State legislators are going home for the weekend after failing to reach an agreement on a teacher pay raise, just 11 days before a planned walkout.
Right now, there are three plans in play: One by the Senate that will never pass in the House of Representatives; one in the House of Representatives that doesn’t identify a funding source and has been slammed by teachers; and a “behind closed door” deal that we were first to report on Tuesday.
But so far, there’s been little public movement on any of the plans.
“This week’s been productive,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader. “There’s been a lot of meetings and a lot of progress.”
But nothing concrete.
Teachers lobbying lawmakers Thursday, feel a bit more comfortable an agreement will be reached.
“I think we are much closer to having something put forth in the house in the house and senate that is going to maybe not make everyone happy, but I think will help to get teachers back to work,” said Tulsa teacher John Croisant.
Tuesday, News 9 was first to report on a plan being discussed that has bi-partisan support. It includes $922 million dollars in new revenue to pay for $5,000 to $6,000 raises. That money comes from tax increases on cigarettes and fuel, and an increase in the production of oil and natural gas called gross production from two to five percent.
But Senate leaders say they’re not interested in a five percent gross production tax.
“I’ve heard the discussions that you have. But it hasn’t been an official part of what we’re willing to change,” Senator Treat said.
Senator Mike Schulz (R) President Pro Tempore said, “Members think that if they just package a different way it will just take off and run. At the end of the day it will be a leadership package.”
Teachers back the plan though, but only if it means a $6,000 raise this year.
“We have to have at least $6,000 for teachers. That gets us up to cost of living adjustment from the last raise that we’ve had. So that’s the least amount that we have to put in for the first year for teachers,” said Alicia Priest of the Oklahoma Education Association. “I mean, if the numbers are good on the revenue than I say let’s pass it.”
Legislators will resume talks next week. But they will only be working a three-day work week because of the Easter holiday. They come back April 2, the same day teachers plan to walk off the job.