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Fallin signs school support staff, public employee raises, education budget into law

OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin signed public school support staff and state employees pay raise legislation into law, along with the state's education budget, Tuesday afternoon. The signings come amid a second day of protests from thousands of state teachers and supporters, calling for better education funding in the state.

School support staff will see a $1,250 pay increase; Public employees a $750-$2,000 raise, depending on their current salary.

According to officials with the Senate, public employee raises will break down as follows:

  • State employees making $40,000 or less get a $2,000 raise
  • State employee making $40,000 to $50,000 get a $1,500 raise
  • Those making $50,000 to $60,000 get a $1,000 raise
  • Employees making $60,000 or more get a $750 raise.

The laws will go into effect July 1.

"That's the first step. Our big issue is it's been 11 years since we have had an increase, and we're asking for a three-year pay increase plan, with a total of $211 million over three years," said Oklahoma Public Employees Association Executive Director Sterling Zearley.

OPEA has requested $211 million to be allocated for public employee pay raises over three years. The public employee pay raise, HB1024XX, has an estimated cost of $63.7 million for the first year. Zearley hopes, on behalf of state employees -- specifically the need for department of corrections officers -- a long-term pay raise plan can be reached with legislators.

"This is a step in the right direction, but it does not have guarantees for a second and third year and we don't want to wait another 11 years for another pay increase."

The governor also signed the state's $2.91 billion education budget into law.

"I'm pleased to sign this bill that provides a significant increase in spending for our public school system," said Fallin in a release Tuesday evening. "I’m hoping this additional funding will result in improved K-12 public school results. Our job as a state is to empower our students, parents and teachers to succeed by setting the bar high and challenging each other to succeed."

This is the first time that the house and senate passed a stand alone education budget bill by the April 1 deadline, and signed into law, since the requirement was put in place in 2003. Legislators had met the deadline only once before.

The $2.9 billion education budget includes $353.5 million for teacher pay; $52 million for support personnel pay; $33 million for textbooks; $17 million for the state aid formula; and $24.7 million for flex health care benefits. A total increase of $480.2 million for education funding for fiscal year 2019.

The bill signings come amid a teacher walkout in the state, with teachers, supporters -- including public employees -- calling for better funding of education and core state services.

Tuesday was the second day thousands of protesters converged on the capitol, protesting for change. Fallin signed teacher pay raise legislation, providing an average $6,100 pay increase, into law last week.

"Tens of thousands of educators, parents and community members are showing up at the capitol every day because they are overwhelmed by classrooms with more students than desks, duct-taped text books, and schools that are only heated to 60 degrees," said Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest in a statement on the signing of the education budget. "This legislation falls well short of fixing those problems. These measures leave millions in revenue on the table and still leave Oklahoma students among the worst funded in the nation."