These past few years have been fiscally tough ones for Oklahoma.
An oil crisis and a series of miscalculated tax cuts has left the state with little revenue to distribute, and the state’s school system has suffered greatly. Over the last two years, with schools already undergoing a severe teacher shortage crisis, the state’s legislature has cut close to $60 million from its public school system over the last two years.
Then came some good news this month. The state had cut too much from their budget and it now has a surplus of $140 million to spend.
But when Republican Gov. Mary Fallin called for a special session to push the state’s legislature to give that money to teachers in the form of raises, she got some odd opposition.
The state’s teachers’ unions said they don’t trust any effort by Gov. Fallin to give them much of anything, according to the Associated Press.
“I appreciate the governor’s interest in trying to raise teacher pay, but they have to find a permanent funding source to keep this going,” Ed Allen, president of AFT Oklahoma City told the Oklahoman. “I’m not interested in some kind of a piecemeal solution: ‘We’ll give you a little now and then trust the legislature to do something later.’ ... They’ve been saying that for ages.”
The teachers and the state’s Stand for Children chapter is organizing behind a ballot measure to raise the state’s sales tax one percent to give teachers a $5,000 bonus next year. Fallin said that, if the measure approved, Oklahoma will have the country’s highest sales tax.
Meanwhile, frustrated with the pace of change, more than 30 teachers filed to run for a state legislature office this fall.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.