Oklahoma Senate Passes Budget That Includes Teacher Raises
OKLAHOMA CITY - The state Senate passes a massive $7.5 billion spending plan that includes raises for teachers and more money for the classroom.
The budget includes the largest tax increase in the state’s history to pay for teacher pay raises and, for the first time in years does not include any cuts in state agencies or services.
But some lawmakers insist that’s not enough.
“The budget that is presented before you today, is it perfect? No,” said Senator Stephanie Bice (R) Oklahoma City. “But this is the first year I have been in this building that we’ve been able to give those agencies that deserve it a raise.”
The fiscal year 2019 spending plan includes spending increases for mental health treatment, substance abuse services and prisons. It also increases spending for the education formula.
“The 17-million dollars we’re putting onto the formula falls short of a reasonable request to shorten our class sizes to make sure we have adequate equipment to give teachers the tools, so they can do their job,” said Senator J.J. Dossett (D) Owasso.
Senator Kevin Matthews (D) Tulsa added, “We have to stop having four-day school sand we have to have, the teachers have to have the resources they need.”
The budget funds an average $6,100 raises for teachers.
“We had people here, it’s not about the pay raise it’s about the formula. So, I offered to some of the educators that came to my office the option of taking some of that pay raise back and doing four thousand dollars and putting about $110 million back into the formula. Well, that didn’t go over very well,” said Senator Mark Allen (R) Spiro.
Senator Kim David (R) Appropriations Chair added, “I think what we need to do now is put more money in the classroom absolutely. But you can’t continue to decimate every other agency and not meet the needs of these kids to do that first.”
Despite concerns, the budget passed in the Senate less than 24 hours after it was presented to lawmakers.
“I do think this is reckless for us to do this before all of these issues have been vetted and all of the stakeholders have had a chance to review them. We do that with every other bill over a three, four-month period. It seems like the most important bill that we pass of the year should receive more than 18 hours,” said Senator John Sparks (D) Minority Leader.
Senator David said, “My hope is that moving forward this is just the beginning in the amount that we can give to education and that we can give to mental health and we can give to criminal justice reform and all these other really important things going on in the state that we need to take care of. This is just the beginning.”
The House of Representatives is expected to take up the budget Friday and the legislature plans to gavel out May 4, three weeks earlier than scheduled.