Senate passes revenue package for teacher raises

by Abel Hampton March 31, 2018, 7:34
Senate passes revenue package for teacher raises

In the deep red state of Oklahoma, the Republican-led Legislature approved money for teacher raises and more school funding, even hiking taxes on the vaunted oil and gas industry to do it. Gov. Mary Fallin rushed to sign the measures into law Thursday. Kansas lawmakers had enough past year, voting to raise taxes over Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) veto, and on Wednesday night, Oklahoma lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that will generate $450 million in new revenue from a $1-a-pack surcharge on cigarettes, increasing the gas tax by 3 cents and 6 cent for diesel, and raising taxes on oil and gas production to 5 percent, from 2 percent.

He was referring to a vote in the state house to repeal a portion of the revenue package that would have added a $5 lodging fee per room to hotels and motels to generate about $44 million for 2019.

Those tax increases on tobacco, gas, diesel fuel and the gross production tax will go into effect August 1.

Despite additional demands from the state's largest teacher's union, senators Wednesday night did not take up measures that would increase pay for school support staff and other public employees.

But while this may have been a victory, as the law will offer an average of $6,000 pay increase for all teachers, many educators are still planning on going on a strike.

Although the official statewide walkout for Oklahoma is set for Monday, Guymon teachers have Monday off.

According to the National Education Association, the average salary of a teacher in Oklahoma ranks 49th among the us states and District of Columbia with South Dakota and MS the only states reporting lower. Fallin said she "absolutely" plans to sign the bill, which the state House passed Monday.

Interest in the Facebook page, called Oklahoma Teacher Walkout - The Is Now!, quickly attracted members over the past month, Morejon told ThinkProgress in an interview last week. "Our school is about community and we take pride in that, but also our kids are very important to us and we are fighting for them". The students hoping their demonstration will help their teachers get better pay.

Hofmeister, who was calling for $5,000 raises, said it will now be up to local school boards to decide how their districts will respond.

More experienced classroom teachers would receive an even larger raise based on years of service and certification.

Alberto Morejon, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Stillwater Junior High who started the Facebook page "Oklahoma Teacher Walkout - The Time Is Now!" said the funding is not enough.

Oklahoma ranks among the worst states when it comes to education funding and teacher pay.

"[Lawmakers] have cut hundreds of millions of dollars toward education funding so we can't buy any textbooks", Morejon said. On average, they'll get about $6,000, but many of them are still walking out of their classrooms on Monday.

"Lawmakers, I want you to make education a priority", said Lehew.

Sapulpa Public Schools will be closed April 2, 3, and 4.

Coburn announced his support of an anti-tax group Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite.


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