OEA joins Step Up Oklahoma in push for teacher pay hikes
The Oklahoma Education Association announced Wednesday that it has joined a coalition of Oklahoma civic and business leaders who are backing a package of proposals to resolve the state's budget impasse and provide $5,000 pay increases for teachers and principals.
“We are excited to be part of the solution,” said Alicia Priest, president of the OEA and a career Spanish teacher from Yukon. “The Step Up Oklahoma plan is an excellent first step toward paying our educators fairly and restoring education funding in our state. Lawmakers must act on this plan now. Oklahoma can't afford to lose a generation of teachers.”
OEA officials said the proposed $5,000 teacher pay raise would partially close the pay gap between Oklahoma and surrounding states.
The OEA has been advocating for a $10,000 pay raise for teachers, a $5,000 pay raise for support employees and a cost-of-living increase for retirees. The organization said it will continue to pursue those goals, while supporting the coalition's efforts.
OEA leaders praised Step Up Oklahoma's plan for providing a way to stabilize the state budget and restore funding for core government services.
OEA officials said they have been asking for a diversified tax plan that would increase state revenue. They noted that Step Up Oklahoma's plan would achieve that by raising nearly $800 million in new revenues from several sources, including:
• A $1.50 per pack increase in the state's cigarette tax.
• A 6 cents per gallon increase in the state motor fuels tax on diesel and gasoline.
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• An increase in the starting gross production tax to 4 percent on all new wells and existing wells currently paying 2 percent. Those rates go up to 7 percent after 36 months.
• Changes in state income tax laws.
“Business leaders across Oklahoma see how education is tied to the future of our state and a strong economy," Priest said. "An educated workforce is an absolute necessity, and the key to student learning is providing a great teacher in every classroom. We can't do that if teachers are leaving Oklahoma to make more money in bordering states.”
OEA's decision to join the Step Up Oklahoma coalition adds momentum to a movement that gained important support earlier in the week when the executive committee of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and board of directors of the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association both endorsed the plan.
Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs, social media coordinator for the OEA, said it is her organization's understanding that the proposed $5,000 pay raise would apply to all teachers, regardless of whether their certifications are traditional, alternative or emergency.
The Oklahoma Legislature changed the definition of teacher last year so it now once again includes "any person employed as a district superintendent, principal, supervisor, a counselor, librarian, school nurse, or classroom teacher, or one who serves in any other instructional, supervisory, or administrative capacity.”
Coppernoll said it is the understanding of OEA officials that superintendents would not receive the raise, but others who fall under that teacher definition would get it.