Some Lawmakers Question If Teacher Pay Raises Are Possible

Monday, February 8th 2016, 6:45 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

State lawmakers are looking at five proposals to raise teacher salaries, but with an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall, some lawmakers say the proposals are more about getting votes than getting raises.

Torie Shoecraft is living her dream; teaching kindergarteners and molding young minds.  

But on her mind is a mountain of unpaid college bills; and a new baby daughter. 

She’s struggling even as part of her paycheck goes to help her struggling students. 

“At the beginning of the year, we spend hundreds of dollars in our classroom,” Shoecraft said. “Throughout the year, we buy pencils, we’re buying arts and crafts items, we’re buying new backpacks for students that can’t afford them.”

House Minority Leader Scott Inman said teachers shouldn’t count on getting raises. 

“I find it difficult to see any way that teachers will get a pay raise,” Inman said. “I think the teachers of Oklahoma are smart enough to look right through this failed political attempt to win votes in an election year.”

Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman agrees and said politics play a role in the discussions. 

“Always,” Bingman said. “You know, an election year, there’s always politics in everything we do. I’m not going to deny that.”

During her State of the State Address, Gov. Mary Fallin called for a $3,000 raise for teachers, paid for with a $1.50 tax on cigarettes. 

Teachers unions believe that’s just a ploy to have a one-cent sales tax proposal to fund teacher raises fail.  

“That’s exactly what’s going on at the Capitol,” said Ed Allen with the United Federation of Teachers. “And I think it’s going to be harder to have the penny sales tax pass if teachers have a $3,000 raise.”

Shoecraft said she doesn’t care where the raise comes from, as long as it comes. 

She’s afraid there might come a time soon when she has to decide between the job she loves and providing for her family. 

“And that’s sad that we live in a state where we’re forced to make those decisions,” she said.