Oklahoma State Department of Education posts answers to teacher pay raise questions

OKLAHOMA CITY - As legislators passed a teacher pay raise measure this week, there are still a lot of questions regarding the bill.

On Thursday, Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 1010XX, which calls for a $447 million tax increase to fund teacher pay raises.

The plan offers an average $6,000 pay increase for all teachers, but it starts at $5,000 for first-year teachers and is expected to gradually increase over time.

On Thursday evening, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Education posted answers to several questions that have come up regarding the measure.

Assertion 1:  This does not have sustained funding year over year. Only 60% of the money will go to education.

FALSE. Education receives funding from a variety of sources, the largest of which is the General Revenue (GR) Fund. Increasing the amount of money going into the GR Fund each year will pave the way for the Legislature to ensure the raises continue to be funded. As a result of HB 3705, the Legislature has set a new baseline for education funding. As is the case each year, the OSDE, advocacy groups and educators will continue to express education needs to the Legislature. For example: In FY 17, common education was appropriated $65.8 million from the Rainy Day fund. In FY 18, common education was appropriated $51 million from the Rainy Day fund, leaving a “hole” of $14.8 million. Additional funds were added from other sources to ensure the total was not reduced.


Assertion 2:  Money will be “diverted” to health/roads after the first year.

TRUE, BUT MISLEADING. The state has many obligations to fulfill, including those for education, roads and bridges and healthcare. With the passage of new revenue streams to fund state obligations for core services, funding will be freed up to be appropriated for education.


Assertion 3:  The removal of the hotel tax means the raise will shrink.

FALSE. In HB 1023xx the Legislature increased the minimum salary schedule, which will require teachers be paid no less than the new minimum annually. In HB 3705, common education was appropriated money from the General Revenue (GR) Fund to provide districts money for the raises. The Legislature has made this appropriation before appropriations to any other agencies – by April 1 for only the second time since 2003 when the requirement was put into place. Regardless of which revenue measures are passed, common education will still receive the appropriated amount.


Assertion 4:  Raises are only for one year (like a bonus or stipend).

FALSE. In HB 1023XX the Legislature increased the minimum salary schedule, meaning teachers must be paid no less than the new minimum annually.


Assertion 5:  Those making above the minimum salary schedule will receive  nothing or a reduced amount.

FALSE. HB 1023XX includes a provision to ensure that all teachers receive the amount of raise for the corresponding step. For example: A teacher in a district paying $2,000 above the minimum with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree makes $35,950 (min) + $2,000 = $37,950. Next year a teacher in the same position would receive $37,950 (base) + $5,734 (raise) = $43,684, whereas a teacher in a district paying the minimum would receive $35,950 (min) + $5,734 (raise) = $41,684. Salary increases by step are included in the chart below.

New salary schedule

Assertion 6: This raise will not be meaningful. We will still be 48th (or so) in teacher pay.

FALSE. Using the average increase in annual salary of $6,180, teachers will rank second in the region according to the NEA Ranking of the States.


Assertion 7: This salary increase will put teachers in a higher tax bracket, which will nullify the impact of the pay increase. 

MOSTLY FALSE. See the US tax tables linked below for reference. Only teachers on the upper end of a bracket’s range would move to another bracket. Additionally, health insurance benefits are fully paid by the state and are not to be included in the calculation of taxable income. To see US tax tables, click here.


Assertion 8: This legislation does not provide funding for classrooms.

FALSE. HB 3705 restores the textbook line item for schools at a level of $33 million and appropriates an additional $422.3 million to the state funding formula, which is expected to more than cover the cost of raises for teachers and support staff. Based on current estimates, that leaves an additional nearly $18 million for operations.


Assertion 9: Support staff raises are dead/not happening.

FALSE. HB 1026XX, which provides a $1,250 raise to school support staff, has been passed by both houses of the Legislature and sent to the Governor for signature. HB 3705, which appropriates approximately $50 million to fund raises for school support staff, has also been sent to the Governor for signature.


Assertion 10: Retired teachers were left out of this bill.

TRUE, BUT WITH QUALIFICATIONS. While HB 1010xx did not include provisions for COLA, there is legislation still alive this session to address this issue. HB 1340 provides for a one-time distribution to retirees who have been retired for five years or more of $1,000 to $1,400, depending on the funding ratio of the pension system. This bill has passed the House and awaits a hearing in the Senate.


Assertion 11: The revenue bill (HB 1010xx) uses the terminology “if funds are available.”

FALSE. In existing state statute, school districts receive apportioned funds from the tax levied on the gross production of oil and gas. These are state-dedicated revenues that contribute to the state funding formula. Education receives its apportionment “before any other apportionment of revenue has been made” (see 68 OS 1004, also reflected in HB 1010XX). Other Funds, like the County Highway Fund, then receive a “proportionate share of the funds available” after the obligation to education has been fulfilled.


Assertion 12: This does not restore funding lost over the last decade.

PARTLY TRUE. It is impossible to reverse a decade of student growth that has outpaced funding for public education in a single revenue bill or legislative session. However, the actions of the Legislature to fund education at more than $2.9 billion – an increase of $480 million in one year – immediately puts Oklahoma on the path to recovery. Our focus remains on advocating for what kids need to achieve academic excellence to ensure that upon graduation they are college and career ready. We continue our advocacy efforts toward those goals and encourage everyone in the education community to do so.