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New proposal calls for teacher pay raises, consolidating school districts

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Dorraine Matheson teaches 4th grade at the Crooked Oak School District.

She loves the idea of a $10,000 raise.

“Of course that’s awesome!  If we could be competitive, Oklahoma be competitive with the surrounding states, that would be fabulous,” said Matheson.

But she says she would not be willing to give up her small district of only 1,200 students for the jump in pay.

“It’s more a community, a family and you’re not just, you know, part of a huge conglomerate,” said Matheson.

Sen. David Holt is proposing legislation that would get every teacher in our state a $10,000 raise without raising taxes.

The funding would come from three different sources and one of those sources would be consolidating Oklahoma’s school districts, from 520 down to 200.

“We have 24 school districts in the city limits of Oklahoma City.  24!  That is wildly inefficient,” said Sen. Holt.

But Crooked Oak superintendent Bradley Richards says it would not save money.

“It just doesn’t add up.  It, to me, seems like political rhetoric to get attention or kind of be the nice guy or the good guy for a little while,” said Richards.

Richards says it would defeat the purpose of these smaller districts.

He says many of the students transfer from the Oklahoma City Public School District wanting a different experience.

“So it’s really just playing games, making it look one way but it’s really not going to save money,” said Richards.

Sen. Holt says his idea is a viable way to get that money into the hands of teachers in five years.

“We are way behind the nation and the region in teacher pay and we’re in a billion dollar shortfall.  So I think there’s really a sense of doom really about the whole idea,” said Sen. Holt.

Holt says no schools would close under his plan, but some administrative positions would be cut.

The other two funding sources would be earmarking future growth revenue. It would make it law that when the economy turns around, a certain portion is earmarked for teacher raises.

Also, the proposal calls for a tax reform that looked at all the tax preferences and rebates our state offers, and would cut that by 10 percent.