OK Senate Committee Passes 6 Bills To Solve Teacher Pay Issue

Wednesday, February 15th 2017, 7:29 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

A state Senate committee passed six different bills aimed at getting teachers much needed raises.

“What I’ve done is just put the right thing on the table. The right thing is a five thousand dollar pay raise and mine has a ten-year plan as well, $500 every year for the next ten years,” said Senator J.J. Dossett (D) District 34.

Senator Marty Quinn (R) District 2 offered his solution.

“This bill gives a teacher pay raise of two thousand dollars. That’s basically trying to get the ball moving,” Quinn said.

Senator David Holt (R) District 30 said, “My particular pay raise bill, Senate Bill 316, is $10,000 raise over four years.”

Under this bill, teachers would receive a $1,000 raise the first year, and $3,000 the following three years.

Senator Gary Stanislawski (R) District 35 admitted, “I proposed a bill just to get a bill in there, knowing it will probably not move forward but at least to have this discussion we’re having right now.”

That discussion didn’t just center on teacher raises, but also how to pay for them. Senator Ron Sharp (R) District 17, suggested nixing the governor’s plan to eliminate the sales tax on groceries.

“Instead of eliminating the tax on groceries, I would look upon using that money which is 350-million dollar which would find a 3-to-4 thousand-dollar raise,” said Senator Sharp.

Other’s suggested cutting tax breaks or increasing taxes on, for example, gasoline.

“I want us to as a state, try to get a head of the curve instead of always playing catch up,” said Senator Holt.

That’s something lawmakers now admit they should have done long ago.

“When you go back and you start looking at those budgets you start seeing we could have used that 100-million here, we could use that 65-million there. And to be honest with you I’m fed up with the fact that we continue to kick this ball down the road,” said Senator Quinn.

Finding money for teacher raises will be a challenge with the state facing an estimated $868 million budget deficit.

Last year, the state was about $1.6 billion in the red, but filled much of that hole with emergency funds and one time money that just won’t be available this year.