Pay raises approved for Okla. ‘State Officials but not School Teachers’

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OKLAHOMA CITY –  It would be unconscionable for pay raises to be approved this year for state elected officials but not for school teachers, Rep. Mike Brown asserted Wednesday.

Although the Legislature has 2.6 percent less money to spend this year than it appropriated last year, “We could easily afford a teacher pay hike with just a couple of actions that would not require a tax increase,” the Tahlequah Democrat said.

An across-the-board pay raise for teachers would cost an estimated $230 million, analysts have calculated.

Even though the State Board of Equalization notified the Legislature on Tuesday it will have $188 million less to spend this year than it had last year, “There still are ways to give our teachers a pay raise,” Brown said – such as adjusting state tax credits for corporate entitlements.

“So we can give elected state officials 12 percent pay raises, but we can’t give state employees a 2 percent raise and we can’t give teachers a pay raise, either?” Brown said. “Does anyone out there think this is fair and equitable?”

HJR 1087 has been assigned to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Brown’s House Bill 2313 provides that every year, starting with the 2014-15 school year, teacher salary levels in Oklahoma would be adjusted to equal “the regional average salary for a teacher with the same years of experience, hours and duties.” The region encompasses Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Missouri and Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma teachers have not had a pay raise for seven years,” Brown said. “Consequently, they are being paid an average of 9 percent less than teachers in our surrounding states.” HB 2313 would “at least bring our teachers up to the regional average.”

HB 2313 cleared the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education Monday morning and now advances to consideration by the full House Committee on A&B.

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