May 6, 2014

Teacher pay raise could cost $100 million

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Nate Robson

Nate Robson

EDUCATION WATCH BLOG
May 6, 2014

How much would a $2,000 a year raise for Oklahoma public school teachers cost? The state Department of Education estimates the price tag is close to $100 million a year.

A rough estimate giving each of the state’s 43,915 teachers a $2,000 raise would cost about $87.8 million a year, but that number does not include a corresponding increase in benefits.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton said a boost in benefits brings the state’s estimate to about $100 million a year.

Teacher pay is one of the biggest education expenditures in Oklahoma. The state spent $2.5 billion on instructional salaries and benefits in 2012-2013, according to the State Department of Education.

Adding $100 million reflects a 4 percent increase in total salaries and benefits.

The state does have a bill pending in the Legislature that looks to add $600 million to education funding over 10 years if the state hits goals for tax revenue growth.

That money would not have to go toward teacher compensation, but districts could opt to implement voluntary pay raises with the new funding.

That bill, HB 2642, was accepted into a House conference committee Monday to address amendments tacked on by the Senate. The committee’s deadline is May 30.

A separate bill providing funding for mandatory raises in the teacher pay failed to make it out of the Legislature this year.

State Superintendent of Education Janet Barresi has asked districts to voluntarily implement a $2,000-per-teacher raise using reserve funds.

Districts have said the request is not sustainable since it uses one-time funding instead of creating a new source of revenue.

Barresi has said the move is not sustainable, but hoped it would send a message to lawmakers about the need for a pay raise.

A push for a pay raise comes as Oklahoma districts struggle to recruit and retain new teachers. One of the key challenges cited is Oklahoma is that the state has the lowest pay in the region and third-lowest average pay in the nation.

Oklahoma teachers made an average $44,128 per year in 2012-2013 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The regional average is about $47,157.

Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said her union has pushed for a $3,000 a year raise for teachers, a request that did not gain traction in the Legislature this year.

“Quite frankly $2,000 is not enough,” Hampton said. “This increase would not bring Oklahoma to the regional average and is far from the national average.”

Money used to increased education funding or teacher pay raises could come from increasing the horizontal drilling tax, increasing franchise fees or increasing budget appropriations.

Nate Robson can be reached at nrobson@oklahomawatch.org

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