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Teacher pay raise bill submitted without any funding mandate

John Marshall / Red Dirt Report
House Bill 1441 being debated in Tuesday's passage of a teacher pay raise bill.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The only pay raise that will make it out of the House of Representatives this year passed Tuesday with a vote of 92 to 7.

House Bill 1114, as introduced by Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Tulsa), provides increases to the minimum salary schedule for teachers in public schools with an additional $1,000 for the 2017-18 school year, an additional $2,000 for the 2018-19 school year, and an additional $3,000 beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

In a press release Tuesday Rogers stated, “This bill is the first step toward making Oklahoma one of the most competitive states in our region for teacher pay. We know there are ways to pay for this raise, and House Republicans are committed to funding this plan this session.”

According to Rogers, the cost would be $53 million the first year. During Tuesday’s debate sources in the Senate have suggested it would be more like $60 million. The bill offered no way to fund the legislation bringing up the source of much friction.

Rogers said that it would give Oklahoma a higher teacher pay ranking by boosting teacher pay to $50,000. Others asked how that could be, giving that a starting salary for a teacher with a teaching degree would only be $31,000.

Over and over the Republican authors and supporters offered no solution for funding and even talked about how state school superintendents have mismanaged funds year after year.

State Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City) gave a passionate response stating that the Democrats have a plan. He said the money needed for the legislation, and much more could easily be raised by undoing the tax cuts for the rich and raising the gross production tax back to previous levels.

At one moment Inman suggested that we go from a 2 to 5 percent gross production tax asking Rogers if he would support it. Rogers responded with, “It doesn’t matter.” as he referred to getting enough members of the House to agree on a tax increase.

A flurry of Democrats assailed Rogers during the afternoon. Most of the questions were asking for the bill’s author to tell them how they are going to pay it. Rogers repeatedly assured members that the bill would be funded but could not offer any measures.

Accusations of a “shell game” were levied at the bill’s author by most of the Democrats. Many of them saying they could not, in good conscience, tell their constituents they passed yet another pay raise bill with no funding source attached.

Among the highlights of debate Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) said the last raise was in 2008 for $600, “After 10 years they do not have the political will to do the right thing."

“I have a lot of concerns about the funding being a political stunt," said Rep. Shane Stone (D-Oklahoma City). "All we are looking at is some sort of commitment to fund this bill."

And Rep. Claudia Griffith (D-Norman) expressed concerns about voting yes for an unfunded mandate that the legislative body might decide to pay for by raiding pensions.

Over and over Rogers dodged the funding question while justifying the need for a raise.

Stone concluded that he could not vote yes for this bill without some form of attached funding.

The bill will move on to the Senate as House leadership works on a plan to fund the legislation within their budget proposal.

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John Marshall

John Marshall is a videographer and new addition to Red Dirt Report. As he told us: I am...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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