in July, depending on their current pay level.
This will move Oklahoma teacher pay from 48th in the nation to 34th, 12th when you consider cost of living, and second highest in the region. New teachers will actually be first in the region.
K-12 public schools will receive almost $500 million more in funding for Fiscal Year 2019, including the restoration of $33 million for textbooks, money for the raises and more for flexible benefits as well as additional money to be sent to schools through the school funding formula. For the first time since I’ve served in the Legislature, the House delivered an overall education budget in advance of the April 1 deadline. The Senate passed this bill Thursday morning, and it heads to the governor.
In all, the House passed 11 bills Monday night, including measures to fund the raises and the overall education budget mentioned above. Funding will come from a variety of sources, including an increase to 5 percent of gross production tax on oil and gas wells; a $1 increase on a package of cigarettes and other tobacco products; a 3-cent increase on a gallon of gasoline and 6 cents on a gallon of diesel.
About 70 percent of Oklahomans polled said they would favor a cigarette tax. The tax on motor fuels has not been adjusted since 1987, even while the price of construction material for roads and bridges has steadily climbed. This package takes a little bit of funding from a number of sources. Not only will it go toward better teacher and state employee pay and overall education, it will be used for roads and bridges and health care.
I’ve received positive support for this plan from teachers and other educators throughout my district as well as business and community leaders.
The House has been working to secure a teacher pay raise and better education funding for several years now. Because of the constitutional requirement for a 75 percent supermajority, it took months of compromise to achieve the exact right combination to gain the bipartisan support needed for these bills to pass. The fact that 11 separate bills passed the House seems nothing short of a miracle.
Also this week, the House recognized our state’s veterans on 2018 Veterans Awareness Day. We held a joint session of the Legislature to give honor and recognition to the men and women who have served our country at the selfless peril of their own lives. I am so thankful for their sacrifice and their service, and I’m grateful we had to opportunity to show them in this small way how much we appreciate them.