Beautiful days ahead with cooler temperatures

OKC councilman proposes income tax to fund teacher stipends

OKLAHOMA CITY - A new effort underway to boost teachers' pay in Oklahoma City could mean the first income tax for city residents.

The income tax would fund an annual stipend, or bonus, for public school teachers and support staff, including custodial staff and nurses. It would not apply to administrators.

It comes as an education crisis plagues Oklahoma City, with school weeks cut down to four days and teachers fleeing to higher paying states.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education Chair Paula Lewis hopes people will look past the tax to see the children it will benefit.

"Our teachers are having and have had to do consistently more with less, they have bigger class sizes, and the state is not appearing to pay attention," Lewis said.

The plan was brought forward by a coalition spearheaded by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid.

Shadid said a solution can't wait.

"Governor Fallin said don't expect a revenue measure to address the crisis during an election year and we just can't wait a minimum of two or more years for action to be taken," Shadid said.

A petition was started on August 14, and now has 90 days to garner 12,000 signatures to bring it to a public vote.

Shadid said polls he's administered showed the majority of people would be in favor.

"People's fear that the system is broken is overcoming their aversion to paying an income tax," he said.

But not everyone is sure it would be feasible.

Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone said he doubts his constituents would vote for the plan.

"Based on the feedback I received, I don' think there would be support for that," Stone said. "I think they want to leave it up to the state to do what it needs to do."

He said he would need to see the details of the proposal, but contends the education problem is more than teacher pay.

"The teacher raise is a part of it, but I don't think it's the whole part," Stone said.

But Lewis insists it's the right place to start.

"It's not what any of us want to have to do, but we have to support our children, and we know they're our future," she said.

More information about the petition and how to become involved can be found at SaveOKCSchools.com.