OKLAHOMA CITY - As lawmakers face a $167-million budget shortfall, the State Department of Education is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars more than it received last year. 

The Department of Education wants an additional $475-million. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told senators, her office has cut 100 positions over the past decade at a time when educational requirements are on the rise. So, the agency wants an additional $186-million to help meet those requirements and $289-million to give teachers $5,000 raises.

“What I heard from teachers after the state question didn’t pass was they were hanging on and they were going to stay if it passed. So, we’re going to see baby boomers especially moving along,” Hofmeister said.

Senator Adam Pugh, R – Edmond, pointed out, while teacher pay in Oklahoma is lower than neighboring states the benefits are pretty good.

“We don’t get enough credit for all that goes into the cost of employment and the additional things that maybe would be considered benefits,” Pugh said.

“We want very much to be competitive. We want very much to inspire our young people to become teachers in a high impact career. Yet even with those benefits we’re having a very difficult time competing,” Hofmeister responded.