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Educational group creates budget plan to fund teacher pay raises, education funding increases

NORMAN, Okla. – With less than two weeks until a potential teacher walkout, a group of educators are putting forth their own budget plan to fund an increase in education funding and teacher pay raises.

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has sought a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, and the restoration of funding for education and core government services.

OEA announced that it is tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators didn’t increase teacher and staff pay.

Now, another organization has released its own plan to help find the funding for those initiatives, along with creating a few of its own.

The Professional Educators of Norman, a local affiliate of the OEA, has created a letter, listing its own plans and demands.

“Since 2008, Oklahoma has decreased funding on a per student level by 23.6%. And while we continue to hear that education budgets have been ‘held harmless,’ the number of students that public schools teacher each day has increased by 40,000 in the same number of years. Simply put, we are doing more with less. Our education budget has had to stretch further,” the letter reads.

However, they say that the budget crisis is affecting students at home because of additional cuts to core services.

The group says it supports the OEA’s plan, but believes that it needs to be taken further.

“We believe that in order to retain quality teachers and to recruit the best and brightest aspiring educators, our certified teachers deserve a pay raise of at least $15,000, while education support professionals deserve a pay raise of at least $7,500. We believe that our state workers deserve a raise of at least $10,000 and that our state retirees deserve a [cost of living adjustment] adjusted for inflation,” the Professional Educators of Norman said in a letter.

The organization says it knows that major revenue streams will be needed to fund these measures, so they put together their own plan.

The group says it supports an increase in gross production tax to 10 percent, a restoration of the income tax rate, removal of the capital gains exemption, an increase in the cigarette tax to $1.50 per pack, and modernization of the gaming industry in the form of ball and dice games.

“We realize that this is a bold ask of our state which for too long has put profit over people. Our state has continued to pit group against group, robbed from Peter to pay Paul, and allowed our students, our schools, our educators, and our state workers to suffer at the hands of corporate interests,” the letter read.