OKLAHOMA CITY - It’s one of the more controversial measures on Tuesday’s ballot; a plan to raise the state sales tax by one penny to fund teacher raises.

The ballot measure would change the state constitution to ensure teachers receive at least $5,000 more than they make now. But the wording gives politicians a lot of say over how any left-over money will be spent.

The penny tax would raise at least $615-million per year for education funding. Here’s how it would break down:

  • 19.25-percent would go to colleges
  • 3.25-percent for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education
  • 8.00-percent for the State Department of Education
  • 69.5-percent for common school districts.

It’s that 69.5-percent that we’re going to focus on. 

According to the ballot question, 86.3-percent of that money will be used to fund a minimum of a five thousand dollar raise for teachers. Any left-over money can be used for bigger raises, or to “Otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages in the manner most suited to local district circumstances and needs.”

In other words, local school boards can decide how to use the money as long as they can justify that the use will help prevent teacher shortages.

"State Question 779 was designed with local control in mind because for years, politicians at 23rd and Lincoln have failed us,” said Amber England with Stand for Children. 

But the way the measure is written, districts wouldn’t have to give teachers raises above that $5,000 regardless of how much revenue the new tax brings in over the years. The money could be used for other things, like books and professional development.

Senator Kyle Loveless (R) Oklahoma City said this is just a big shell game; providing a steady stream of income to schools and colleges under the guise of giving teachers a raise. 

"To me this is this is the problem of using one thing that is very popular; giving teachers a pay raise, to fund something else,” said Loveless.

Loveless said if this was really about giving teachers a fair salary, 100-percent of the tax would go towards that. 

"We could have done a third or a half or a quarter to fund a teacher pay raise if that's what we wanted to do.” Loveless said, “But the problem of it is they kind of log-rolled everything together and hopefully show everybody a teacher pay raise over here and pass something else that they don't expect over here."

England said, "If they're fighting this and they don't have a better plan they don't want teachers to get a pay raise."