Budget & Finance

Oklahoma Governor Pitches Teacher Pay Raise Amid $1 Billion Budget Hole

By Daarel Burnette II — February 01, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Amid a $1 billion budget shortfall due to the collapse of the oil industry and a simultaneous (and badly timed) teacher-shortage, Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin proposed Monday the state give teachers a $3,000 pay raise next year. The move, which she detailed in her annual State of the State speech, would cost the state $178 million. In exchange, she’s asking lawmakers to merge several districts and give superintendents more flexibility in how they spend their money.

“The education of our children remains a top priority of mine in the budget even in fiscal climates like this year,” she said.

The move was mostly in response to an initiative that’s now gaining traction to place a measure on this fall’s ballot that would raise the sales tax 1 percent to provide teachers with a $5,000 pay raise.

Fallin pointed out Monday that the penny sales tax would bring the sales tax rate to 5.5 cents on the dollar and cause Oklahoma to have the nation’s highest sales tax.

But Amber England, the director of the state’s Stand For Children chapter and a lead organizer for the penny sales tax initiative, says Fallin’s proposal doesn’t go far enough and is not a long-term solution.

“Any teacher pay increase from the existing budget would come from a revenue source that has a billion-dollar budget hole in it,” England said in a recent interview. “If you propose a teacher pay raise with a billion-dollar hole, you better figure out a way to fund it. We think there should be a dedicated revenue source for a teacher pay raise.”

During the most recent oil boom, Fallin led the state’s Republican-dominated legislature through a series of income and corporate tax breaks. The state now collects in taxes just half what it did in 2007.

But with a 70 percent drop in oil prices in the last two years, thousands of the state’s workers in the industry have been laid off and the state’s income and sales tax revenue has dropped drastically. Last year, the state’s politicians grossly miscalculated how much oil revenue they would bring in, forcing Fallin to declare in November a “revenue failure” after tax revenue fell $50.1 million or 12 percent short of projections.

School districts had to make $47 million in cuts, or 1.5 percent of their total budgets last year.

In 2014, the state’s superintendents began complaining about a teacher shortage that left hundreds of classrooms across the state being taught by substitute teachers for months at a time. A task force concluded that the state is among the lowest in the region in teacher pay, with starting teachers making $31,600.

In her address Monday, Fallin proposed “taking control” of the state’s budget by cutting 6 percent of state agencies’ spending and capturing $910 million in revenue by raising its cigarette and online sales tax, consolidating administrative services and repealing several of the state’s $8 billion worth of tax exemptions. Fallin pointed out that her budget proposal uses no one-time revenue to close the budget hole.

She also proposed allowing superintendents to spend money traditionally used on facilities on teacher pay and other needs, freeing up about $200 million in spending. And she gave a plug to an effort in the state to establish education savings accounts, which would allow parents to more easily transfer their children to private schools using tax dollars.

“Let’s give students a chance at better success in the state’s schools than they have today,” she said.


Don’t miss another State EdWatch post. Sign up here to get news alerts in your email inbox. And make sure to follow @StateEdWatch on Twitter for the latest news from state K-12 policy and politics.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Budget & Finance Why Failing to Require Masks Could Cost Districts Millions Later
Some insurance providers are threatening to cancel districts' coverage this school year—particularly if they break statewide mask mandates.
9 min read
Image of a dial that assesses problems, dangers, risks, and liabilities.
iStock/Getty
Budget & Finance Will Teachers Get Vaccinated for $1,000?
More and more districts are offering cash to employees who get vaccinated, hoping that the money will help tamp down COVID-19 spread.
6 min read
Image of a dollar bill folded into an upward arrow.
ImagePixel/iStock/Getty
Budget & Finance Opinion Three Tips for Spending COVID-19 Funds in Evidence-Based Ways
If COVID-19 funds targeted for evidence-based practices are going to deliver, it's crucial to be clear on what evidence is actually helpful.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Budget & Finance How Kids Benefit When Principals Get a Say in Spending Federal COVID-19 Aid
In some districts, principals play a key role in targeting federal pandemic relief money, but in other places they're left out.
8 min read
Nicole Moore, the principal at Indian Mills School, stands near the summer literacy program held in a small lot at Fawn Lake Village in Shamong, New Jersey on July 6, 2021. Moore worked with teachers to develop a summer literacy program for disadvantaged students who live in the district.
Nicole Moore, principal of Indian Mills School, in Shamong, N.J., worked with a teacher and the district superintendent to start a summer program using federal aid for COVID-19 relief.
Eric Sucar for Education Week