Former Oklahoma teacher proposes teacher pay raise measure

OKLAHOMA CITY – As the clock continues to tick toward a teacher walkout next month, legislators are working to find a way to come up with a teacher pay raise.

The Oklahoma Education Association has given lawmakers until April 1 to come up with a way to meet their demands, or schools across the state will close due to a lack of teachers.

The OEA is asking for 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.

Throughout spring break, teachers have been heading to the Capitol to pressure lawmakers to agree to a plan.

“We don’t have a lot of faith, I think what it is right now,” Michelle Howell, a librarian for Locust Grove Public Schools, told News 4.

Several proposals have been heard in both chambers, but lawmakers have yet to agree on one measure that meets OEA's demands.

Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, a former teacher, has proposed his own plan to provide raises for teachers and state employees.

“As a former teacher with close to two decades of experience in Oklahoma public school classrooms, I appreciate the frustration of our instructors,” Bergstrom said. “In the time since I took office in November 2016, one of the top priorities in my Republican Senate Caucus has been finding a way to give Oklahoma teachers a pay raise. Unfortunately, the budget hole and the constitutional requirement for 75 percent approval in both chambers have hampered our efforts. In the last several months, we have run through a special session, are still in a second special session and are nearly halfway through another regular session and there is still no pay raise. The planned teacher walkout looming in a few weeks adds yet another wrinkle to the situation.”

Bergstrom's proposal calls for a $6,000 teacher pay raise over three years, a $2,500 pay raise over three years for state employees making less than $50,000 and restoration  of state aid formula funding for education in 2019.

He says the revenue for his plan would come from several other bills in the Senate.

Senate Bill 1086 would restore the Capital Gains Tax, while Senate Bill 1195 would modify casino games to allow certain ball and dice games.

Senate Bill 1030 would change the requirements for Medicaid eligibility.

Bergstrom says his bill also depends on lawmakers passing a $1 tax increase on cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes. It also includes a 5 percent gross production tax on all oil wells that are currently at 2 percent, all new wells, and raising all wells to 7 percent after the initial 36 months.