Column by State Rep. Lundy Kiger
The biggest story of 2018, in the state Legislature, was funding public education that resulted in the largest pay raise for teachers in the state’s history.
But even as educators will likely receive another pay raise to help move state teacher pay closer to regional levels, there are other areas of education still in need of funding.
Work is ongoing between the House and Senate working with Governor Stitt to find the best options available for education overall.
I had the opportunity to spend over an hour with the governor and a small group from the House and Senate this week hearing the governor discuss his personal priority and passion for education and why it’s so high on his list.
With the state having nearly 3,000 emergency teaching certificates issued, it’s clear if we want to keep and draw new teachers to the state we must also pay a competitive regional wage. This is true for any business or agency if they want to draw and keep the best.
But at the same time we’re addressing teacher pay increases, there are other priorities we must also address.
Our classrooms are in need of so many tools available to help provide our children the best possible education that we need to provide.
Another very important issue is teachers not having to use their own personal funds for required classroom expenses. An average teacher in Oklahoma will spend between $500 and $1,500 annually on their classroom. I applaud them for their dedication, but it’s time for Oklahoma to do our part in meeting all classroom needs.
Professional staff members are also in need of additional funding to go with the recent increases they received. They are experiencing the same increases in costs of living. Without dedicated staff, we would be even farther behind academically as they will also look for and find other employment.
So often when pay raises are voted it goes to the starting salaries, which is good and needed, but we must also balance this with the need of keeping and rewarding our career teachers.
In closing, I don’t want to forget the retired teachers who spent their lives educating our children who are also in need of additional increases to their retirement. I hear from retired teachers weekly who we cannot forget about.
There are many options available of how we can address these needs, but the thing I’m happiest about is the desire by the Legislature and the Executive branch of state government working together in the spirit of getting on the same page of properly funding all areas of public education.
Remember, it’s about our children and giving them the best education possible, but we must be careful in where we find these funds to meet all educational needs!