Editorial: TPS finds money for teacher pay

While state lawmakers struggle to find funding for classroom teachers, Tulsa Public Schools has somehow managed to find money for teacher raises.

TPS approved raises for experienced teachers to catch up on the salary scale that is in line with the district’s guidelines on what classroom teachers should make.

This was OKed in light of a deal with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association that cost TPS about $2 million.

Ninety-eight percent of the teachers in the union voted for the deal (1,711 yeas, 41 nays). The pay adjustments will be retroactive.

The raises range between $400 and $1,200. The starting salary for teachers, $32,900, was unaffected.

Support employees and administrators also got raises at a cost of about $1.3 million a year. Cabinet-level administrators, who already make much more than classroom teachers, won’t get raises. It’s odd that Tulsa Public School board members and administrators gripe about budget cuts and yet somehow they can find the money for raises when they bargain with a union.

Almost everyone in Oklahoma wants to see teachers make more money. Higher salaries for classroom teachers would eventually raise the level of instruction and encourage good teachers to stay in the profession.

It’s no secret that one of the big problems in public education is that it is top heavy with overpaid administrators and Tulsa is a classic example of misplaced priorities.

It is wrong to blame lawmakers for low teacher pay. State law sets the minimum salary for public school teachers. Lawmakers approve a budget that is sent to the Oklahoma Department of Education which distributes those funds on a mandated basis.

The local school boards, with strong recommendations from administrators, decide how much each classroom teacher earns. That is where teacher salary reform should take place. But those administrators and the unions know that keeping classroom teacher pay artificially low helps them have a better argument for overall funding increases.

The money is available. It’s time to pay the teachers.