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A Raise for Teachers and State Employees Featured

Written by  Tuesday, 27 March 2018 12:19
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Rep. Rick West

 

On March 26, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to give teachers and state employees a well-deserved pay raise. I support teacher and state employee salary increases, and I voted yes on the two bills that provided these in statute. These measures amounted to raises averaging about $6,100 for educators, and state employees will see anywhere from a $750 to $2,000 raise.

 

It wasn’t a perfect situation by any stretch. Lawmakers were emailed 12 bills just hours before being asked to vote on them. One measure – the omnibus funding bill – was over 80 pages. It raised taxes on everything from hotel rooms and motor fuel to cigarettes and the rate of the gross production tax.

 

The rushed method meant my colleagues and I barely had time to skim the bills, and we lacked the opportunity to talk to our constituents and local business owners before casting votes. This goes against every way I like to operate. And because everything was rolled into one, lawmakers didn’t have the option to evaluate tax increases independently. I would have voted yes on the 5 percent GPT aspect, but I couldn’t support the cigarette and gas taxes.

 

I don’t mean to harp on this, but again, there were other options to giving teachers a raise. Options that didn’t involve a $448 million tax increase. Look at the waste uncovered at our state health department. Look at the Department of Agriculture’s billing mistakes that cost thousands of dollars. Consider the option of tapping into the Commissioners of the Land Office’s $2 billion fund. Instead, the majority of Republicans and Democrats voted for massive tax increase, and the bill passed 79 to 19.

 

As far as their salaries go, this is good news for teachers. A $6,000 raise is more than what was offered in the ‘Step Up Oklahoma Plan’ back in February. The raise is equivalent to what House Republicans offered this time last year. But this plan provides the increase in one fell swoop beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. After taxes, teachers could see an extra $376 per month in their paychecks. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

 

State employees will reap the benefits as well. For people making less than $40,000, salaries will increase by $2,000. Employees making between $40,000 and $50,000 will receive a $1,500 raise. Civil servants earning between $50,000 and $60,000 will make an additional $1,000. And lastly, individuals making more than $60,000 will see a $750 pay raise.

 

Lawmakers also passed the overall funding education bill for Fiscal Year 2019. State statute requires this bill be passed by April 1, but it’s a deadline we have missed year after year. Since being elected, I’ve been pushing for lawmakers to meet this deadline, and I’m proud to say we’ve done it. House Bill 3705 provides the common education $2.9 billion. This is a $500 million increase above what K-12 education received in Fiscal Year 2018. This additional money will go to teacher salary increases as well as restoring textbook funding (to the tune of $33 million). The funding bill also includes $91.3 million for the student activities fund, which includes things such as third-grade reading remediation and other education support programs.

 

The House passed all 11 bills lawmakers heard on Monday night (one of the 12 bills wasn’t brought up), and every one of them is headed to the Senate as I write this on Tuesday morning. This is now in their hands. If they pass these measures, the bills will head to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk.


I know the Oklahoma Education Association has said it still plans to walk out on April 2. My desire is for teachers to recognize the hard work that went into this $500 million increase and consider staying in the classroom next week instead.

 

As always, you can reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 405-557-7413.

 

Thanks, and God bless.

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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