State lawmakers wrapped up the first week of the legislative session Thursday. While much of the discussion revolved around the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall, lawmakers also talked about teacher pay increases.
“The disparity between our starting salaries and what some of these Texas schools are paying is drawing our teachers down there and, you know, we’ve got the shortage over the last several years,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman.
But democratic lawmakers said don't count on it. They say all this talk about teacher pay increases is little more than republican lip service.
“I think there’s virtually no chance that the teachers in the state of Oklahoma are going to get or see any significant a pay raise,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman. “As a matter of fact what they ought to be worried about is not whether or not they are going to get a pay raise but whether or not their benefits are going to be cut.”
In fact, representative Inman said, that process has already begun.
“Because there’s already party proposals floating in both legislatures that would roll back their benefit allowance or cap their benefit allowance for their health insurance which over time would actually eat up whatever increase in salary they might get,” Inman explained.
Republican leaders said they are looking at ways of increasing teacher pay, but admit much of the recent interest in boosting salaries has to do with elections.
“Always” Bingman said, “You know an election year, there’s always politics in everything we do. I’m not going to deny that.”