OKALHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Former educators speak out against the merit-based pay increases proposed by State Superintendent Ryan Walters.

“I think that if you are outside education, merit-based pay sounds like a great idea,” said Caitlin Moore, a former school teacher. “But the way that the system is set up for evaluating teachers would not lend itself well to merit-based pay.”

Moore left the profession in 2022, after spending 10 years with Putnam City Schools. She wants pay raises across the board for all teachers instead of a pay raise based on evaluations.

“If you have a difficult admin or someone who inserts their opinion into things, then all of a sudden you’re getting a biased evaluation and now your pay is tied to that,” said Moore.

On Thursday, Walters announced a plan to provide merit-based pay raises, not the $5,000 pay raises for all teachers that former State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister proposed last September.

In his merit-based model, some teachers could earn an extra $2,500-$10,000 based on evaluations and teaching credits.

“We have to start doing things differently,” said the new state superintendent. “That means basing a plan on incentive pay package to attract the best and brightest and keep the best and brightest and profession.”

Another former educator, Kim Harrison, said teachers should be getting regular raises on a consistent basis.

“I think it would be better if they had, like, you know, every two years or three years that they would give a raise,” said Harrison. “It wouldn’t have to be a $5,000 every time, but it just something that the show that they really cared.”

Both Harrison and Moore do not want to get back into the profession right now.

“Teachers have too much on their plates and it’s I almost feel like there’s no such thing as a career teacher anymore because it’s so hard for any one person to deal with the pressures of teaching and all that comes with it for an entire career for 25, 30 years, it’s almost impossible,” said Moore.

“I miss the kids a lot,” said Harrison. “That would be one reason to go back. But the stuff going on with the administration and the state attitude right now towards education is, no, I don’t want to ever go back to that.”

The pitch from Hofmeister for the universal pay raises was about making Oklahoma competitive with other states.

Moore said that teachers pay attention to which states have better pay and benefits.

“We have a lot of teachers that have migrated to Texas for a better pay because you can drive 3 hours south and get a $10,000 raise,” said Moore.

For Walters, part of his pitch with merit-based pay had to do with saving the state $60 million.

Democrat Forrest Bennett, lawmaker from OKC, said he should have the opposite agenda.

“When we are in a global competition to raise and educate the best kids so that we can ensure the brightest future, I want my state superintendent fighting for every dollar,” said Bennett.

The Democrat is worried that more teachers could walk out the door without a guaranteed raise.

“You don’t have to go far to hear a teacher in your community who’s really considering leaving,” said Bennett.

Oklahoma Education Association said Thursday night that over 80% of Oklahomans wanted a teacher pay raise.

A spokeswoman said Friday that the organization, which represents 30,000 educators, will work with “pro-public education legislators on real solutions and we are hopeful we can come to a positive resolution.”