Inaction by the State Senate could cost public school teachers a $6,000 raise in pay. Last week, the Senate refused to hear House Bill 1114, which would raise teacher salaries by $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 cumulatively over the next three years.
House Speaker Charles McCall said the bill would boost Oklahoma teachers to the highest paid in the region. House Republicans have a package of bills aimed at reforming numerous tax credits, exemptions and incentives to pay for the teacher raises.
“House Republicans promised Oklahomans that we would pass a teacher pay raise plan this session, and we did our part,” he said. “The House passed a bipartisan and realistic teacher pay plan and sent it to the Senate, and we provided for funding the raise in our budget. Our members heard from citizens over and over on the doorstep that a teacher pay raise was a priority of theirs, and it has been and remains a top priority for House Republicans. We continue to work with our colleagues in the Senate to find an agreement that keeps our promise to Oklahoma’s teachers this session.”
House Common Education Committee Chairman Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, was the author of the bill. Rogers said the phased-in approach would allow the Legislature to manage the revenue downturn while keeping its promise to boost pay for teachers. Every $1,000 increase in teacher pay would cost approximately $52.6 million, said Rogers.
“We must take care of our teachers first, and we are committed to making Oklahoma teachers the best paid in the region,” said Rogers. “Our leadership in the House has said over and over that we are going to fund the teacher pay raise without cutting our common education budget. The House will be doing our part to keep that promise, but if the Senate wants to walk away from their commitment to teachers and constituents, the House will not follow them.”
Oklahoma has the third-highest statutory starting minimum teacher pay in the region. Rogers’ plan would raise Oklahoma teacher pay from 48th in the nation to 27th based on recent data from the National Education Association (NEA). When paired with the state’s low cost of living, the plan would move Oklahoma to 13th in the nation for average annual teacher pay at $56,804 (adjusted for cost of living). Oklahoma’s cost of living ranks behind only Mississippi for the lowest in the nation.