OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Teacher pay raises earn approval from most lawmakers, but there is still debate over how much should be spent and how to go about it.
In the House Education Budget committee, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 482, which would increase the state’s minimum pay by $3,000 with gradual increases based on experience.
But before that vote took place, Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, submitted an amendment to the bill calling for an increase to the minimum by $6,000 with a similar graduated structure.
“In order to retain the teachers that we have and recruit teachers from out of state we need to be competitive in the region and this puts us top of the region,” said Ranson.
The amendment did not pass, but the Democrat was adamant about separating teacher pay raises from the private school tax credits.
She said most Oklahomans don’t support the idea.
“As far as the majority of Oklahomans I don’t believe they support vouchers in this state. 90 percent of families choose public ed,” said Ranson.
The fear from the minority party is that teacher pay raises could be held up or even dismissed over the battle for private school tax credits.
Last week, the Senate passed its version of the House’s education plans, including a $7,500 tax credit per student for a private school family. The plan adds a family income cap at $250,000, meaning any family making over that threshold would not qualify.
The House’s original plan did have a lower tax credit for private school students at $2,500, but there was no income cap on families.
Chairman of the House committee, Rep. Mark McBride, said a $6,000 raise to the state minimum would never pass on a floor vote.
“I love the pay raise idea but I know it’s not going to make it into the final piece of legislation and budget agreement,” said McBride, R-Moore.
After threats to kill all Senate education bills, Speaker Charles McCall said last week that he would let the House committee work play itself out and wait for lawmakers to decide on the merits of each bill.
Monday’s advancement of SB 482 proved that some of McCall’s Republican colleagues support a raise to the state’s minimum teacher pay by $3,000, with gradual upgrades on the state’s pay schedule based on experience.
But as it pertains to running teacher pay raises on its own, McBride didn’t show support.
“I’m supportive of the Speaker and his overall package that puts money into every part of education, and it’s not picking winners and losers,” said McBride.